Why Am I Not the Lead?

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by Stacee Tweedlie Willis

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 "Why am I not the lead?"
"How can I get a bigger part?"
"When will I get a head mic?"
"Why is 'so and so' the lead and I'm not, is she better than me?"

 These are just some of the questions I get asked as a director by actors and parents. We know everyone wants to be Ariel, Belle, or Fantine. But unfortunately we can’t have 30 Ariels, 30 Belles, or 30 Fantines – it’s just not possible. Here's how you can work towards getting that role you or your child have been dreaming about.  
 
Musical theatre is, of course, about performing but it is so much more than that! Auditioning, learning, and performing a musical develops many useful skills that children and adults can use in their everyday life. But that's not why you're reading this, you want to know how to get that starring role you've been after, right? Well, let's talk about that...
   
Students that get cast in a lead or supporting lead role are more often than not leaders (not leads) in previous shows. They have shown that they can learn their lines quickly and correctly, they don't follow the choreographer or others for the choreography, they know all the lyrics to the songs, and they help others whenever they can. They are self-starters and don't interrupt the director with questions that don't pertain to what's going on in the rehearsal. They look for ways to help those around them, whether that be keeping their cast mates quiet or helping them get on stage for the next song.

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Things Directors look at, that you may not have thought about:
 

First of all, how do actors respond when cast in a smaller part?
Are they angry? Do they act upset or annoyed with their part? Or do they do have a great attitude with any role they are given?
 
Second, once they're cast, how quickly do they learn their parts?
If you can't learn a small speaking part in a timely manner, how can you learn a part with over 20
speaking lines and solos?
 
Third, once they learn their part, how are they performing in the group numbers?
          Do they know the choreography or are they looking around to remember the moves? Do they think that their solo parts are more important than the group numbers and scenes?
 
Fourth, what's their work ethic like backstage?
          Do they know when they enter and exit and what side of the stage they do it on? Do they know what song is next? Leads are responsible for knowing ALL their own blocking (where they go on stage).
 
Fifth, are they looking for other ways to shine without speaking?
           If the director says to act excited, are they doing that? Are they going above and beyond when they're on stage without being distracting?
 
Sixth, what's their behavior like?  
          Are they always talking backstage (or at auditions or rehearsals) or are they leading by example? Do they ask smart and thoughtful questions? Are they disruptive in rehearsals?
 
These are just some of the things we look for when we are casting. Sometimes an actor will blow us away in the audition and then we cast them as a lead and they don't live up to their potential. Most importantly, it's not always about talent... Talent is great but a prepared and reliable actor is better.  We look to cast LEADERS in the LEAD ROLES. So, the biggest advice we can give you is be a leader; don't be bossy, come prepared to audition, know your stuff. Don't ask for a bigger part, show us you deserve one.


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