From outside, casting may seem like a pretty simple job. Picking the best actor for the best role. Easy, right? WRONG! You do those things, but there is so much more that goes into the art of casting than you may expect. Russell Boast held “The Art of Casting” workshop in DMAC 123 on February 11 with a full audience of students and parents from parents weekend who were excited to learn from the best.
Immediately, to open up the workshop, Russell asked the audience to raise their hands if they were actors. He chose two of those raised hands — one boy and one girl — from the audience, and handed them the script. He told them to look over it and then toward the end of the workshop, they would perform the scene out loud in front of an audience. He did not give them any more details.
I had the chance to ask my friend and screenwriting major Jonathan Tysor, one of the actors chosen to perform the scene, about his time at the workshop and experience getting up in front of everyone.
“Participating in Russell Boast’s workshop was truly just like working in the acting industry: unpredictable, nerve-wracking, and absolutely thrilling. Several people came up to me [during the break] complimenting my courage to volunteer, however, I had no clue what I was about to do. When the room was questioned [earlier on] who the actors were, of course I raised my hand – I have been acting for over eight years. You may think [ that would mean] I would have no fear in performing a scene I had been given on-the-spot; you would be wrong.”
“During the break, I was able to meet my scene partner and run it through one time – primarily ensuring we were on the same page regarding what was going on and who would be playing each role. [Then,] we performed – a bit awkwardly, as we had a script in one hand and a microphone in the other.”
After their first run-through together, Boast said something along the lines of “I wish they would have been bad so I would have had a bigger adjustment to give.” His adjustment for them was instead of performing it facing the audience like they were on a stage, he wanted them to act facing each other. He wanted them to pretend there were cameras recording them as if it was a chemistry read in a casting office.
“Although it is unusual to do (especially in front of an audience), I cannot deny that facing each other enhanced the authenticity of the scene tremendously; both having memorized quickly, we were able to truly listen to one another and live in the scene rather than simply “perform” – reminding me what is so gratifying about the art of acting.”
When Russell Boast was president of the Casting Society of America, they didn’t have a training program to train the next generation of casting directors. Everything happened by word of mouth. Russell was the one that first began developing a training program there, and eventually brought his skills and expertise all the way to Chapman.
If you want to learn more about casting or want to speak with Russell directly, his office hours are Wednesday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. and Fridays from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. You can sign up for an appointment slot here: https://calendly.com/boast-chapman
He also teaches the class The Art of Casting every single semester!