Well, this is it - I'm holding auditions for Chess next Sunday and Monday evenings. I'm beyond stressed, already. Casting has always been my least favorite part of the directing process, because it's impossible not to be the 'bad guy' to someone. I held a couple of early auditions over the weekend, for people who requested them due to prior commitments on the scheduled audition dates. It helped me better prepare for the real auditions as well, so that's a good thing.
I've been in the director's chair many times, for musicals and plays, but this is my first time in the music director's position as well, so there's a whole new set of tasks for me there. For auditions, I'm using a section of "Press Conference," and a snippet of "You & I." Not the traditional audition selections, I suppose, but Press Conference is one of the trickier pieces, and I like throwing a relatively obscure and difficult tune, if it's something that pretty much everyone has to learn. I explain to them that I'm not looking for perfection by any means, but I need to know that I can throw a challenging piece of music at them and they will at least be able to get through it. We'll worry about singing prettily with the "You and I" selection. This is a method that has served me well before - for Sweeney Todd we used "City on Fire" and "Not While I'm Around" - several people completely crumbled and gave up on "City..", which told me precisely what I needed to know.
I'm aiming for a cast of fifteen - 7 principals and an ensemble of 8. Pretty small, considering when I was in the show 12 years ago we had 25. One thing that I really need to get across to auditioners is that being offered an ensemble role is not the same as saying "You weren't good enough for a principal, but here, have this." With only 15 in the cast, every single one of them needs to be an exceptional performer - there's no room for a weak link there. The principals have requirements beyond pure talent (principally age relative to Florence and type) that make those decisions a little more difficult to make, and I also have vocal balance to think about. I can't cast the best singer as Florence if the best singer happens to be a Soprano 1, for instance - and I can't cast several remarkable bass/baritones and only 1 tenor. Anyone who is offered a role - named or otherwise - will have been chosen because they have shown themselves to be a truly formidable talent, and an asset to the company. I truly hope that my casting calls are received in the spirit they are given. Of course, if someone truly isn't happy with an ensemble part, then it's best that they don't accept one - I don't need a bitter cast member stirring up drama.
I'm so busy right now that I'm doing something I almost never do - I'm delegating the tech. The set design is complete, I'd done that already, but I have too much to do to handle the tasks of construction, painting, costumes, props, decoration, and lighting design myself. I'll have to find a sound operator who actually knows what they're doing, because they'll be managing instruments, mics, and firing sound cues from a PC - our usual sound ops just have to play a cd or two and don't need to know anything about the board beyond "this is the slider for the cd player." I'd do it myself, but I'll be onstage with the band. I'm keeping the sound and multimedia design for me, because I have too specific a vision for them to give them to someone else - I have sound cues to record and mix, graphics and slideshows to create, and a rehearsal schedule to complete.
Did I mention I'm in tech week this week for another show I'm running? Oh, and doing a lighting design for yet another show on Friday. Overcommitted? Yeah, I'm all kinds of there. But this is Chess - it's worth it. As long as I can come here to vent and rant, I'll be okay.
I'll keep the forum posted on our progress, and you can follow the show on Twitter and Facebook from the microsite here: http://chessthemusical.info/
I'll start tweeting on the audition dates. Here we gooooo!