It seems to be becoming a more accepted practice for theatre companies to recast actors they have worked with in the past. There are both positive and negative aspects to people in community theatre knowing each other, especially when it comes to the casting process. One such company that has chosen to make the decision to recast performers they had worked with in the past is The Geelong Lyric Theatre Society, who are currently staging their performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in celebration of their 40th anniversary as a company.
Benjamin Crowley, the President of The Geelong Lyric Theatre Society, saw this production as an opportunity. By "adopting this approach (casting from a pool of previously known actors), the company was able to invite people with a strong involvement with Lyric and offer them the opportunity to be a part of the 40th anniversary production". When making the decision, Geelong Lyric saw two main benefits to this approach. "Firstly, we were able to streamline the audition and casting process," says Crowley. "Given the short timeframe available to get the production up and running, this approach saved us significant time and enabled us to start rehearsals at least a week earlier than we would have if a full audition process had been taken for all roles – i.e. audition and then a call back. Secondly, given the occasion associated with this production it gave the committee the opportunity to recognise people who have had a long involvement with Lyric and offer them the first opportunity to be part of the show and enable the production team to pinpoint people they thought would be suitable for selected roles."
When asked if they saw any pitfalls in taking this approach, Crowley was unable to pinpoint any specifically. "As a one off approach we certainly don’t see any issues with using this method for casting the production. We were up front with everyone from the start that this was the approach that we were going to use, and as expected it did draw some criticism. There were still numerous opportunities for those who were not invited to a call back for particular roles to audition and several people from the open auditions ended up being cast in supporting roles.
"Everyone that was cast in the show was still required to come to a dance audition and a callback as a minimum, so nobody was simply handed a part in the production. This type of audition process is not a practice that Lyric would look to continue on an ongoing basis, and for future productions we will revert to our normal audition process of open auditions for all roles. Given the previously stated benefits we thought that as a one off this abridged (audition) process for certain roles was the appropriate way to go for Jesus Christ Superstar."
Pictured above: Kimberlee Bone as Mary Magdalene.
Although there were no perceivable drawbacks in this instance, it is thought that the process of rehiring actors that companies have worked with in the past instead of going through the ‘usual’ casting methods could cause conflict with up-and-coming actors. Continuously hiring actors that companies have worked with previously for major roles does not present the opportunity for new actors to gain experience and prove themselves and at the same time restricts the possibilities for a more diverse and greater performances. There must be space within amateur theatre for new talent to emerge, while simultaneously leaving room to reward those who have worked hard for a particular company. It appears that even through this strange casting method, Geelong Lyric have found a perfect balance between the two.
"Whilst (this process) worked very successfully (in this instance), it was a process we adopted for this production only, as it suited our purposes to do so. The (casting) process enabled us to cast our 40th anniversary production with a high number of people who had been involved with the company previously and complete the audition process in a relatively short space of time. For our next production of Legally Blonde in May 2015, we will be holding open auditions for all roles as is normally the case for a Lyric show." Whilst this practice saves time and pressure when it comes to holding open auditions, it will not become the preferred method of casting in the foreseeable future.
The Geelong Lyric Theatre Society production of Jesus Christ Superstar has enjoyed a successful run at the Playhouse Theatre, GPAC since October 3rd, and will finish its run on the 11th. Tickets are available from www.gpac.org.au or (03) 52251200.