As Quarter 2 is approaching, I’ve had some thoughts about casting on the brain. We should be expecting cast lists fairly soon, which should be something exciting to anticipate. However, to some, it’s a dreaded task to sign onto the bridge and find out their fate. Because the School of Theatre has guaranteed casting, the process can be a little tricky. However, after speaking to four students (each with a very different casting experiences thus far), I’ve realized how much can be improved upon the process.
If you could describe the casting process at BU in one word, what would it be?
A: Complicated? Secretive.
How do you usually feel when you leave a callback/audition room in the SOT?
A: I usually feel like all of my teachers are thinking about all the things I still need to work on, and about how I will be compared to my peers.
D: Like I have no clue how I did or if it went well.
Are you happy with how your casting has played out the past several quarters?
A: I can’t really complain because others have had more limited opportunities, but I have never really felt “seen” in the casting process, and usually feel like I end up where they don’t have anyone else in mind.
C: Yes, because every experience I end up learning something, but no to the way the process is. The callback and casting process seems to favor the same handful of people. Also, the way casting sometimes is presented is that if you get a good part, it’s because you work hard in class and show that you’re a hard worker. That’s clearly not the case when you look at who gets cast as what. People who shouldn’t be “rewarded” as leads are still getting the lead roles.
D: Yes I have been more or less happy and able to make the most of the assignments I have been given.
Do you feel like the system we have right now is fair?
A: I think the system we have right now is actually as good as guaranteed casting can be. The one change I would recommend would be our professors and directors being more candid and transparent about what the process actually is, so that it isn’t left up to speculation and gossip.
D: I think it can feel unfair at times, but in actuality, it is way more fair than the real world.
Do you feel like casting process could improve?
A: Oh yeah, like what I said in the last question, I think we would all totally benefit from everything being a little more transparent. I also think its kind of pointless to have one audition per year, it leaves callbacks for quarters 2-4 kind of up to what director’s opinions of you are, and not really what your audition was like. It doesn’t give us a chance to surprise people, or to really experiment with our audition skills when we only do it only once a year.
B: Yes. If we had directors of color. Also if they made sure people had the opportunity to do every type of show, like a mainstage, a black box, all-female, etcetera.
C: Yes! 200%!
D: Yeah. I feel like students should have more say in the projects that they are or are not interested in, instead of just being cast in any show and forced to do it.
Do you feel like your casting has benefited your growth as a theatre artist at BU? Why or why not?
A: I think that casting has benefited my growth as a theatre artist because I think that all of this class work really only drops in when we have an opportunity to apply it to a project. But I don’t really buy that our teachers pick our roles and casting in order to benefit our growth. I have felt that I usually have to find for myself the value and lessons in every project, because the challenges aren’t usually especially apparent.
B: Yes, in all of my casting, I have had an array of roles on different stages with wildly different people in completely different plays. This is not the case for everyone. I was cast for my race twice.
C: I feel like it has. All three quarters I’ve had in casting have been 3 totally different experiences, so I’ve learned so so much. The unfortunate thing about casting is the callbacks and how they’re treated. The same people get a callback for every show, and the same handful of people get NO callbacks at all. We know that we can ask for callbacks, but it’s hard during Q1, as well as not always accepted. At least 1 callback should be given to each student every quarter so they get a callback experience and can practice the skills they need for a callback room.
D: Yes and no. I think every acting opportunity benefits me and I have learned a ton about ensemble work. However, I have been cast in very similar “type-cast” roles instead of roles that really challenge me.
How do you feel about the choice to drop out of casting to pursue an alternative project? Should it be encouraged more?
A: I think that the choice to drop out to pursue an alternative project is a great opportunity that should be more accessible, especially for students who are interested in aspects of the theatre other than performance. I think more students should be encouraged to take on playwriting, dramaturgy, directing, etc. roles throughout their education, and not just in thesis. I think maybe we should even be required to do so.
B: I appreciate that option. It gives me more initiative as a theatre artist. It should be encouraged more. Helps with resume growth. Meet people in the theatre community or otherwise.
C: I think it should be encouraged more and definitely pursued by students.
D: I think it should be 100% up to the students whether they want to be in casting. It is becoming more and more important for artists to be able to create their own opportunities in the real world, so this should be encouraged yes.
With such a large pool, and the necessity to fit a role to each person in that pool, it’s not easy to create a perfect system. I commend where it stands and how it works right now; in the end, more often than not, most students are satisfied with the experience they’ve gained from the show they were placed in, even if they initially were unhappy or disappointed. However, I think we would have a higher satisfaction rate if there was more variety in the picture. We need a larger variety of who is receiving “smaller” versus “bigger” roles, a larger variety of the types of roles offered (i.e., more diversity, more female roles, and better communication with the students about what exactly is happening in the decision-making room once the last callback has ended.
We pay such a high tuition and sacrifice so much to be here. We should be receiving the same level of training in the rehearsal room as in the studio. A student should be miserable for an entire semester, nor feel like they’ve been thrown into the background or aren’t getting the work and attention they need. As I will begin to do myself, I encourage other students unhappy with our casting system to speak to our faculty and suggest how we can improve.