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The casting process is one that few people hear or really know about even though it is one of the most important parts of the production. Finding the right people to play the roles is critical in giving the audience a high-quality performance, so there is a lot of pressure on the casting director. Pat McCorkle of McCorkle Casting, LTD and Laura Stanczyk of Laura Stanczyk Casting, both leading casting agencies in New York, gave me the rundown on what it’s like to cast a Shakespeare Theatre Company production, what really happens before the rehearsal process begins and how actors can improve their chances of being cast.
Pat McCorkle helped STC cast this season’s upcoming production of The Merry Wives of Windsor which will run at Sidney Harman Hall June 12-July 15. Pat says the first step of the casting process is to get the descriptions of all of the characters in the play from the director. A casting professional must understand what the director wants because the most important goal of casting is to fulfill the director’s vision. The main things McCorkle looks for in the actors are language skills and whether or not the actor is familiar with the style of the show—for example, a Shakespeare show requires a very specific style. The actor must have some sort of classical training to understand the language and how to execute it.
Strange Interlude, running from March 27-April 29 at Sidney Harman Hall, was cast with the help of Laura Stanczyk. “The challenge with casting Strange Interlude,” Stanczyk said, “was the time frame…it was the middle of television pilot season, and agents usually keep their actors free of any time-consuming work in case another opportunity arises.” Another challenge with casting this show was the subject matter of the production. Strange Interlude is so rich for every single character and Stanczyk needed “brave, fantastic actors” to play characters in their late 30s to early 40s. Stanczyk knew STC would need phenomenal actors to play these complex roles, especially given how challenging the text is. Stanczyk also commented on working with Michael Kahn in the audition room. “Michael makes the actors feel at ease. He makes adjustments and works with them.”
Casting directors often see actors return to the audition room time after time, and they get to know them. Some casting directors even receive baked goods and cards from actors! But Stanczyk said that was unnecessary. Some positive advice Stanczyk had for an actor included, “Every experience gives the actor a greater palette.” The casting process is an extremely significant one, and an actor should be prepared for anything that is sent his/her way.