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Backstage Experts

The 5 Stages of Casting for the Fringe Festival

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The 5 Stages of Casting for the Fringe Festival

The playwrights behind The Internet!: A Complete History (Abridged) give a glance into the process of producing a show for the iconic New York International Fringe Festival.

So your work has been accepted in the New York International Fringe Festival. Congratulations! Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks (or whatever type of nails are used in stage floorboards).

Casting is one of the most critical elements of any performance. And with that responsibility comes an emotional journey many indie writer-producers may not anticipate. 

So here they are: the five stages of casting for The Fringe Festival.

1. Denial. You’ve spent years working on a script. During that time, you have been incessantly tweaking every character, making sure they have consistent, strong voices. Perhaps you even based your character on a muse—say, a friend with a forearm tattoo, or a certain erstwhile vice president. As auditions rotate through the door, you immediately begin the comparisons to the characters in your heads. “THAT GUY DOES NOT HAVE THE ARCTIC BLUE EYES OF AL GORE!” or “THIS GIRL DOESN’T HAVE THE CORRECT BIRD TATTOOED ON HER FOREARM!” You are in denial that the reality won’t fully match your mental vision. (Unless, of course, you’re James Nederlander, in which case you can probably cast the real Al Gore and the real Forearm Tattoo Girl.)

2. Anger. Auditions have wrapped and your director has made selections for callbacks. He wants the short guy with the angry energy to play the character written as a willowy optimist. Your director maintains that this actor is the right man for the role, as he was most versatile, malleable, and receptive to feedback. This might make you angry. You may want to scream, “WHY DO YOU HATE ME?” But keep in mind—the director must make the final decisions. He is the one working with the actors day in and day out, molding their performances and viewing your show from a 360-degree perspective. Remember that you must trust your director above all else. (If that doesn’t work: Xanax.)

3. Bargaining. In order to maintain a bit of casting leverage, hold a staged reading a few months before your festival run. That way, you can see how everything is coming together before fully committing to a final cast. “Go ahead and hire Mr. Angry,” you may tell your director. “We shall let our audience be the judge and jury of your absurd casting choice!” You are now bargaining with your trusted director. Give your audience feedback forms, and ask them to comment on their reactions to each character. These responses can expose holes in actor choice. They can also expose holes in character writing. Uh oh.

4. Depression. The reading is over and done with and you’re looking through the feedback. You’re noticing a general consensus that one character is not resonating well (and weirdly enough, it’s not Mr. Angry). This can be highly depressing. “Seriously? We not only have to re-cast, we also have to go back and re-write?! Come on, people, this isn’t a Broadway show, how important can this be really—” okay, yes, yes, it’s actually very important. And with that—type-type-type!—back to the script. You now have approximately one week to write a dramatic overhaul of your character and trudge into new auditions to make sure the right actor is cast. No sweat! (JK, lots of sweat. And tears.)

5. Acceptance. Your characters have been tightened. Your script has been finalized. Your actors have been vetted and the cast is locked and loaded. Contracts are signed, and now come waves of relief and acceptance. This is out of your hands now. As rehearsals begin; as you let go of the chokehold you’ve maintained over your beloved script; as your brilliant director proves that he knew what he was doing all along; as your mind-blowingly talented cast brings more dimension to your characters than you ever could have dreamed of writing, you realize that casting, while crucial, was only just the beginning.

For tickets and further information about “The Internet!: A Complete History (Abridged),” visit sauceandco.squarespace.com.

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