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What is a Cast?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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A cast is a group of performers featured in a recorded or live performance. Members of the group may be chosen on the basis of looks, skills, experience, and chemistry with other members, and the casting process is often quite complex and very selective. Plays, television shows, movies, commercials, musicals, radio plays, and a wide variety of other performances all require a cast of performers, supported by a crew of technicians, producers, and others.

The first stage in assembling a cast is typically holding auditions. During the auditions, a panel of reviewers will have an opportunity to see several people read for parts, sing, and sometimes participate in a screen test, in the case of film and television casting. Often the director of the performance is present, along with producers and some support staff, although sometimes preliminary auditions are carried out by a casting agency, which refers only the best candidates to the director and producers.

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Getting into auditions can sometimes be difficult. In some cases, an open call for auditions may be issued, which means that anyone can come in to try out for a part. In other instances, auditions are closed, limited to specific referrals from casting agencies, which may keep a library of potential performers on hand. During auditions, the panel considers the suitability of various performers for roles in the piece, as well as their chemistry with other potential cast members. Sometimes, an actor will come in to read for one role, and end up being asked to play another, and depending on the style of casting, people may be given notes and asked to perform again so that the casting staff can get an idea of their versatility.

Once the final group of performers has been decided upon, a cast list is issued and members are asked to sign contracts which stipulate their pay and various aspects of the performance. In theatrical productions, for example, members will be informed about when rehearsals start and how long the performance is expected to run, and they may be asked to commit to future runs or tours of the production.

It fairly common for people on a cast to become very friendly with each other over the course of a production. Depending on the piece, performers may spend weeks or months together in rehearsals before the performance even debuts, and this gives them ample opportunity to get to know each other. In television, cast members can spend years together, often becoming very close friends with each other and with technicians and support crew working on the show. In the theatrical community in general, performers can also become very insular, especially when they are extremely focused on their work, finding more in common with other performers and crew than society at large.

Tensions can also evolve on a cast, and these tensions can be problematic for those in charge of the production. Especially in large casts, it isn't that surprising that one person might come to dislike another, but when they have to play scenes together, this can result in considerable tension and stress for all involved. Someone who consistently develops interpersonal problems with other performers may find him or herself shut out from future productions, as information about the attitudes of performers is often widely distributed between production companies.

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