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Auditions and Casting

Auditions and Casting

A major, and rather important part of your production are the cast members who will play the roles in your show. Oftentimes, an audition (or casting) will be arranged to assess talent who are interested in your project and to find the right people for the parts. If you are going to be casting performers, you will have to put out a call and advertise to attract performers to come and audition for you.

Things to Consider

Planning Phase

There are many things to consider, logistically and when planning for an audition. They are almost like an event in and of itself. To ensure your auditions run smoothly, here are some things to consider when planning.

  1. Time - ensure that you have a sufficient amount of time to plan for your casting, to run the casting and then to select your performers in time for the beginning of rehearsals. How long you give yourself really depends on what your project is. Are you rehearsing for a large scale show or smaller show? How many performers will you be casting? How much negotiation room do you want to give yourself between offer a role to an actor and the start of rehearsals?
  2. Space - Auditions are typically held in an open room, studio or theatre performance space. But, the space in which you hold your audition is completely up to you and the needs of your audition. Typically, it is a space that is quiet so that you and your auditioners can focus on being present in the room.


It is important to include audition space into your budget and know how much money and resources you can allocate to the audition before researching and booking a space. If you are hosting an audition in a theatre venue, it will probably be more expensive than renting a studio for a few hours. Also consider who is auditioning for your project and what space requirements will they need. For instance, do you need an accessible space that either has an elevator or perhaps is on a main level, where a person in a wheelchair can enter?

Some considerations to make and questions to ask when booking a space:

  1. Washrooms: make sure that your space has access to washrooms and that there is clear signage posted to get to the washrooms. If there is not clear signage, ask the rental venue if you are able to post your own directional signs.
  2. Change rooms: Does the space you are renting have access to a change room and is having one important for your auditioners who will be coming to audition?
  3. Holding room/warm up space: having a room for performers to warm up and hang out is helpful for the auditioners to take time to prepare and is great to have as a space for them to wait around should they have to
  4. Accessibility: make note if your space is accessible for all people who are going to be coming to your audition. Is there access to a lift or elevator? How wide are the doors? Ask if any additional accommodations are required. For a full list of considerations visit Accessibility
  5. Tech/Equipment: you may need access to specific equipment, depending on the type of audition you are hosting. For instance, do you need a microphone setup? A speaker system? Tables? Chairs? Will there be a technician working with you or do you have to run the tech elements yourself? Consider the following specifics: *Dance Auditions: is there a dance floor in the space (is it sprung or Marley)? Do I have access to a stereo or will I have to provide my own speakers? Is my space wide enough for the amount of auditioners that have to move in the space? *Theatre Auditions: Is there a singing call that requires certain acoustics? Is my space wide enough to accommodate a movement call? What are the floors like? Do I need to provide a chair for the auditioner? *Music Auditions: what are the acoustics like in the space? Do I need sound equipment for my auditioners?
  6. Contract: a contract between you and the venue rental should have a signed agreement. For information on what this should be, visit Booking Your Venue
  7. What do you need from your auditioners? Before you host an audition, you should understand what you require from those that are auditioning. Are you doing a classical play and want the auditioners to read a piece from the script? Will it be an improvised audition? Or will they have to prepare a 2-min dance/movement piece for you? Have this detail sorted to make sure you know what to ask of your auditioners and know what you need to best cast the right people.
  8. Type of Audition: there are different types of auditions that you can hold. These include open/general auditions, invited auditions, group auditions and individual auditions. Each require different types of attention and logistics.
  9. Personnel: usually there is not one person running an audition. Ask yourself, who on the team needs to be at the audition? Typically, you will have a panel as well as facilitators who help run the events of the day.
  10. A Breakdown - a breakdown is the text that includes information about the show, the characters/performers in the show, who is involved in the project and other important details about the project, in order to inform those who are auditioning about what they are to prepare and expect, and where they need to go to do the audition.
  11. Marketing - In order to host an audition, you will have to advertise it and make potential auditioners aware of it. You will want to create various marketing materials when running a casting campaign, as it is great to have visual materials to use. Materials can include, photos, videos, posters and/or postcards, etc. Basically, anything that will help you get the word out about your casting and that you can use in association with your breakdown can be used as marketing material. This is material that will need to be planned for, so make sure you have your marketing strategy in place and are prepared to prep these materials before launching your casting campaign.


