"The casting director is on the actor's side, both selfishly and unselfishly," says CD David Caparelliotis. "Selfishly, because I have to get my job done. I don't want to have 20 actors come in and be terrible, so I don't have anyone to bring to the director the next day. I'm only as good as the people I can bring in."
Caparelliotis has become one of New York's most successful casting directors by consistently finding the right actors for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theater productions. He won an Artios Award last year for casting "Good People," starring Frances McDormand and Tate Donovan, and was nominated for three Artios Awards in 2010, for his work on "Fences," "The Royal Family," and "Lend Me a Tenor."
Prior to opening his casting office, MelCap Casting, with fellow CD Mele Nagler in the fall of 2007, Caparelliotis was a casting director for Manhattan Theatre Club for a decade. He continues to cast two to three shows for MTC each year as a casting consultant.
But Caparelliotis' newest challenge is something of a first. He is casting rappers for an upcoming three-week developmental workshop of "Holler If Ya Hear Me," a new musical inspired by and featuring the music of the late hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur. If the project ends up on the Great White Way, it will be the first full-scale hip-hop production in Broadway history.
"I didn't know anything about the subject matter," Caparelliotis says, "but the minute I started reading it I was completely intrigued and interested, and I could imagine myself being immersed in this world for three or four months." When he listened to Tupac's music for the first time, the self-described "square white guy" became a fan: "For ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me,' I'm going to be sitting and watching actors come in and do freestyle rap. I can think of nothing more exciting than that."
At first Caparelliotis thought that acting was his passion. He studied theater and psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, then pursued an acting career by waiting tables and performing in Off-Off-Broadway productions. After a few years, though, he felt trapped. When he did not get cast as an understudy in a certain production, he says, "I was not disappointed in the way that I should have been. They say if there's anything else you can do besides acting, try it."
He began working as an intern with casting director Nancy Piccione at Manhattan Theatre Club, where he was eventually hired as a casting associate and later promoted to casting director.
Manhattan Theatre Club gave Caparelliotis many of the tools he would need to continue his climb. He met Nagler when both were interns at the company, then hired her as assistant to himself and Piccione a few years later. At the same time, Caparelliotis was developing relationships with writers, directors, and producers such as A.R. Gurney and Scott Rudin.
"Enough people knew me that it didn't seem like I was completely out of my mind to leave and start my own company," he says. Lynne Meadow, MTC's artistic director, offered the theater as their first client. Rudin has been a returning customer, as well. MelCap cast his production of "Death of a Salesman," which is on Broadway this season with direction by Mike Nichols.
MelCap's many other current projects include Paul Weitz's forthcoming "Lonely, I'm Not" for Second Stage Theatre, David Auburn's new play "The Columnist" for MTC, and "Seminar," for which Caparelliotis recently hired cast replacements Jeff Goldblum, Justin Long, and Zoe Lister-Jones.
"I have a lot of satisfaction in my career, and I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people on a lot of great things," Caparelliotis says. "I actually feel like if I were to give it all up and go open up a cupcake shop on the Cape, I'd be fine. I have achieved wonderful things."