Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Casting

No, we're not casting a new show.

John has just finished a run as Caesar.  I've just started rehearsals for "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Raleigh Little Theatre.  I must say, Jack in Earnest is one of those roles/shows that I would be tempted to produce myself just to do it... but it's so nice NOT to be producing it.  

But auditioning (which I have done and will continue to do) made me reflect somewhat on the process, and the perspective South Stream has brought to me.  If one googles "auditioning advice," "relax and be yourself" are among the banal (but true) cliches one will find on almost every list (right with "prepare" and "arrive on time").  This always felt like the height of uselessness to me.  Wow thanks "relax."  Ok, HOW?  But... well that's the trick isn't it?  After having read people for a part, having been "on the other side of the table" if you will, I understand the feeling.  You want to see the absolute best that people can do.  You want them to be comfortable and have fun.  If someone is nervous and not giving their best performance, it might rob you of the chance to see what they can really do.

Auditions (for me anyway) are always more nerve wracking than performance.  First, you are usually performing something you basically had an unlimited time to prepare, so the pressure to do it "just right" is pretty big.  Secondly, you're going explicitly to be judged.  You're saying "hey this is what I can do judge me and tell me if I'm good enough."  It's tough, the hardest part (emotionally) of the process for me.  By auditioning you are publicly admitting, announcing that you want something that someone else can give you. It's an act that gives power to another.  It reminds me like nothing so much as asking for a date.  And you can be rejected (probably will be in fact), and that hurts.

Having been on the other side, I really appreciate and understand that there are only so many roles to cast.  Ultimately you will have to disappoint a number of people.  Good people.  But you really want each and every person to succeed.  You really want to be entertained.  You want to have a positive experience with every person that walks through the door, even though you know most of them will be disappointed.  And often (hopefully) it's not that people XYZ were "bad."  So often it's more a matter of "how do I see the character?" "Who will fit with the other actors?"  etc... You really appreciate that there are many people who can perform a part well, but each actor will bring their own ideas, body, presence, etc to the character.  And ultimately you have to choose.  The person chosen isn't "better than you" (though it can feel that way), they are, without a doubt "different from you."  And it's that difference, not in quality but in qualities, that one chooses from when casting.

Anyway.  All this is rather long-winded but it's a way to say that having produced a show, I feel, gives me a better appreciation for the process, and a greater empathy for those conducting it.  It's easier to relax when you know that they're just people with a vision, struggling to find the right people for their show.  Not the BEST people, or the BEST actors, but the RIGHT actors. Being cast still feels great.  Not being cast still feels bad.  But as another very wise actor told me once, we get the parts we're meant to have.  It really does work out.  So be zen my friends.  Relax in that audition (as much as you can). And let go of the idea that there's a right answer.  There isn't.  Just walk into that room, and be.

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