Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Object of Art: The Audition Process

After the directors have been chosen, the designers hired, and the production meetings are under way, it is time to find a cast.  As Artistic Director, it is my job to oversee the Audition Process.  The first step for each director, after cutting and adapting their play, is to assess the casting needs for each show.  Directors look to formulate a preference type for each role, a slew of variables being considered in creating the idea of the character: gender, age, race, size (height, body shape) and type (i.e. comic, 'hero', character).  Needs specific to the show are established at this point.  

Similar to Othello, Titus Andronicus has a Moor (African) character that is an outsider to the world and it was important for me to establish that role as exclusive from any other type in the play.  I am a strong proponent of colorblind (and genderblind) casting; using the best person for the role regardless of race, gender or any other defining characteristics; but if a specific quality is important for the story I look to honor that reality.  Therefore, it was important for me to cast an African-American in the role and exclusively so, creating for the character in that society a strong sense of isolation.  Conversely, Anthony found a role that is typically cast as male (I myself played the role 12 years ago for NS) and created a strong justification within Twelfth Night for a female to play Curio.

Once the directors have their cast types, a Doubling Possibilities chart is made.  Since we perform two shows in 'rep' (repertory- consecutively and alternating) we need to hire actors that can be in both shows.  In some cases, depending on cast size and specific needs within a show, an actor may be brought on for a single production, but most of our actors double and play a role in each show. What's interesting about this step is discovering the similarities in the shows.  Shakespeare was writing all of these plays for his own acting company, and it's really fun to decipher which type of actor from his time originated each role, and how he created a career out of playing an archetype. (I say 'he', because woman weren't allowed onstage yet, and female roles were played by young boys; a remarkable fact considering that Shakespeare wrote such amazing roles as Lady Macbeth and Rosalind- As You Like It's lead.  And for further enjoyment, in Twelfth Night, where a young boy actor would play the female Viola, disguised as a young boy Cesario, who falls in love with Orsino, a man, but is chased by Olivia, a female- also played by a boy.)

Once the doubling possibilities are organized, it's easier for each director to go into the audition process with an idea of a cast in place.  We knew that we wanted the actor playing Aaron the Moor to also play Orsino in Twelfth Night.  Due to the size of the role of Titus Adronicus, we wanted that actor to have a lighter load in Twelfth Night and considered smaller cameos within the play to fulfill the double-contract.  There were three females written in each play, but with Anthony's addition of Curio, we were looking for a fourth.  The challenge for us became finding the best actors for each show that could also be the best actors for both shows.  I needed strong Roman men across the board, and Anthony was looking for comic singers to fill out his concept.  

The cast has turned out to be, as it is (interestingly enough) every year, almost 50% local professionals, and 50% non-local, in addition to half being new to our company, and the other half being 'veterans', or returning members.  Our Audition Circuit began in January as we traveled to the Equity (AEA professional theatre union) offices in Chicago, the Milwaukee Repertory theatre and its professional community, the University of Minnesota, Florida St., the University of Illinois, and to Lincoln for both ITC (high school International Thespian Convention) and ACTF (American College Theatre Festival).  We finished in February at home, in Omaha, auditioning our local professionals and university students from the region.  We found an immensely and diversely talented cast and can't wait for you to meet them On the Green.  For a preview:

Meet Beethovan Oden: an AEA professional from California making his debut with Nebraska Shakespeare.  We met Beethovan via video submission.  Roles:  Aaron in Titus, Orsino in Twelfth Night.

Meet Moira Mangiameli (left): a professional actress from Omaha, who also chairs the Theatre Dept. at Iowa Western Community College.  Moira is an NS veteran (from our very first year), having last played Queen Margaret in 2004's Richard III.  Roles:  Tamora in Titus, Maria in Twelfth Night.

Meet Veronica Benton (right): a recent graduate of Creighton University, this is her second year with NS having appeared in last year's The Comedy of Errors.  Roles: Curio in Twelfth Night.

Meet Richard Marlatt:  an AEA professional based out of Chicago.  Richard was in The Taming of the Shrew as Petruchio and The Tempest as Trinculo in Year One of Shakespeare on the Green.  We are proud to bring him back 26 years later for this summer's plays.  Roles:  Titus Andronicus in Titus, Sea Captain/Priest in Twelfth Night.

Meet Dan Chevalier: Omaha's native son, a professional actor who also runs around town as a live-action muppet.  He also wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and was influential in ratifying the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United Staes Constitution.  Roles:  Bassianus in Titus, Sir Andrew Aquecheek in Twelfth Night.
Good Weekend Gentles,
Vincent CB

Head to to see What's On!

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