Years ago, I was directing a play that only had a cast of five. Usually, I hate coming up with rehearsal schedules but this one proved to be pretty simple given the number of people in the cast. However, right before I was about to send the schedule out, I received an email from one of the actors in the show who had forgotten that he had booked a seven-day vacation to Florida the week before Tech Sunday. I just about threw my laptop out the window.
I'm sure there are many community theatre directors out there who have shared my frustration. You cast actors thinking their schedule is one thing and then they surprise you with several conflicts after they've been cast. It's maddening. So why does it keep happening?
Well, the first reason is obviously the thought that if actors list fewer conflicts, their chance of getting cast is better. They're not wrong in thinking that either. Often when I am considering two or three people for particular roles, the amount of conflicts can be a factor in who ends up getting the role.
The second reason is because we as directors, let's this keep happening with our leniency. I'll be the first to admit that when an actor comes to me with conflicts they neglected to tell me during the audition period, I've forgiven it and just scheduled around it. I've seen plenty of directors do the same. I've rarely seen, at a community level, this happen and it results in the actor being dismissed from the show. But frankly, it should.
I completely understand that when it comes to community theatre, life outside the theatre doors can come first. I also understand that last minute family issues can come up. I've missed many an event because a babysitter couldn't be secured at the last moment. But there is a vast difference between those instances and not telling a director about a vacation until after you've been cast. Or asking for dates off for certain events that you could have disclosed much earlier. Doing this only protects yourself and gives you the knowledge that the director cast you knowing all the conflicts you had and that they have to schedule around them,
When actors are honest about their conflicts, it can throw an entire rehearsal period off. No joke, I was once in a show that had so many conflicts, there wasn't a single rehearsal that didn't have someone reading for someone else. I didn't actually hear the entire show with the cast until first dress rehearsal.
So actors, please be honest about your conflicts during the audition process. If you're not cast because of them, that's life. But who knows? Maybe you'll be cast in spite of them. But it's always better to be upfront and honest. And directors, make it clear about your expectations when it comes to conflicts at the beginning of the audition process as well. The more everyone knows what's expected of them the better.