Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Making the call, casting process revealed

<lass="page section layoutArea" title="Page 1">

The audience shuffles in their seats, the set sits on stage anxiously awaiting the actors to join it, posters advertising the show are up around campus. The first Experimental Theatre Board (ETB) show premieres this weekend, but before the curtain rises, the show first had to be cast. While most students were wiling away over homework in the library the first week of term, a select group entered a quiet room one-by-one in the Weitz, Little Nourse or Sayles for an audition. Five minutes later, the student walks out looking somehow lighter, nodding to the next in line as a sign of solitude. What went on behind those imposingly closed doors? To create a quasi guide to casting, I talked to directors of the Carleton Players production, Stripped, and ETB.

When you walk into an audition room, the first thing you’ll notice is the judges sitting in the audience. If it’s the Players Production, it may just be director David Wiles and his student assistant. If it’s Stripped or ETB, there are probably 5-10 people watching you.

Regardless of what you’re auditioning for, the judges will most likely be within the first few rows. There seems to be a few common traits in any good audition that all three directors look for.

First, you’ll be standing in the center of the stage in order to “see if you can fill the space vocally and command it physically,” Wiles says. You may be asked to read an excerpt slightly differently to see how you respond to direction. “Theoretically I can teach skills, but if there’s someone who’s open to trying things and fits with other people I’m casting, that’s important,” ETB director Hannah Gellman ’18 says. Most important is to remember to relax. “You can sit, lay on the ground, clog dance to the monologue. It’s very casual,” creative director Emily Clark ’17 says of Stripped auditions.

The audition moves quickly, with little time to exchange any small talk other than your name, year, and a smile. Most likely you will jump right into a reading of an excerpt from the production, then read it in another way for the director. A quick thank you and it’s over. For you at least. For the directors, the work has only just begun.

David Wiles will spend the next 24 hours making offers to those he wishes to cast. The ETB directors will sit in a circle on Little Nourse’s stage directly after auditions, discussing and fighting for those they wish to see in their show. Stripped’s large creative team will arrive at a decision hopefully within a few hours after the second day of auditions. Offers go out, replies come back and eventually there’s a cast. The hardest part? “Knowing that you can’t cast everyone,” Clark states, her sentiment echoed by the other directors.

That’s the basic guide to the casting process, but this year there appears to be an added element in the discussion around auditions: diversity. Stripped, for example, is a replacement of The Vagina Monologues, rewritten in an attempt to represent “diverse experiences, so when people are in or at the show they can recognize that people have way different experiences at Carleton,” Clark said. She anticipated long discussions around casting because “We’re trying to go for the most diverse cast, to include as many people as possible.” Last year, a disclaimer on the program warned that some of the monologues could not accurately represent the experience because it’s cisgendered women getting in the mindset of transgender women. This year, Clark and the rest of the creative team for Stripped hope to more accurately reflect the speaker’s voice of the monologue, which means many returners may not be re-cast. Clark stresses that this isn’t due to lack of talent, but rather an the attempt to be more inclusive.

Diversity was also on Carleton Players’ director David Wiles’ mind as he prepared to cast his show Harlem Nocturne. The play is the first project under the Theatre and Dance Diversity Initiative, a program launched this year aimed at increasing the diversity of productions here on campus. The initiative is an important program. The need for it is easy to spot by looking at the crowd of mostly white students lined up outside Little Nourse to audition for ETB. As Wiles noted, “Majority small liberal arts colleges do work by majority, meaning white, authors more often than not. What we want to do is to produce works by international and domestic writers of color on a regular basis.”

While the initiative affects first and foremost the Theatre Department’s productions, one of its most valuable effects will be on the diversity of shows across campus. “With the persistent production of minority written plays, students of color interested in theatre will know that opportunities to participate in shows reflecting their experiences exist at Carleton,” Wiles said. While those opportunities for minority students may be within the theatre department or Stripped for now, many students participating in these shows also perform in ETB, comedy groups, or Ebony (also in the middle of its own talk on diversity). Hopefully, students participating in Harlem Nocturne and Stripped will continue to seek out other opportunities on stage, increasing diversity in groups that may not actively try to incorporate it.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *