David Ivers & Brian Vaughn on Casting
Have you ever wondered what goes into casting for six plays that open in three days and play in repertory? We spent some time with David Ivers and Brian Vaughn, artistic directors, to get those questions answered
Where do you start?
Brian Vaughn: The very first thing we do is find out how many roles there are in the season and then we break it down - based on the numbers of actors budgeted and how many people we need to fill each show.
We also have an Actor Count Comparison Chart - how many roles in each show are needed and then you think about that in the rep scenario. For example: Starcatcher had 12 actors - 11 men and 1 woman and it played opposite The Tempest, which had 18 actors. We look at that comparison - how many people are available per night and then it’s fitting the number of people we have in the budget and the number we have to cast.
David Ivers: We use an Excel spreadsheet with the plays across the top and the actor column is classified by equity, associate artist, non-equity, Greenshow performer, interns and understudies.
Where are you auditioning this year?
Ivers: This year, we will conduct auditions in Cedar, LA, Chicago, NY and Alabama. We have auditions by invitation based on submissions - actors apply and we invite them based on their headshot and resume. For equity principal auditions, any equity member can come and they get an appointment when they show up.
How big will the 2014 company be?
Vaughn: There are over 100 roles and we’ll probably have an acting company of over 60.
What goes into the decision process?
Ivers: We tend to land actors in the equity company in major roles as our guideposts. We’ll have a landmark of one role and then that opens a window - here’s the only other place they could be available. Twelfth Night I’m sure will be a linchpin as Peter was because it’s the show that carries through into the fall. So the cast of Twelfth Night is going to dictate much of the fall casting. It’s a lot of Brian and I going back and forth and hammering it out.
Vaughn: There will be a lot of incarnations. It becomes about putting the right person in the right role. Where is this person going to be the most valuable? For example: Is it going to be more valuable for us to have Melinda Parrett play Reno Sweeney versus something in King John? Probably because we know she’s going to tap and sing her heart out. So let’s put her in there and where else can we use her? It also comes to what the director is looking for, so we cross-reference all the directors’ notes.
What’s the hardest part of casting
Vaughn: Narrowing it down. It’s not just one thing. You have to fit people into 2 or 3 things and then it’s a numbers game. We make sure we don’t overwork the non-equity people and make sure the equity people are used to their full potential.
Ivers: It’s the most important job we do, other than selecting the plays. And it’s probably one of the most labor intensive, between the travel, the auditions and the manipulation of all the information into something that makes sense. We’re always thinking about it on and off the job.
How important is the Company versus the individual?
Ivers: I believe in company. I believe in us having a company of people. I believe in promoting that for the benefit of the work. You have to find the right kind of people who remains hungry and doesn’t take things for granted. That’s the other component - finding good company members who play well with others and are willing to do heavy lifting - be part of the ensemble as much as they are a lead.
When will we know the cast for 2014?
Ivers: We hope to wrap it up by the end of December and we should announce by early 2014.
You can check our website at www.bard.org for casting updates and we will have a blog posted as soon as we know!