Definitions:

  • A general (or open call) audition: for this type of audition, you extend the invite to anyone and everyone to join the audition call. Auditioners will likely not submit anything in advance and as the panel, you may not know who will be showing up or how many people will be there.
  • Invited Audition: with an invited (or submission-based) audition, you are asking interested candidates to send you their information in advance and will be pre-screening their materials before they audition for you face to face. You will, in this case know how many people will be at your audition. Materials you may ask performers to submit include: a headshot, performance resume, demo reel, self-tape, or anything else that will allow you to assess the talent before a live audition. With an invited audition, you will then invite only the candidates who submitted their material and who you believe would be a great fit for your production.
  • Group Audition: these mean that there will be more than one person in the room at once and typically, auditioners will be given the same call time and do some form of group activity. This includes, but is not limited to: improvisations, movement-based auditions, monologues, dance auditions, etc.
  • Individual audition: this is when each auditioner is given a specific time slot for their audition and they audition in front of the panel by themselves.
  • Panel: the panel includes anyone who will be making decisions on the talent selected for the show. It can be made up of as many people as needed. Usually, the artistic director and/or director of the show sits on the panel, the choreographer (if involved), musician/musical director (if involved), producer, and any other key artistic associates involved with the project
  • Facilitators: You will likely need people to facilitate the day and ensure that everything runs smoothly. This includes anyone managing a sign-in desk, someone to answer questions throughout the day and relay any information back and forth between the panel and auditioners

Running your campaign

Once you have planned for your casting, booked a space, taken all considerations into play, you are ready to run your casting campaign. During this period of time, you will advertise your auditions, and if holding an invited audition, you will collect submissions from performers.

But, Where do you advertise your casting call?

Using your materials and your breakdown, you will want to look into various outlets to advertise your audition. You want to be specific about where you post your audition to attract the type of performer you are trying to for your specific roles.

You should also note whether the platform posts notices for union performers, non-union performers or both.
There are a variety of places to advertise a casting call. These include casting databases, websites, Facebook pages, etc. Be sure to understand whether a service is a paid or un-paid service. Some websites require payment to post, so if you intend on posting there, ensure to note that expense in your budget as well.

Writing a Breakdown


What is a breakdown?
A breakdown includes the information on a casting notice that goes out to the public and is read by performers and agents who are interested in auditioning for your show and/or company. It includes all pertinent information about your casting call, what performers need to prepare for the audition and details about the show they are going to be auditioning for.

What to include in a Breakdown?
Here is a guideline of what should be included in a breakdown:

  1. Show name and info: include the name of your production and a brief synopsis of what the show will be about
  2. Company name and info: include a few sentences about your organization as helpful information for the auditioner
  3. Key people who are involved in the project. Include all that apply and are confirmed on the project already: Director, Playwright, Designers, Producers, Stage Management, etc.
  4. Key details: Date of the audition, Time of the audition: start to end, or include how long the auditioner is expected to there (ie. 10am, expect to be there for 4-6hrs), Location: this includes address of where the audition is being held, but it is also helpful to include some directional info - ie. main intersections, nearest subway station or bus stop
  5. What does the actual audition consist of? Include in your breakdown what the auditioner can expect to do at the audition. For example, will they have to prepare a monologue, a movement or dance piece (and how long should this piece be - ie. 2mins, 2-5mins, etc.), will they be asked to improvise, will they be asked to take part of a group or individual audition? Do they have to bring anything with them (ie. a resume, a headshot, sheet music, a soundtrack, etc)?
  6. Character descriptions: depending on the show, you may have specific characters which you are auditioning for. If this is the case, you may want to specify and give attention to the roles you are seeking. Character descriptions can specify age, gender, name, personality, appearance, context of the character, etc.
  7. Type of Audition: there are different types of auditions that you can run, depending on the needs of your project. Types of auditions include: General (or open call) auditions, invited auditions, group auditions and individual auditions
  8. Conditions of the Contract: this includes some of the following, but you can include as many details as you feel necessary in this section: Pay: what is the pay rate for the performer auditioning (if profit share, or under a specific contract, specify that); Length of the contract: how long will they be required to be under contract with you? (include a general amount of time - ie. 2 months, or be specific - ie. January 23, 2018 - March 23, 2018); Where is the performance venue? Where is the rehearsal venue?; Hours they are required to work per week
  9. Contact info: include a contact name, email and number for any submissions or general questions auditioners may have prior to an audition
  10. Callbacks: it is important to note if you will be holding callbacks. Callbacks are kind of like a second audition, where performers who stood out at the audition will be asked to come back to audition again

NOTE: Since you will be including all of these things in your breakdown, it is best to go through these details prior to advertising your audition

