We’ve all been there: You work on your vocal range, you read and analyze the material, you come prepared to the audition with your best-foot-forward… and end up as being cast in a role you didn’t expect or even ensemble. Bewildering, right?
It certainly was frustrating to me. After all, I know I have the emotional versatility to play a conflicted lead; I know I have the notes in my repertoire to battle against any baritenor; I know that I can kick-ball-change with the best-of-them. Yet, I often find myself filling out supporting or ensemble roles. And despite me being able to embody several different characters in a short period of time, I always dreamed of being the strong, heart-throb leading man. You may be dreaming of being the ingenue, or the tough guy, or the sassy friend. But there is one thing that is preventing you from getting those roles…
No, I don’t mean that there is a psychological barrier keeping you from getting the role (though there may be, so if that is the case, you can ignore my advice); I am talking about the “type” with which society will label you. This “type” is based on three factors: looks, personality, and talent. And unless the director is casting “against type” (which is quite rare, even when they say that they are going to be casting in this manner), you can rest assured that most casting will follow that trend. So, let’s examine…
Despite what we tell ourselves, looks really do matter. Sometimes, the character’s “look” is important to the story. The character of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is often referred to as being large, brutish, and muscular. If I were auditioning, I can clearly see that I am not a good fit; I am not muscular (and am in fact a bit gangly) and I do not look like I could beat anyone up. Despite how complex and interesting I find the character or the interesting motivation that I could portray, I would not put much stock into ever playing the character. I can therefore whittle down the parts available to me very quickly on this metric alone.
Your personality is a major component that underpins your physicality and emotions, both consciously and unconsciously. It colors the choices you as an actor will make, and will come out on stage. Think about your personality, and decide how it fits with the characters in which you are interested. If you are fairly mousy, Christine from Phantom of the Opera would suit you better; while if you are tempestuous, Carlotta would be a better fit. For me, I would probably audition for the Phantom, based on the fact that I label myself more intellectual and psychologically-controlling (boy, isn’t THAT a weird thing to admit). Let’s face it though, I’m more likely to play Firmin or Andre.
Your talent is the third component of determining a part. There is nothing more frustrating for an actor than to be unable to perform the role in which you are cast. If you can’t hit the notes, you can’t act the part, or you can’t dance the dance, I would strongly advise looking at a different role. This is probably the easiest of the three hurdles to overcome, as training can bring you closer to your desired role.
Then again, it doesn’t matter if you can hit all of the notes of “And I Am Telling You…”, if you can’t be seen as playing Effie, you very likely will not be cast as Effie.
As competition becomes even more fierce in Tulsa, it is important to begin analyzing your “type” and deciding where you fit within the performance-sphere. While it is tempting to think we can play all roles (and indeed, versatility is incredibly important), our goal as a community is to create the finest works of art-and-entertainment possible. This means that you might not be a good fit for ANY of the roles, and that is a reality that we must accept. However, there is nothing wrong with auditioning for a particular role.
And if you get cast in the ensemble, be proud and remember that the ensemble is a representation of many different “types” and that the show needs the well-rounded-ness that your “type” brings to it.