Casting with ACT’s Kenan Directing Fellow

Since I last wrote, I’ve been back over to the East Coast! What was meant to be a quick two-day work trip to South Carolina turned into a happy accidental vacation back to UNCSA—thanks to flight scheduling debacles and inclement weather (I didn’t notice any— it was a beautiful 70 degrees in Winston Salem.) The weekend was great. I had the chance to see a production of Right You Are If You Think You Are that the third-year drama program was putting on, directed by Laura Braza. I had time to check in on the progress of the class of 2019’s Studio Two Fight Test: the studio which I taught basic unarmed stage combat to in 2015. The weekend was a wonderful surprise that let me catch up with old friends and mentors, and the NC sunshine was delicious.

After our selection process, in which I proposed many possible showcase titles, we landed on Fool for Love by Sam Shepard. As an actor, I worked on the play in the second year of my training at UNCSA, where I played the character Martin. I’m really excited to tackle this play from the other side of the table. The play has stuck with me since, for a few reasons: Shepard has a gift for exploring the rough edges and ugly sides of relationships, through some beautiful and terrifying poetic language. This play puts a few flawed people in a very small space, and we watch them struggle to reconcile the lies they’ve been telling each other and themselves about their relationship. Fool for Love is ripe with chances for me to flex my love of physical theater, effective violence choreography, and stark minimalism; aspects that I hope will be very effective in the Lalie (Black box) theater.

With the show selection out of the way, I dove right in with casting. If I’m being transparent, any time I’ve directed before I’ve simply approached friends and made an offer. So, doing a legit casting call was a new experience. My approach to this was essentially reverse engineering the casting process that I’ve been through as an actor for the past (however many, I’ve lost count) auditions. After making a post on the local casting database (TPS) and creating a naively small chart to schedule out my solitary audition day, I settled in over the weekend, expecting at most 20 submissions for this showcase production, directed by a newcomer to Seattle.

It’s so funny to look back at our expectations of things.

My submission total came to 62 actors. I suppose being surprised at that number is foolish, but I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to coordinate a schedule to include that many people (or received that many emails in such a short span.) In the end, auditions went very well, and the turnout made me very excited about the acting community here in Seattle. And my search was limited to only the non-union talent. The hard part about casting Fool for Love is that there are only four roles; I saw a lot of splendid work over the course of the auditions, and the caliber of talent made it difficult to choose only four. The audition weekend became an exercise in getting to know the actors here in Seattle, and I often caught myself imagining what other projects would be perfect to cast with the talent I was seeing.

I gush. Simply put, I had a great time at auditions, and I hope I made the room as low-stress and fun as I would have wanted as an actor. I have found my first picks for the cast for Fool for Love, and I hope they come through in the offer process.

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