Matching the Actor to the Role
Drama tends to bring out the curious, the outgoing and the attention seekers in your congregation. In the vast majority of cases, these actors are enthusiastic and available but don't bring a working knowledge of theater, acting, or terminology. How do you mold a group of novices into a cohesive, productive and (even more importantly) an excellent drama team in today's church drama culture?
Directors must possess an accurate read of three things in order to bring out the best in the people at hand. First, you must know the situation. Directors must have a sense of what the script requires, what level of subtlety it contains, and what it will take to pull it off with strength.
Next, you need a great sense of your physical resources. You are not going to make much of a drama dent without appropriate props, facilities, rehearsal time and stage area.
Third, the vast majority of your success will come from an awareness of your people. You will fail without a dead-on knowledge of your actors: their versatility, their strengths, and their natural giftedness.
Here are some fundamental questions to ask when casting:
1. What does the role require?
Is it an adult, a teen, a child? What is their age, height or weight? Are they a boss or subordinate? Who are they "married" to in this role? What does the role require in terms of physicality: is it active, sedentary, old, young—in other words, is it Indiana Jones or Jabba the Hutt?
2. Will the audience believe that this person is that character?
There comes a moment in every great drama when the audience suspends their "disbelief," even for a few brief seconds.
3. Are the actors available for the required rehearsals and performances?
Don't be complacent about how much time it will take to be excellent — even with your best of actors.
4. What qualities will each actor bring to his role?
Imagination — Will he/she take it "over the top" if necessary?
Experience — Will they fall apart under pressure? Are they good ad libbers if necessary?
Memory skills — How fast do they learn? How much time do they have to learn this part?
5. What strengths does the role require?
Comedy — This demands perfect timing and delivery.
Emotions — Are their emotions convincing?
Good timing — This can be discovered in normal conversation with your actors. Are they quick-witted, do they know how to come back fast?
Farce/Melodrama — Acting taken to extremes. Some actors play farce well because of their tendency to broaden everything.
Accents — Some people have a gift for it.
"Every-man" parts — Some people play "normal" well; these roles do not require over the top dramatization.
Special Interests — Some actors with a special passion in life come off better because they have more internal feelings or facts to draw on. These would include parts that capitalize on an actor's vocation, background, or skills.
Odd or Eccentric Characters — These roles require the actor to think "outside the box" well because they often require complete personality and body changes. Experience helps here significantly.
6. How did this person do in their last part?
Did it go as well as it could have? Was it a casting problem? A directing problem? Did we ask for something they could not have given? Did the role suit them?
7. Is the script weak?
A weaker script calls for stronger actors — weak script with weak actors equals a bomb!
8. How much stage time have they had?
Were they just on stage last week, for example? Will the audience find it more difficult to believe them in this role because they saw them in a totally opposite role last weekend?
Look for the strengths of your actors. In fact, you will find that your team may often know each other's strong points more readily than you. And if you capitalize on what each can bring to the role, you will find some of the greatest ministry moments opening up for you and for your congregation.