Casting Director

  • Casting Director

The casting director, or more often a casting firm, is hired by the producer of a stage show to audition and recommend actors, singers, and dancers, in cooperation with the director, musical director, and choreographer.


Duties

During pre-production, the casting director will read the script and, if it is a musical, listen to the score to get a sense of the theme and style of the production. In initial creative meetings, he or she will discuss with the directorial staff their expectations for particular lead and supporting roles. The musical director will have a strong sense of the voices required to carry the music, just as the choreographer may desire a tap-dancer or a classically trained ballerina. Similarly, the director and casting director will share their thoughts concerning what “types” would be a good fit for particular roles. With that information in mind, the casting director will assign his or her casting assistant the task of compiling a list of potential talent and scheduling auditions. Typically, the casting firm will have a group of familiar faces in mind to invite to the auditions. Agents will also contact the firm to request auditions on behalf of their clients.

Broadway productions and tours that operate under a collective bargaining agreement with the Actors Equity Association are required to hold a round of Equity auditions for any and all members of the union who wish to audition. Another round is held for those invited by the casting director or firm and sent via an agent. A third session may be held as an open call for non-Equity performers without representation; these are typically amateur actors seeking their first big break. The casting director is present at each audition, generally accompanied by the show’s directorial staff. Throughout the preliminary auditions, the casting director makes notes concerning his or her impression of each performer. These notes are shared with the director(s) and considered in calling back actors to the final round of auditions. Each member of the directorial staff has, by this time, a short list of favorites. Ultimately the hiring decision rests with the producer and director, but the casting director may lobby for certain performers he or she believes will best suit the show. When the cast list is determined, the casting firm is tasked with contacting the actors and making an offer for work.

Skills & Education

A formal education in theater is recommended, with a concentration in acting, directing, or dramatic criticism. The casting director should have at least an intermediate level of education in musical theater, with an understanding of music theory and vocal parts. Likewise, he or she must have at least a basic knowledge of dance styles appropriate to particular genres. In a field that relies on diverse knowledge and experience, casting professionals are expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of popular theatrical shows, prominent directors, and production companies. Most importantly, this person must possess a keen eye for that intangible “it factor” when a performer walks into a room.

What to Expect

Unlike a casting director for a film, the theatrical casting director will participate in the initial casting of the show and will remain part of the production team for the entirety of the run. The firm will handle casting for all replacement performers, and is usually called upon to cast future tours of a Broadway show and possibly the revival. A casting director typically begins his or her career as an intern or assistant with a casting firm, working up the ladder of one company. Many of the casting director’s skills are garnered through years of experience and apprenticeship under a successful veteran. Positions may exist in any city with a thriving regional theater scene, but most professional work will require residency in New York.

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