Casting Director Mary Clay Boland Reveals How Theatre Actors Get Hired, Part 1

Would you rather listen to Mary Clay Boland than read about her?
Hear Full (23 minutes) Interview: Mary Clay Boland with Susan Dansby

Anita Hollander in the Fifth SeasonSusan Dansby: Let’s talk about casting plays.  What’s the first step? 

Mary Clay Boland:  For theatre, it is a little bit of a different process than film and television. The playwright is so much more involved than usually the script writer of television and things like that.   

The first thing you do is – officially the play is being produced. It’s happening.  So, they need to get a casting person on board. You’re going to meet with the playwright and the director. 

And it depends on what theatre company you’re working with as to how much say the producers have.  Some producers are very hands-off and say, “I’m going to leave it to the director and his vision or her vision – and the playwright.” But some producers are very hands-on and say, “Oh you know, I’ve done this a long time, so I have an opinion as well.” 

You meet with all the people who are going to be in there making the final decision, and try and get a feel for them. In casting, it’s very important – not only do you want to find the right person for the role, but you also have to get to know the director [and] help them bring their vision to life.  

You’re not the director. So, you want an actor who you think is right for the role and who you respect, and you want them to get that role; but you also need the director to be really happy with who they are going to be working with. You’re doing a moderator job almost. 

Susan Dansby:  I think sometimes actors don’t appreciate how important it is for the casting director not to waste the time of the director, the producer, etc.  You can’t quote-unquote try somebody or give them a shot when they’re the antithesis of what the person who’s paying you has asked for. 

Mary Clay Boland:  Exactly. And I’ve always stressed that in other interviews. And when I talk to actors, I always make it clear that the casting director is the cheerleader for the actor.  We are the actor’s voice in the room.  

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I think there’s a misconception from – I don’t know if it comes from back in the day where the casting director was intimidating and kind of scared the actor.  Actually, [the casting director] is the person who is in the room saying, “No, I think you should go this way, I think you should go that way.”  They’re the ones saying, “Well, if you didn’t see it today I can tell you right now, I have seen it on this and this, and I beg of you to give them another shot.” We’re really there rooting for the actor. 

So, yes, if we don’t think you’re right for that specific role or for that director, then we’re trying to do you a favor and not bring you in.

About Susan Dansby

Susan Dansby has received four Emmy® Awards and two Writers Guild Awards for her work on the soap opera, AS THE WORLD TURNS. She is the author of HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB? MY DREAM JOBS AND HOW THEY CAME TRUE.
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