So after three days and twenty-five hours of auditions, and another couple hours of debating and agonizing, we have decided on a cast of fifteen actors to man (and woman) the Essex.
We could have cast the show three times over with the embarrassment of riches our casting director put before us. That was the reason for the agonizing--there were just so many astoundingly talented actors. I can think of several who made my hair stand up, that we ended up not being able to use. This is almost a crime, but it boiled down to the combinations---who would look right against whom. This may sound like a shallow way to go, but we were given that luxury by the talent that was on display.
As an actor myself, I learned a few things being on the other side of the table. The most important being, everyone wants you to succeed. It is not an adversarial situation in the audition room. Just show us the truest version of yourself, and the rest is out of your hands and has nothing to do with your worthiness as a human being, or your talent.
As a playwright, I was gratified to learn that the writing holds up to repeated airings and to many different interpretations. It seems that The Whaleship Essex is an "actable" play, and if I think of all the man-hours devoted to memorization and rehearsal before all those wonderful actors even walked into the audition room, I am humbled and hopeful.
I am not sure if our casting director, Judy Bowman, knew exactly what she was getting into, but I'll bet she did, and went all out anyway. There is a ton of homework before and after the actual auditions, in contacting a hundred and something actors and agents and managers, juggling schedules and demands and union affiliations. And she was respectful and warm to every actor and kept things moving so we stayed on schedule. She is still ironing out details as I write this. We owe her big time.
I cannot express how excited I am to start rehearsals next week. I am also a little heartbroken about the people we couldn't use. We also still need another five thousand, but as Uncle John says, sometimes you gotta jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down. With a cast like this, we will soar.