Laying the Groundwork
As I said, casting is one of the most important decisions I (and the director) make, and I'm always a bit nervous about the process. Out of the thousands of actors in NYC, will we find the right type? Will they be willing to come to Vermont for the salary we can offer? Will they be a sane human being? And how will we find just the right fit? (BTW, I use the term actor for both men and women.)
Working with Jim Gaylord, whom I've hired to direct Well , we come up with what's called a "breakdown". This is an information sheet that gives a short description of the play, the type of contract and salary we're offering, and most importantly, it gives a description of the character and type of actor we want to cast. We then send this information to a casting director in NYC, whom we've hired to set up auditions for us.
Here's what we used for Lisa and Ann:
Lisa- Mid to late 40's New York performance artist (originally from the Midwest) writing a play NOT about herself. Actor must have good comic sense.
(This one shouldn't be too hard to find, since this is a
really juicy role and there are plenty of actors our there in this age/type
Ann- Late sixties/early seventies, Midwestern housewife, lethargic and in pain, yet surprisingly vibrant. Warm and funny.
(A bit more challenging. Actors this age are less likely to want to travel, and the physical type is less common among working actors - they tend to look like, well, actors.)
From these short descriptions (as well as her knowledge of the play), our casting director, Stephanie, is now charged with finding us 10-20 possible actors for each role that she can call in to audition for us. But how does she sift through all those actors?
This is where the agents come in. Stephanie will send the breakdown to most of the agents in New York (not all, as some work only with film or television). The agents will then send Stephanie their "submissions" - the picture and resume of the actors they would like to be considered for each role. Stephanie then decides which ones she would like to show us in auditions. Next, she calls back the agents, tells them her choices and sets up 10-minute appointments for each actor.
That's when we show up.
To be continued...