Q: I have two friends ("A" and "B") who are a similar type and often find themselves up for the same roles. This time, Friend A has just been offered a role, which she has accepted. While Friend B has just been invited to auditions at the same theatre for the same role, Friend A has already accepted. It's kind of a hassle and expensive for Friend B to get to the auditions. It seems rude for them to invite her to travel all that way to audition for a part they've already cast. I felt a bit dishonest withholding the information about Friend A already having the role while Friend B was lamenting to me about the investment of time and money to go to the audition. But she ended up talking herself into doing the audition because the role they've asked her to read for is so good—the role Friend A already has! But since she wants to be seen by them, I don't want to tell her something that could be distracting to her and might hurt her audition. I don't know. Should I let her know the role she's prepping for has already been cast? Or just stay out of it?
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: The short answer is stay out of it. If, as you say, she wants to been seen by the theatre—and clearly they want to see her, since they've invited her to the audition—it helps no one to put yourself in the middle of that interaction. The casting process can be long and arduous for everyone involved. As actors, we generally have no idea of all the twists and turns that occur behind the scenes before a cast has been completely put together. We want transparency, which is a fair desire, but I'll tell you as someone who also casts on occasion, it would only stress and confuse actors more to be given a beat-by-beat account of the casting process. Who knows what the heck is going on with regard to the theatre and the role in question? But what we do know is that Friend A has been cast, the theatre wants to see Friend B and she wants to been seen. I think she should go and be emotionally free of anything that would muddy the waters and possibly hurt her mental game. The part they've asked her to prepare is probably the one they feel is closest to how they would cast her. As you mentioned, your two friends are a similar type.
But there may also be some smaller parts for which they are considering Friend B, and the best scene to use to get a sense of what she brings to the table is the scene for a role that's already cast. That happens sometimes. Or they may be thinking of your friend for some other show altogether and don't yet have the sides for the other show, and the director may not be back in town for a while but wants to see your friend before she flies to the next gig. We just don't know.
The effort and cost involved with getting to and from rehearsal and performance obviously needs to be factored in when considering auditioning for a role. Will the stipend or fee or salary or benefits the theatre is offering balance out what you would have to invest in travel and parking if you accepted the role? Travel to and from our auditions is part of our business expenses. So while your Friend B is weighing the different factors about this audition in your presence, I see why you might feel awkward and like you should share the information you have in order to help her make a fully informed decision. That's understandable. However, the difficulty is that even if she learns from you that Friend A has accepted the role for which Friend B believes she's auditioning, she still won't be making a fully informed decision. She may be more informed perhaps, but also more confused. And who needs confusion going into an audition? What's most valuable to Friend B is whatever will help her kick booty in the audition room. And if she's all set and ready to go it would be unfortunate for her to suddenly have doubts about the point of going or cancel her audition because of your “news.” I think your instinct to hold your tongue was right. You just have a piece of the puzzle, not the whole picture. And if Friend B is in a good frame of mind and fully prepared, at the end of the day it will likely be good that she went to the audition—and excellent that you stayed out of it.
Since taking on producing the shows she wanted to see while in college, this month’s Featured Member and two-time Lemonade Fund benefit producer, Megan Briggs, exemplifies how a theatre artist can blow past the constraints placed on early actors to create her own play and develop works that support the field. Read all about her here.