Ask your director about Casting Format

To create some of the required organization documents such as a costume plot or costume count, you must first know how the director intends to cast the show.  In some cases you will work with the director before auditions, some times you will know the principle roles but not smaller roles.  Regardless of actual casting decisions, you must know how many roles each actor will play.

You may have to design specifically for a star, a particular figure or other physical requirements.  The director may want your input on casting choices, and in the case of extras you may have a lot of influence.  Note the following general practices in casting; each type will affect your design.

Academic theater casts as many people as possible to offer acting opportunities.  You will have fewer fast changes to accommodate an actor playing very different roles,  however, you will often have a narrow range of performer ages.  You must design for aging techniques such as fat padding, make up and wigs.

Equity or LORT theater casts as few people as possible to keep the payroll more affordable.  Some actors will play multiple roles of very different characters, especially ensemble characters.  You will design for more full fast changes, and must build in facial hair, make up and wig differences.

Film/TV and video never uses double casting unless it is a special sequence.  Acting contracts for shorter number of shoot days per actor allows a producer to keep the payroll affordable.

Music, Dance and Opera Due to physical demands on the performers, producers will sometimes double performers in each role to rotate performances.  You may have to design costumes that match each other closely for different body types.  This will also affect your budget.  These art forms also employ three unique casting groups: the singing chorus, the dance corps, and supernumeraries. The chorus is treated as a single musical unit- will you costume them that way?  The supers provide silent filler or character “color” for an opera.  Will they be individual characters or fill out the chorus?

Understudies Large theaters under a LORT A contract, commercial theaters and many musicals will cast understudies.  A few understudies will cover several roles.  In these cases, it is the Assistant Designer’s responsibility or the Costume Director’s responsibility to do understudy costumes.  Always ask about this possibility. Understudies go on more than you think!

Tours and Special Ensembles will cast one set of actors for an original run, and cast a second set for a tour, a remount or for other reasons. You may have to refit, rebuild or relocate the costumes.

Stars You do not design FOR stars, you design WITH them.  They will have specific input.  You are not a dressmaker-for-  hire, however.  They will rely on your design expertise as well.   Before you can design these costumes, you must have an initial meeting with your star to get their input and look at their figure.  It is smart to have research, color samples, samples of garments as needed.

Attending Auditions

Some directors will allow you to be present during casting sessions.  It can be enormously helpful to the designer to understand what a particular actor brings to the role.  You will also have a huge head start on your process. 

Casting Extras or Supers: The costume department may affect casting decisions in cases where there are fitting limitations.  For instance, if you will be renting a large package and the Supers costumes are a limited size range, you must communicate this information to the producer and director ahead of time.

A word of caution: Cattle calls and large auditions take many, many hours.  Be judicious how you spend your time.  If you can spend time this way, that is great.  If you can, try to attend call backs.

Brave New World: Some audtions are taped or submitted via video web sites.  You may ask to watch these to get a better idea of your performer.  Always visit a performers website to see posted photos or videos.



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