The Reality of Pre-Casting in Community Theatre

Chris Peterson 

One harsh reality that some local actors/directors remain in denial about is that many community theatre productions are pre-cast. There is not a single director, theatre board, selection committee, etc, that chooses a show without first thinking about how they might fill the cast. You're not going to select a show with children without first thinking about what pool of children you could pull from. You're not going to select Avenue Q without first thinking about what Asian and Black actresses you know, who could fill the roles of Christmas Eve and Gary least I hope you're thinking about that. 

Photo: Michelle Harvey/ UTA

Photo: Michelle Harvey/ UTA

And while pre-casting is generally thought of as a negative activity, I'm willing to bet that many of you, were pre-cast in roles yourself. Especially in smaller communities with smaller casting pools, where reputations precede auditions. It's likely some of you were given the role the moment you walked into the room without having to say a word. 

And while pre-casting is more unfair than fair to local performers, theatre companies can certainly be more transparent about it. 

I've seen some theatres who have been open and honest about what roles are actually available and which ones have been previously filled. For instance, this coming weekend there is a show going up in my area where an actress was pre-cast in the title role of the show by her husband, who is the director. Now you can have your own opinions about this but at least the theatre was up front and honest about the casting.

However I KNOW of directors in my area that pre-cast their shows and still make those roles available for auditions. It infuriates me when I see this. 

So the lesson here folks is this, if you're pre-casting roles in your shows, just be honest about it. While it might damage your reputation of being inclusive and giving new people an opportunity, no one can say you were being sneaky about it. I have a feeling the latter would be much more damaging.