No one came to the audition. What to do?
May 11, 2012 8:24 AM   Subscribe

My friend is trying to stage his own play at a fringe festival. But when he held auditions, hardly anyone came. What should he do?

My friend wrote his first play and entered it in a festival. The festival accepted it so he started putting out flyers and buying ad space inviting actors to auditions.

But on the first day it was fruitless. We just sat there waiting for anyone to show up, except for one guy he knew already. He has a few weeks to address the situation. Are there people out there with experience dealing with similar challenges who could suggest what he should do?
posted by steinsaltz to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where are you posting the ads?

Also, what is the director doing? Usually this is the director's job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on May 11, 2012

Has he spoken to a local school's drama department? Depending on the size and complexity of the play, he may be able to work out some kind of credit deal.

Has he spoken to the festival staff? They might also have some ideas.

Community theaters are probably full of actors (and would-be actors) looking to get more credits.
posted by Etrigan at 8:29 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where did he put flyers?

Did he post flyers and/or talk to anyone at any local community college or university theater departments? How about contacting folks involved with plays currently in production in the area and asking them for advice on how to find actors?

Also, do you want to post the flyer detail somewhere so we can look at it? Maybe the wording is confusing or doesn't inspire enthusiasm as much as he would like.
posted by Glinn at 8:30 AM on May 11, 2012

He's the director, too. He may be taking on more than one person should chew. Not sure where he flyered, but I know he hit up an acting school and some places like that.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2012

And yeah, I was talking to him about maybe punching up the flyer copy so it sounded more irresistable.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:31 AM on May 11, 2012

I know my city has a website dedicated to the theater and upcoming opportunities for actors. Maybe yours does, too?
posted by cooker girl at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding cooker girl, in Colorado we have the Colorado Theatre Guild where auditions are posted. Also consider posting on Craigslist, but you might get some weirdos.
posted by moonroof at 8:39 AM on May 11, 2012

He's the director, too. He may be taking on more than one person should chew.

*wince* Yeah, he really kinda is - not just from an artistic standpoint, but also from a practical/logistical one: An established director will have a rolodex/circle of actors s/he's worked with in the past, and will reach out to them to audition. S/he will also have relationships with designers, rehearsal spaces, etc. I have worked once with a playwright who directed his own work, but he was also a very experienced director in his own right, had established relationships with other professionals, and had George C. Wolfe as a mentor. For someone at the very very beginning of his career, it's a dicey move, unless your friend has had directing experience.

If your friend is still not willing to work with an outside director: in terms of casting, and often accept ads for auditions. Also: you could check with the actors' equity outpost where you are, but if you're going to do that, be absolutely sure you've gotten your ducks in a row about what kind of contract you're offering actors.

Actually, that brings up a good point - what is the show code you're working under? Most fringe shows work under the Equity "showcase" code, which lets union and non-union actors both work together; do you state what kind of equity code this is in the flyers? If not, it may not be clear that you have an Equity-approved show, and that may be why actors are shying away.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

In a situation like this, when the point of the exercise is the presentation of the script, it might make sense to bypass the audition process and simply get on the phone and email and offer roles to actors the author/director knows. As he begins to network that way, he can also day, "and besides Jeremy, the part I want you to do, there's a couple of ingenue roles and a part of and older character actor, the grandfather of the young girls. If you know anyone who would be right for those parts, please put them in touch with me."

This is assuming you're not working an in Equity situation; hard to say since you don't indicate where the fringe festival is. But in general, unless the company or the writer/director has an established reputation that will draw lots of people to auditions, it may be better simply to cast the show informally, pulling in markers and asking for favors, instead of hoping that the right combination of actors will turn up for readings.
posted by La Cieca at 10:01 AM on May 11, 2012

Yeah, at this level, pretty much everyone is going to be someone the writer/director/actors he's already got knows. Even relatively large small-time, independent productions sometimes don't have auditions, or have them as a formality. Tell him to get on the horn.
posted by cmoj at 11:09 AM on May 11, 2012

Your description of the audition day makes it sound like it was an open call. If that's true, maybe he can have scheduled auditions instead. Of the actors he knows and has already contacted, he can schedule a day of auditions giving them 10-15 minutes to work on a scene with a reader (or with him). People are more likely to show up when they have a specific appoint, whereas they feel they wouldn't be missed if they didn't show up to an open call.

If that's not enough people or if he's already tried that, he can notify local theatre groups via their websites and post on their Facebook pages. Better yet, use the festival's social media channels to post his audition notices.

He should also try to get in touch with other production teams from other plays in the festival. They can try joint auditions, which might increase the number of people he sees. Or if they've already held their auditions, he can ask them for recommendations on actors they liked but didn't cast.
posted by zerbinetta at 11:19 AM on May 11, 2012

If there's any budget then hire a casting director. This is what they do. They have huge amounts of contacts and just roll right on into action given the specs for a project.

I have a friend who makes money casting big movies which she hates and then uses her free time between movies to cast small productions which she loves and makes negligible money on. she can't be the only one doing this!
posted by merocet at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2012

Or (to build off merocet's idea) if you can't afford a casting director, sometimes casting assistants and associates do this kind of work to building their casting director credits.
posted by zerbinetta at 1:56 PM on May 11, 2012

Thanks for all the great answers.
posted by steinsaltz at 2:59 PM on May 11, 2012

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