When I worked in community theater, nothing made me more mad than the feeling that I didn’t even have a shot at the part I wanted, no matter how great an audition I gave, because I didn’t know the director. I moaned to my husband on several occasions how unfair it was that the same people got the good parts, over and over.

Now I’m seeing things from the other side of the footlights, and I don’t like what I see.

The crux of the matter is that some degree of pre-casting is inevitable, especially in my situation, when I pretty much know who’s going to show up for auditions. Do I have a cast set in stone, despite the fact that auditions are two days away? No – absolutely not. Do I have a fairly strong suspicion of how things will go? I have to say yes.

I had a scary, eye-opening experience last week to show me how careful I have to be in regard to pre-casting. One of my experienced actors called to tell me he would be out of town and miss a week and a half of rehearsals near the beginning of the rehearsal period. Did I still want him to audition? I told him yes, hung up the phone, then began trying to rearrange the rehearsal schedule so that “his character” wouldn’t be scheduled as heavily during that time. I spent about five minutes working on that before I stopped, horror-struck at what I was doing. Auditions were still a week away. I shouldn’t have had any idea which was his character. 

I hate that. I feel like I’ve become every director I ever vilified. But here’s the thing – if I’ve worked with someone on a previous show I know so much more about him than an audition can ever show. I know whether or not he’ll be at rehearsals. I know how easily he memorizes. I know how he takes direction. No matter how talented someone appears in an audition, if I’ve never worked with him, he’s an unknown quantity. Similarly, if I have worked with someone and I know he’s the one who perpetually has rehearsal conflicts following him like a row of ducklings, I’m not going to give him a lead role, no matter how talented he is.

That doesn’t mean I never give the unknown actor a shot. As I’ve detailed elsewhere on this site, I never hold an audition for inclusion on the drama team. Anyone is welcome to come to our training sessions, which act both as teaching times and as an ongoing audition. I’ve also been known to cast someone without any previous experience. In Blackwell Inn  I cast a woman in a major role despite the fact she’d never done theater before. She did a great job. (Though she did make a major change to her hairstyle halfway through the rehearsal period – my fault – I forgot someone without experience wouldn’t realize what a no-no that was.)

I try very hard to remain open to new people, especially because we’re a ministry first and a performance group second. If someone wants to worship the Lord through drama, I want him to have that chance. I firmly believe someone with a desire to act and a willingness to work can learn to perform well. It’s a matter of whether I’m willing to take the extra time to work with him. That’s easier on some shows than others. On this show, which is going to be hard enough for my experienced actors, I’m less likely to cast someone new.

But I’m trying to stay open to the possibility. Really, really trying. There’s a line in the play when one character accuses another of believing only “nice” people can become Christians, that the door is closed to those who don’t fit her image. And I hear God whispering that to me – do I believe only those already in the drama team “in-crowd” deserve a chance to be a part of this worship experience? Can I close the door to someone God leads our way?

 The door is open. I’ve wedged my foot in there to make sure it stays that way. Auditions are Thursday night – we’ll see if anything unexpected happens.

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