Theater Info for Maryland

Cast Size

By • Sep 19th, 2012 • Category: An Actor's Advice

Cast size is not an unreasonable criteria for determining what plays you may want to be in. After all, you will be spending anywhere from six to eight weeks with these people (or more) most evenings a week. A basic knowledge of what sort of atmosphere and dynamic any given cast size provides can help you make this decision.

The smallest cast I was ever in was three people. It had its obvious advantages. Small casts such as this are preferable if you want the chance to relate to everyone on a more personal level. To converse, explore the play and establish trust in a more intimate fashion with all those involved in the production. With a cast of three to five people, each role more directly impacts all the others, and can bring about a greater sense of collaboration on stage.

Not to mention that off stage you have a greater chance of finding some privacy between scenes if you need to. Fewer people to avoid, as it were.

But of course a smaller presents the risk of “claustrophobia” as it were. If you don’t get along with the other two people in the show, no corner of the theatre, no matter how obscure will offer any relief. Day in and day out you will be confronted with the same quirks, the same annoyances, the same personalities. You won’t have anywhere to retreat to when it gets hairy between you and someone else.

And of course is one person has the flu in such a show, you are looking a week without a third of your cast. That can be quite a void, especially early in the rehearsal process.

Large shows (my largest ever was a cast of 42) offer one a greater chance of finding an individual or group with whom one can socialize, or at least vent when needed. Being around so many people doing so many different things opens our experiences up to many different ways of viewing the show, and theatre in general. We become exposed to all sorts of perceptions that we may not experience in a tiny show. The chance to expand our viewpoint increases.

And in many cases, when one person out of 42 is missing for a few days, it is easier to keep that train moving along just fine without them.

Yet there is often nowhere to go when one wants to be alone. People in the dressing room, the green room, out in the empty house seats during rehearsal, up in the balcony. Everywhere you go, somebody else. (Unless you are lucky enough to be in a very large venue.)

One’s individual voice and contribution also tends to get lost in such an ocean of people. There isn’t as much time to address individual concerns. And unlike a smaller cast, the odds of the talent level varying drastically from great to poor increase with every five people in a cast. (Not scientific…a general estimate on my part.)

So, regardless of the script, the specific people, and the venue, the size of a cast has its pros and its cons right from the start. Consider them before you fill out that audition form.

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