Oh yes, we also announced the cast of Seussical, Jr at class this afternoon. Today we only had one student openly cry about their role, instead of the usual three or four. This marks today as a great success.
Casting a show is depressing. No matter what you do, somebody cries. Nobody likes rejection or disappointment, yet you can’t have a show without it. It took two bottles of wine and a Party Bag of dark chocolate M&Ms for Megan and I to cast this one, which by our standards means ‘very difficult.’ On the surface, it would appear that whoever does a great job gets a great part and whoever does a mediocre job gets a mediocre part. Not so. Let me break this down into categories.
1) Great kids with great talent and great personalities. Tricky to manage for many reasons. You like them personally and professionally, but you want them to grow up as fully rounded human beings familiar with both the joy of acceptance and the sorrow of rejection. You want them to experience not getting ‘the part,’ but you certainly can’t punish them for being talented. You have to push them harder every time because ‘good’ comes easily to them, but you know that they could achieve ‘great.’
2) Great kids with great personalities who have yet to find the courage to reach their on-stage potential. Also difficult to cast because you want to give them opportunities that allow personal discovery and growth, but you never know what kind of performance you’ll get. They could rise to the top like cream and give you a brilliant run, or they could drown themselves in the fear of failure and shut down completely. They need lots of hugs.
3) Irritating kids with great talent. You have to love them, but you also have to count backwards from ten before you say anything to them. You love to see them on stage where you believe that their true personalities are revealed, but they can be terribly difficult to work with. The irritating qualities can usually be removed by taking an additional dose of their medication(s) after school and before rehearsal.
4) Kids who are too talented to follow direction. These kids usually have amazing potential, but don’t believe that they need improvement. You want to see them succeed in starring roles, but they are a high risk. You just don’t know how they will play with others or what they will do in front of an audience when adrenaline takes control.
5) Dark, brooding, troubled artistes who don’t like sports or socialization and believe the theatre to be the last remaining vestige of truth in this world. This is a very heavy burden for a twelve-year-old. They want so badly to belong to something, yet they isolate themselves so successfully. You try very hard to give them what they want, but getting so much as a whisper or a raised eyebrow can be harder than getting a special order at Taco Bell.
Of course, all of these have many subcategories, but that would be too lengthy and detailed even for me. I try very hard to give everyone a feature – just one moment in every show where all eyes are on them. For every show, my hope is that we’ve given every kid an experience that makes them better performers, better friends, better thinkers and better supporters of the arts in an increasingly artless world. Is that so much to ask? 🙂