Cast Control

by Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko

As I go into casting on two vastly different and equally challenging projects, and that familiar dread/anxiety rolls in, followed by sprinkles of guilt and self-chastisement for my being so—arguably—maniacal on this issue, I am comforted and, one could say, absolved by the following quotes.

(And yes, a few are of film fraternity, but the sentiment is transferable.)

“Necessarily, I’m always involved in casting, as any playwright is, because the whole process of putting on a play is a collaborative, organic effort on the part of a bunch of people trying to think alike.”
-David Ives

“For it is not enough to know what we ought to say; we must also say it as we ought…proper method of delivery; this is a thing that affects the success of a speech greatly;…”

“There are always going to be more actors than anybody can ever use.”
-Edward Albee

“My secret to all casting, and specifically kids, is cast good human beings.”
-M. Night Shyamalan

“Casting is everything. Getting the person that you imagined is this character and then seeing what they bring to it.”
-Steve Buscemi

“Casting is storytelling.”
-Joss Whedon

“Casting is…90+ percent of the creative choices…”
-Alan Rudolph

Coincidentally, a known playwright has this week voiced concerns regarding an unanticipated casting choice. Different, this, in that it was a school production with which she had limited to no involvement and the concerns had to do with race.

Here is the Huffington Post piece referencing Katori Hall’s take on Kent State University’s production of her play, “The Mountaintop.”

Whether one agrees with the playwright’s perspective here or not, it’s a reminder of how significant the assigning of lines to a performer who would seem to embody and satisfactorily flesh out the character envisioned, created and first voiced by his or her author can be.

That said, I am reminded of a quote by southern novelist, Ellen Glasgow, which would, if subscribed to, tend to ameliorate any pains associated with this issue. “Doesn’t all experience crumble in the end to mere literary material?”

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