What's It Like to Search for the Perfect Actor?
What It’s Like to Cast a Theater Production
There’s no shortage of information on what it’s like to be an actor at an audition – from how-to videos, to firsthand retellings. Everyone knows those stories.
But what’s it like to be on the other side of the table when the audition starts?
Kris Klarer has written his share of original plays and has directed both others’ and several well-known classics. While the audition process may be grueling and nerve-racking for the actor, Klarer said it’s often just as difficult for the director.
How does the audition process work from your perspective?
“The audition process for me is stressful. But it starts before you even decide to do the play. Read it, read it, read it; figure out the chemistry and what goes into those moments. My first step is usually to do cold-reads, so what I do is look at the resumes’ actors have given me and sort of play mix and match and say, ‘OK, go.’ Throughout the process, you take notes about what they’ve done and what you like, to get an idea of which actor is best for the role. And then you do callbacks, which is another cold read; you have them read and make sure it works, and if it doesn’t, then it’s another round of callbacks.”
How long does the process take?
“Casting a play is a lot like writing a book: It’s about finding the chemistry between the characters and the people who play them. Musicals can take a couple of weeks with vocal coaching and dance coaching, but a regular play takes about a week, two weeks.”
What makes someone stand out at an audition?
“Auditioning for a play is a lot like a job interview. It’s important to be enthusiastic without seeming desperate. It’s my experience that the people who show up and just want to have fun, and are genuinely there for the fun of their role, are the people I like to cast. There’s a reason it’s called a play – it’s supposed to be fun, not work.”
Lots of small, local theaters – all over the nation – tend to cast the same people over and over again, and it’s really difficult for new people to get in. Do you consider it important for new people to get in or do you prefer to utilize people who you’ve worked with before?
“I learned how to direct and produce a show in high school, which typically consists of only six people and only two of them are guys. One of the things I learned was that you have to find the best role for the actor and the best actor for the role. I always put it out there, ‘I’m doing a show, come audition.’ And then there’s the bias for people who I’ve already worked with because I know how they work. But personally, I think it’s important to always give someone new a shot.”