Casting: The Arena Stage

Outside of the Arena Stage
Outside of the Arena Stage

The Arena Stage, located in southwest Washington D.C., has received a Tony Award for Artistic Excellence (it is rare for a D.C. theater to receive a Tony) and 86 Helen Hayes Awards (which is the Tony’s for D.C. theater). It has also been bestowed several other theater related awards.

There are many reasons for the theater’s success. One could be the theater’s dedication to their mission statement. This includes: producing big-time plays that comment on the “American spirit,” presenting the best American theater possible, the development and commission of new plays, and the extending the study of theater.

Another important and maybe obvious aspect to the success of a theater is the quality of the actors it hires. Daniel Pruksarnukul is the artistic associate and casting director for Arena. He is in charge of overseeing the casting of every show at the theater.

When casting a show, “there are a lot of factors to consider when casting a show- it’s important to think of the company as a whole and to remember that you’re assembling a team (unless it’s a one-person show).  Talent is always a factor, but you also need to think about how everyone works together- both on and off stage,” Pruksarnukul said.

The process varies depending on whether it is a play or musical being casted. Nevertheless each process must begin with the selection of a show and hiring the creative team such as the director and choreographer.

“Once the team is set, we all meet and talk through what we’re looking for- if it’s a musical, we talk through things like vocal type/style, if there are moments we want to stage which require us looking for dancers with special skills (tumbling, acrobatics, aerial work, etc),” Pruksarnukul said. “If it’s a straight play it’s important for me to get on the same page with what style of actor the director likes, and what they’re looking for- you can have two directors work on the same play, and depending on the way they work, different sets of actors may be better for their productions.  Once everyone knows what we’re looking for, we go through the audition/callback/offer process.”

Pruksarnukul indicated the full casting process is not over until the final performance ends. Actors may not accept the part offered to them or they might quit for various reasons throughout the time of rehearsal.

If you are interested in visiting Arena Stage, “My Fair Lady” and “Pullman Porter Blues,” are both currently running through Jan. 6.

Check out their website at: http://www.arenastage.org/

 

Read the rest of the interview with Daniel Pruksarnukul below:

Interview with Daniel Pruksarnukul the artistic associate and casting director for the Arena Stage:

Q: Is the casting director in charge of casting for each of the shows at the Arena Stage?

DP: I am responsible for overseeing the casting process for all of the productions we do at Arena- we also do a number of presentations every season (such as Lookingglass Theatre Company’s “Metamorphoses”), which come with casts complete.

Q: What factors are considered when casting a show?

DP: There are a lot of factors to consider when casting a show- it’s important to think of the company as a whole and to remember that you’re assembling a team (unless it’s a one-person show).  Talent is always a factor, but you also need to think about how everyone works together- both on and off stage.

Q: What is the casting process like?

DP: The casting process extends beyond auditions & callbacks- it starts with play selection and assembling the creative team (Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, etc).  Once the team is set, we all meet and talk through what we’re looking for- if it’s a musical, we talk through things like vocal type/style, if there are moments we want to stage which require us looking for dancers with special skills (tumbling, acrobatics, aerial work, etc).  If it’s a straight play it’s important for me to get on the same page with what style of actor the director likes, and what they’re looking for- you can have two directors work on the same play, and depending on the way they work, different sets of actors may be better for their productions.  Once everyone knows what we’re looking for, we go through the audition/callback/offer process.  Lots of people feel like the show is cast once you find who you’re looking for, but there are a lot of factors at play: actors may accept your offer and then withdraw for another show; someone may get sick or injured during rehearsals/tech/performance and you need to find a replacement- essentially the casting process isn’t over until the closing of the show.

Q: How would someone be able to audition at the Arena Stage?

DP: There are lots of opportunities to be seen by the Casting Office at Arena- we send representatives to all of the open Equity Auditions (and are required to hold some of our own), as well as the Non-Equity auditions.  In addition to that, the office does an extensive amount of scouting locally and nationally- on average we’re seeing 2-4 shows/week all year round- I saw over 100 shows last year.  General auditions are great ways to meet people and to get a sense of what the pool is, but I feel it’s best to actually get to see someone in a full production.

Q: On average how many people do you have auditioning for one show?

DP: That all depends- for straight plays probably 30-40/big chorus musicals we sometimes see more than 200 people.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

DP: I can’t stress this enough: if you really want to be an actor, it pays to be nice.  You need to be talented, but if you’re not good to work with, no one’s going to want to spend 4 weeks in a room with you, and no matter how good you are on stage, no one will want to bring you back for another show if you’re terrible to folks offstage.

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