Other Tips:

  • Be as specific as possible and include as many details as you can in your breakdown, the person auditioning should be able to understand exactly what it is they are supposed to do
  • If any of the considerations regarding your audition space (listed above) need to be addressed and noted to the people performing, you can include that in your breakdown as well (ie. dancers will be required to perform on a hardwood surface)
  • Know the demographic you are targeting and use that to strategically advertise your audition. If you know you want to cast someone who is a female actor over the age of 40, you should probably not send the breakdown to universities and colleges, nor should you send it to dance audition platforms


Advertising your Audition

Casting Databases:
Casting Workbook
eBoss Canada
Entertainers Worldwide
Casting Call Pro

Websites:
Theatre Ontario
TAPA
Dance Ontario
Toronto Public Library - note that to post anything on this site, your script must already be in the Toronto Public Library’s drama collection, or you must submit a hard copy of the script to the Toronto Reference Library.
Auditions Free
Actor's Access
The Dancers of Toronto
Au-Di-Tions

Universities/Colleges:
Sending your casting call to Colleges and University representatives can get your information out to either students or alumni of that school. When contacting the schools, you typically want to send the information to a program director, program assistant, and/or communications personnel. Some schools that have performing arts programs include:
Ryerson Theatre School
York University - School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design
University of Toronto
St.George Campus
Scarborough Campus
Mississauga campus
Humber College
George Brown College
Sheridan College
Randolph Academy

Agencies:
When contacting an agency, you should make sure of the following:

  • Does the agency send performers in their roster for open calls? Sometimes, they only send out for closed/invited auditions.
  • Does the agency send performers in their roster for only union contracts? Some agents won’t send their performers if you are running a non-union audition.

For a list of reputable agents in Toronto visit ACTRA Toronto
Ensure you review the list and send to agents that deal strictly with performing arts disciplines only (dance and/or theatre) as some of them strictly deal with film actors and therefore it is not worth sending in your call to them.

Facebook:
Facebook is a great platform for posting about your auditions. You can create an event page or just a digital poster that you can share on Facebook from your personal account, your company account and/or in Facebook groups. If you are just sharing a poster, it is best to make sure that all of the important information is on that poster and/or you are also sharing an external link for people to access pertinent details about the casting.

Some Facebook groups to post in include:

  • Canada Auditions and show info

Dancer Specific:

  • Dancers, Choreographers, Instructors and Artistic Directors
  • DANCERS
  • Montreal Dance Collective
  • Dancers of Ontario
  • Dancers For Hire
  • Dance Ontario

Theatre Specific:

  • South Western Ontario Arts Network
  • Toronto Musical Theatre Community
  • Vancouver Theatre
  • Toronto Theatre Auditions/performer exchange
  • TORONTO MUSIC AUDITIONS/PERFORMER EXCHANGE

The Audition Day

There are a few things that should be considered and prepped for the audition day. You want to be organized and create a welcoming environment for performers who are auditioning.

  1. Sign-In: typically, auditions have a sign in table upon entry to the audition space. This is good practice to ensure that you either know who walked into your audition room and have their contact information or to know who showed up from the list of those you were expecting. Sign-in can be as simple as having the auditioners sign their name, phone and email on a sheet of paper before entering the room. Or can be as complex as plugging everyone’s information into a laptop/tablet and having it digital. Sign-ins may or may not be used if your auditioners have individual time slots.
  2. Introduction: It is always great to greet your auditioners prior to the start of the audition. If performers are auditioning individually, you may briefly introduce yourselves and then go through some key points of what they can expect during the day. If performers are auditioning as a group, you can follow a similar structure and, depending on the environment, you may ask each auditioner to introduce themselves to the group.
  3. Closing: it is polite to thank the auditioner(s) for attending your audition call and it is always good to make room for final questions. At this time, you can let the auditioners know when you expect to be making your final decisions.

Equity Seeking Audition Strategies

Blind Auditions

Blind auditions are arranged to create a more fair and equitable selection process for auditioning performers. This gives the panel who is running the audition an unbiased opinion of the people who are auditioning for them. Blind auditions remove barriers to selecting a performer that may exist which can include gender, culture, race, socio-economic background, disability, etc. It gives the person/people running the audition an opportunity to assess the talent in the room solely based on talent. See how your collective or company can encompass a more inclusive strategy when casting performers, or even when selecting team members in general.

Further Reading:
Kyle Capstick's article reflects diversity in casting in the theatre: www.intermissionmagazine.ca

More to come...