Casting

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!

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I asked my dad to find this scrapbook page tucked away in my bedroom closet 🙂 

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.

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Welp, I Graduated

Hello again, internet! I enjoyed blogging so much during my study abroad last summer that I decided to have at it again this summer for several reasons.

First, many of you may wonder: what does one do with a BFA in Musical Theatre? Good question. In fact, at this point I only have one answer, which is my first post-grad job working for a touring children’s theatre. So, initially, this blog will follow my adventures with this first contract. However, I figure that I can keep this blog up through all of my contracts (and likely periods in between contracts) to shed light onto the life of an average working actor, if there is such a thing.

Second, I enjoy writing, and as the title of this blog post indicates, I no longer have assigned writing assignment because I am no longer a student. Even so, I refuse to lock myself in my hotel room every day after rehearsal and only watch Netflix. So, even if no one reads this, I am excited to keep my brain from turning to mush.

Third, what I do for a living is cool, and I think it will be interesting to read about! I’m two weeks in, so here’s a quick blurb to catch you up:

I serve as an actor/director/child wrangler/tech crew for Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre. Technically, my title is Tour Director/Actor, but that doesn’t quite cover all of it. After a week of intensely fun training in Barrett, MN (population 415), my tour partner Kevin and I drove our fully packed minivan to our first town of residency. Each week, we get a fresh batch of kids and audition them on Monday, cast the show, and immediately begin rehearsals. By Friday, we have a full musical production of Pinocchio where I play the Fox, Kevin is Gepetto/Tempesto, and we simultaneously guide the show along as directors. After either one or two performances, we pack up the van and go on to the next town to do it all over again.

We have only completed one show thus far, but I have already learned a very important lesson. Though I will teach the exact blocking and choreography that I have been trained with, each show is going to be different based on the cast we get. This contract is going to be a good lesson in letting go of control. Yes, Kevin and I are the directors and we will do everything in our power to put on Pinocchio as it was taught to us. Ultimately, however, kids are kids and sometimes that pivot turn is just not going to happen. Lines will be skipped, choreography may be funky, but as long as those kids have an amazing week, experience theatre, and get to make their parents proud, I am a happy girl.

More to come – thanks for reading!

Samantha