Monday, July 7, 2014

Congratulations: Marin Shakespeare Company

Marin Shakespeare 

Celebrates its 25th Season!

I recently had a chance to ask Lesley Currier founding Managing Director of Marin Shakespeare Company to tell me a little bit about her role as casting director for this season’s opening production As You Like It.

This pastoral comedy, written by William Shakespeare explores folkloric themes of true love, justice, and the simplicity of country life. Currier noted that when casting lead roles in Shakespeare she looks for actors who convey intelligence, and wit.

 “Shakespeare’s actors spoke directly to their audiences at the Globe and the Blackfriars Theatres, and these roles are written for actors who can connect with an audience.”

Q: Actors and actresses must bring a piece of themselves to the characters who reflect back to us our secrets, hopes, and desires.  Have you had any surprises in casting for this production?

A: We called in Debi Durst to read for the Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET, knowing that she is a professional comedian, and she absolutely surprised us by how well she read the dark, sad parts of the Nurse, like when she discovers Juliet’s dead body.  Occasionally we are surprised by an actor who seems so absolutely perfect for a role like Braedyn Youngberg who we had never met before, and who we cast as William in As You Like It this summer.  The actor we cast as Orlando, Teddy Spencer, is also playing the role of Tybalt in ROMEO AND JULIET.  We didn’t even have him read for Tybalt, as we have limited time at our auditions and we are casting three plays in rep, and we just trusted that he's a good actor, so it was a wonderful surprise to hear how great he is as Tyblalt, a haughty troublemaker, and the opposite of Orlando, a love-besotted sweetheart.

Q: What are the responsibilities of a casting director?

A: A casting director’s job is to line up actors for auditions, organize callbacks, and negotiate contracts.  To line up actors, we hold open auditions each year, and we also attend regional auditions, from which we invite some actors to come read for us.  We also invite a significant number of actors each year to skip our general auditions and come directly to our callbacks, where actors read scenes from the plays we are casting, rather than perform monologues. Occasionally, with actors we know well and have worked with extensively, we will make casting offers without a formal audition.  Organizing callbacks means preparing “sides,” scenes and speeches for actors to read, getting those sides to the actors so they can work on them in advance, and coming up with a schedule that allows the director to see actors together when necessary.  For example, when casting ROMEO AND JULIET, it’s a good idea to read the actors together to see whether they seem like a good match in terms of energy, age, and other chemistry.  Negotiating contracts with actors is the job either of the casting director or producer; at our theatre, I am both.

Q: How does your own acting experience inform your casting choices? 

A: Having been an actor, you gain a deeper respect for what an actor goes through and how fragile the process can be.  

Other productions this summer include Romeo and Juliet and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.

About Lesley Currier:  Recipient of Princeton University’s Frances LeMoyne Page Award for Theatre, her acting career includes the Ukiah Players, Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere. She initiated the New American Comedy Festival and founded the Marin Shakespeare Company with Robert Currier in 1989. An actor, director and playwright, her original adaptation of "A Thousand and One Arabian Nights", which she directed, was nominated for "Best Overall Production of 2002" by the Bay Area Critics Circle and she was nominated as "Best Director 2009" for "Twelfth Night, or All You Need Is Love" which she adapted with Robert Currier.

She is also the founder of Shakespeare at San Quentin, which gives inmates opportunities to study and perform Shakespeare and is past President of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America.

As You Like It runs Friday-Sundays, July 5-August 10.

Cost “Pay As You Like It” - Admission donations of any amount will be accepted at the door for this production.

Tickets: click here.

Where: Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 890 Belle Avenue, Dominican University of California, San Rafael, Calif. 94901.

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