My freshman year of high school, the fall musical was Oklahoma! On the audition sheet, it asked for our preferred role. I, of course, put Laurey because she is the lead. This was silly for several reasons: 1) I am not a soprano, nor am I a golden age ingenue, 2) I was a freshman, and 3) I clearly wasn’t that informed, because I spelled it “Lori.” Still, in my mind, I was the perfect person for that role. Instead, I was cast as Aggie and then spent hours trying to find out who Aggie even is!
Today Kevin and I cast our second show, and wow, it is not easy. We have two hours to introduce ourselves, go through the rules of the week, audition the kids, and cast the entire show. The actual audition consists of kids saying their names, ages, and several lines, one at a time in semi-circle. From there, Kevin and I cast the whole thing while they sit and talk quietly amongst themselves. There tend to be a few obvious standouts (easy to spot because they are often wearing shirts from past shows), but aside from those, casting is a little bit instinct of who has the most potential for growth and where I predict their strengths to be.
Luckily, our cast limit is 75, so while I may have kids who are unhappy with the role they receive, unless we have an insane number of kids audition, everyone will get a role. We’ve all heard complaints about my generation being the “participation trophy” generation, so some of you may be rolling your eyes. I’m not a big fan of the participation trophy either, but sometimes kids don’t need to learn rejection – they just need to learn.
In elementary school, I auditioned every year for both the fall and spring children’s theatre plays in town. I was never cast (or even called back), but my mom would still take me to the productions to watch. I enjoyed them, but was always bitter towards the person who played the role I wanted. Finally, the summer before 5th grade I did a summer theatre camp in which we put on a production of Charlotte’s Web in 2 weeks (or was it one?). Like Prairie Fire, whoever showed up was cast. I distinctly remember being in the lobby before the audition and feeling intimidated by the kids wearing their past show shirts. I had no show shirt to wear! They were all chatty and excited, but I was just nervous. During the audition, I’m sure I was trying so hard to get it “right” that I made small choices. My first ever role in a play, and I was Spectator 2. Yet, I loved every second of camp. In the fall, I not only got a callback for the children’s theatre production, but I was cast as the leading female role!
Even though I was only Spectator 2 in my first play, I learned so much during that camp simply from being a part of a production. More importantly, I gained confidence. Had it been a production where they cast just who they needed, I likely wouldn’t have been cast (again), would definitely not have been cast as the lead in the next show, and would probably not have made the decision to pursue a career in acting.
So, I am thrilled that I am able to find a role for each one of these kids. I am hopeful that the kids who were disappointed in not being Pinocchio or the Blue Fairy or any other ideal role are able to have a week just as transformative as my week as Spectator 2.