Casting is one of the most difficult of the director's tasks. Getting the right actor into the right role is a critical decision for the success of the production. In fact, one old saw has it that "80% of good directing is good casting."
So how do you do it?
Because I work in youth theater, and because
-freedom to create
-empowering young people
are all high values, I often invite input from the soon-to-be actors on the audition sheet. I ask the auditioners to list their top 3 choices, if they could be ANYONE in the play. I state that while there are no guarantees, I will take their interests into consideration.
In more recent years, I have given the option to just list "small, medium or large" part. I have also started including a question allowing actors to note parts they would NOT want to play.
This has been very helpful for me. Often, the young people have a far more keen insight than one might expect into what they are ready for or will fit for them.
Still, since I often direct Shakespeare, where there are about 6 or 7 male parts for every female part, and because I am directing youth actors where there are 4 or 5 female actors for every male actor, I still have my challenges.
Even though I ask for the top THREE choices, I will still get auditioners filling out forms that say 1. Kate 2. Kate 3. Kate.
I agonize over casting. I spend a long time over it. Lately I've taken to creating a spread sheet of all the characters, then listing under each character the actors who would like to play it.
At least then I can get a visual.
AND I also, more often than not, have two complete casts per production. Double the rehearsals, double the fun...
This helps a bit more than it impedes the casting process.
I have a list of characters; I have a list of actors who want to play the characters. I also have my "feel" for each of the characters. Orlando should be taller than Rosalind. Rosalind should be playful and witty.
At some point, I have to bite the bullet. Letting all the above information roll around in my head and my heart, I then write out the cast(s) that work for me and with my group. Then I double/triple/quadruple check, to make sure that I haven't cast brother and sister in roles where they have to kiss each other, to make sure that I haven't cast someone in THE ONE ROLE THEY WILL NOT DO, to make sure that I have respected scheduling conflicts to the best of my ability.
I take a deep breath.
And I send it out.
Almost invariably, by a few weeks into rehearsal, no one can imagine the play being cast any other way. Each actor comes to love his or her role.
Yet, every time, it is a struggle.
So, when you see the role you've been cast in, and it isn't your top choice, take a moment to realize in many, many places, there are those who aren't cast at all. And, for a caring director, this casting process was a difficult one, invested with love, care and artistic vision-- and a bit of pain and worry, too!