Monday, August 31, 2009

Auditioning for a Miller South play or musical

No matter what your interest area, you are welcome to try out for our fall play and spring musical. This school is full of multi-talented students at every grade level. We do our best to involve as many students as possible, but unfortunately we can't cast everyone who tries out. This essay is an attempt to address a number of issues involving casting the school productions at Miller South School for the Visual & Performing Arts.

Your audition begins the moment you enter the auditorium. Above all, I am looking for student actors who respect the performance space and the other actors. So if you enter chewing gum, chattering away to others, running around the aisles of the theatre, drinking anything other than water or eating a snack, you are not doing yourself any favors. Your behavior at an audition tells me what your behavior will be like during the rehearsal period.

Remember that a rehearsal period is about 8 - 10 weeks long of rehearsals that last for two hours or more each. I am looking for students who are serious about being in a play. I am looking for students who are on time and prepared for every rehearsal. I am also looking for students who know the importance of listening to instructions rather than talking with their neighbor.

Sometimes students ask me if they can try out for a particular role. Most directors prefer to make the casting decisions based upon what their own idea of what that character should be. Because so many students try out for our productions, it is best that you do not ask if you can try out for a particular role. The director's job is to cast according to her/his own artistic vision for the play.

Sometimes a particular play has very specific casting demands. For example, the musical "Annie" has a cast that features many female roles and very few male roles. Some plays require more older actors and other plays require more younger actors. I always publish an audition notice that lists special cast requirements including gender and size. At Miller South with a school population of 4 - 8th grade students, I have found that we can do most plays utilizing our more mature 6/7/8th grade students playing "adult" roles, while the shorter 4/5/6 students can play the role of "children." Some plays that feature animals or other imaginative beings may not be so strictly cast by grade level and size.

At Miller South we practice what is known as non-traditional or color-blind casting. That means that it doesn't matter what your ethnic/cultural background is in terms of casting. The only time ethnicity becomes important is if the play deals with the subject in a very specific way. For example, the musical Steal Away Home was about the underground railroad leading up to America's Civil War. In that particular production, we honored history by casting African American actors in parts that were written to be played by African Americans. Likewise, gender only becomes an issue in playing a role when the part demands that we cast a part the way it is written. Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be played by a boy. Alice in Alice in Wonderland will be played by a girl. But parts that have nothing to do with gender may be cast as "either." For example, a character labeled "doctor or "scholar" and so on, may be male or female.

Another aspect of the director's job is to make sure that the opportunity to be in a school play is extended to all. I may not cast you this time, but if you keep showing up at auditions, eventually you will get cast. I tend not to cast the same people over and over again in leading roles. We have so many talented students that it is very easy to find new leads for each production. On the other hand, there are certain students who are such a joy to work with that I find it difficult to not cast them. These are the student actors who are capable and willing to play a variety of roles of any size.

When casting a play, I tend to go with the best suited for the main parts and then divide the remaining roles among the lesser experienced actors. Some students start with non-speaking roles and over the years work their way up to more substantial parts.

One final thing to consider before you try out -- remember that once you accept your part, you have made a commitment to the productions. Directors don't like it when you accept a part and then try out for something else hoping to get a bigger role and then drop the first part that you already accepted. Be honest and upfront with your directors. Often times, you can work out overlapping rehearsal schedules. But if it won't work for either of your directors, be willing to make a choice and abide by it.

If you have any questions, post them here in the comment section and I will be happy to answer them.


  1. This is very helpful, thank you for putting time into your website. caryn markuz

  2. Thanks! One thing I forgot to include -- if you are a drama student who wants to act, sign up for audition notices for Magical Theatre, Weathervane, and Dynamics in Tallmadge. You can't always be in a Miller South production, so practice your skills by auditioning elsewhere. The more you audition, the more experience and confidence you gain.

  3. thanks for this amazing info! Now i know that what i have been doing is right and not wrong during an audition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I'm sick right now and I auditioned last night. Will you post the cast list up here????????????????????