A conversation with Producing Artistic Director and TNS co-founder, Mary Skees.
Q: How can actors join your casts?
Mary Skees: The Next Stage casts through a combination of open auditions, invited auditions, and invitations to individuals who have already worked with us. We bring in new people for every show, often quite a few. We also call on a core of 6 or 7 people who have acted with us for decades. If you are interested in receiving notifications about open opportunities, please contact us directly, using the website’s contact form.
Q: What percentage of your casting is open?
MS: Our casting in 2019 provides a good example of how that mix might typically work:
Out of a total 17 roles, we cast 10 actors through auditions.
For Voices, we cast through open auditions for all 5 roles. For Uncle Vanya, we held open auditions for 3 of the 7 parts. For Operation Crucible, we needed to audition University-aged young men during the summer. Through replies to our audition call on the School of Theatre’s online Marquee, we cast 2. The other 2 we cast based on recommendations.
Q: Do you use a lot of new talent?
MS: Again, looking at 2019, over half of the actors were new to us. So there’s plenty of opportunity. We’re always looking for new talent.
Q: Why not have completely open auditions?
MS: I would love to be able to cast every part by open auditions. And in a big city, with auditioners lined up around the block, that would work.
Here in State College, though, casting only by open auditions has proved, time and again over the last 24 years, to be very risky.
For certain parts, we might need to cast by personal invitation based on our experience with particular actors and on recommendations from our sources.
Why? To start with, the acting pool is small, the scripts chosen are difficult, other companies compete for actors who can handle challenging material, our standards are high, and the rehearsal process and performance schedule are intense and long.
The biggest reason? For most plays, I need to know that I can cast before I can commit to the script’s rights, to a performance space, to a rehearsal space, and to a director – all of which must be done as much as a year in advance.
The timing limitation is complicated by having no understudies. As a result, I need actors that can commit reliably, as much as six months to a year before rehearsals start. If an actor has to withdraw when their life changes, often late in the game, we risk having to cancel the production. And then what happens to our commitments to the other actors, the rented spaces, the director, and the licensing agency?
Q: Is there any way for actors to anticipate what roles might be available?
MS: Absolutely. We have every intention of being open and transparent about our process. Our website is our primary tool for detailing audition information.
Watch this space for announcements for each production about which parts we will open-audition for and which parts we have had to pre-cast.