The Tempest Casting Process

We have a cast for The Tempest! All are Perth-based performers. All are quite breathtakingly brilliant.

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We have a cast! After six massive days of auditions with our indefatigable Associate Director Libby Klysz and wonderful Company Manager Chantelle Iemma we have chosen our actors. Some have performed in many shows with Black Swan, some none at all. All are Perth-based performers. All are quite breathtakingly brilliant.

Auditions are a very strange ritual: actors present a fragment of a role out of context and trust you to imagine them into the rest of it. In our case, we asked actors to prepare a speech from any Shakespeare play and extracts from their chosen role from The Tempest. This is an incredibly vulnerable thing for an actor to go through. Most sane people are terrified of job interviews, but actors front up for these heart-stopping encounters almost every time they work. Time is tight; it may be the first bit of acting they have done in weeks or months; they may be very nervous; or on a high; or pretending to be relaxed but secretly bricking it. And then it’s over almost before it began: the first half of the day wound tight in anticipation; the second half of the day a process of unwinding through relaxation or recrimination.

It’s a weird thing to admit, but I actually love auditions. As an actor I always had the mentality that this was my opportunity to be that character for 20 minutes. My teachers told me that directors want you to do well, which sounded suspect. Now, on the other side of the desk, I can confirm that this is absolutely true. I want an actor to be extraordinary. I want to create a space where they can play, surprise themselves and us and do their absolute best work. I want them to give me a headache in trying to find a place for them in the ensemble because they are so good.

In this, the Perth acting community more than delivered. We could have easily cast The Tempest three times over with the raw talent we saw. We gave no restrictions for age, gender or cultural background. What we were looking for was an ability in each actor to contact the essential nature of their character – to inhabit the archetype of this person in a nuanced and idiosyncratic way that transcended stereotype. After a week of sleepless nights and many conversations with Libby, Chantelle and the other creatives in the team wrestling with choices, we ended up with a cast that is overflowing with talent and nothing like any Tempest cast I’ve ever seen.

What those outside the industry sometimes don’t appreciate is that talent is a necessary but insufficient quality for an actor to win a role. Casting is primarily about building an ensemble who will fit together in two distinct ways. First, as a fictional society within the world of the play; and second, as a community of artists in the rehearsal room, building strong, trusting, positive connections so they can feel safe to take big risks. Balancing these considerations is the essence of effective casting.

What excites me most is that each member of this cast has bought into a way of working. Artists want to be grow and be challenged when they work, and this process will test all of us, myself included. In the next week I’ll be sending out an edited script of the play with notes on how to prepare the text. I am excited to begin our work together.

Matt Edgerton, Director of The Tempest.

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