I, as well as so many people in the arts, have heard the piece of advice “If you can’t find an opportunity, make one!”. Many great things have come up from this and it is fantastic to see more people involved in the arts and creating opportunities. But what about the people who create something and… cast themselves in the lead?
Lin-Manuel Miranda has created every opportunity for himself that made him famous. In The Heights was created to express his culture, where lived and came from. Hamilton he created as a rap musical about a man whose life was forgotten though important, and he wanted to tell his story. Miranda is the king of creating original content, he sees something that needs to be heard, creates it, and puts himself as the lead.
Back to that piece of advice in the first paragraph, he has done exactly what they say and it has lead to success, which is after years and years of writing and rewriting. So, what’s the “but” of this article? Well, let’s look at Hamilton first.
Hamilton is a rap/hip hop musical, and the only one of it’s kind other than other shows he wrote. He’s a rapper, he wanted to be in a rap musical, and so he made one. But what if he wasn’t a good rapper or actor? What if he was just someone who was trying to perform well among his more talented cast? Would Hamilton still have turned out as successful as it is? Absolutely not!
Lin-Manuel Miranda is a talented man in music, lyrics and performing. He created an opportunity for himself and the world, and people are trying to take that advice and failing. Why? Well, it can be a number of reasons but for the sake of this article, let’s say that the cast is brilliant so it boils down to the person or the content.
Of course, when it’s your own work you should have a say in casting. But I see the line casting yourself is especially grey when you choose to produce someone else’s content, because then who is everyone else to say if you can or can’t fill the shoes of a loved character? Maybe you think you’re the perfect Jean Valjean, and others may see that and you’ll have a successful run. But if you aren’t, the cast probably won’t want to say otherwise because you’re the one who gave them this opportunity, and they don’t want to seem ungrateful even though you’re the one who’s dragging the rest of the cast and causing bad reviews.
I’ll use a personal example: I had recently joined a group on the app Smule to record the whole album of Heathers: The Musical (I know, not a real show but my point is still present). The girl who arranged this had already cast herself as Veronica. Still, I as well as other women and men auditioned, and I was cast as Heather Duke. When it came time to record our parts, she sent out her recording of Beautiful and her voice was… atrocious.
Veronica, for those of you who haven’t listened or watched Heathers, is a very difficult role to sing. She has some serious belting and high notes that only someone with a powerful voice can do, something this girl didn’t have. This caused everyone who had originally auditioned to politely quit when other opportunities were found, and forced her to rerecord and recast. You would think that would’ve been the end for this girl, but she has recently announced two different shows she also wants to do and possibly take roles on herself.
In this case, the content isn’t to blame as it was a successful Off Broadway show and of course, people who liked it auditioned. So it boils down to her and those who know her. Her peers for, possibly, supporting her in having a good enough voice to play Veronica in a real show knowing she cannot. And she for not being able to see past her fantasy to realize that she can’t.
Then say you’re producing something you wrote in the hopes of casting yourself for your big break, and that’s amazing, but also kind of frightening since the theatre community isn’t very open to new content (if that isn’t already evident from Broadway’s most recent successes). It’s not impossible though! Performing aside, if you haven’t had any honest friends and actors look over your work, you should maybe make sure what you plan to perform is actually presentable and revise and revisit. You should also remember fame does not happen after the first draft if at all. It’s also difficult for you to do your own character justice because you can’t watch yourself act what you created.
It seems to be only fair that you create something and want a piece of it, and I accept that answer… But then there are people, who take this advice, and their lack of talent on stage or on paper drags the rest of the cast down and makes them and the audience feel as they have wasted their time.
I’m not saying that casting yourself is a bad thing, but it only works if you’re a great writer and performer. I think it’s wonderful when people are able to write something and make opportunities that haven’t been given, but it also can leave some people to think that it’s selfish of them to create something so great only to keep the best of it to themselves. I feel it also takes out the fun of auditioning knowing that the lead has already been taken and they’re only looking for people to dance around them.
I definitely believe people should make their own opportunities. If you see injustice in the world and long to correct it, please do! Don’t let this article stop you! Creating your own opportunities can be a great start to something amazing. But if you decide to cast yourself in something, whether it’s your own content or someone else’s, and if you don’t take what people are saying against you and improve or settle, you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you have never been cast as the lead, and you haven’t been told you have potential or been praised for your own creative work, maybe you’re not meant for the spotlight. Please, don’t make other people suffer for it. Because guess what?
You’re not Lin-Manuel Miranda… Sorry.
Aly is a University student in Canada majoring in Dramatic Arts. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do with her degree, but she doesn’t care as long as she stays involved with the love of her life: theatre.