All day long, five minutes apart, the actors pass in front of me, hoping to be cast in my new play March Madness. Behind the power table we three wise men (ok, two men and a woman) sit: director Donald Brenner, casting director Carol Hanzel and I, deciding which five lives we will dramatically impact from now until mid November.
March Madness is a comedy, or what is now called a “dramedy” (comedy with serious intent). A brief synopsis: With the economy struggling and newspapers dying, Maury and his fellow reporters devise a desperate plan that will allow one of them to escape office hell and live his or her dream.
The response to March Madness has been very positive and encouraging at the three readings I’ve had, including one at Broadway producer Ken Davenport’s studios and another at Abingdon Theatre Company’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre. But now that it is actually being produced by Abingdon, the stakes are dramatically raised. Michael Tucker and his wife Jill Eikenberry played the lead roles at those readings, but are unavailable this time around and we’re determined to cast actors who meet or exceed the high bar they set.
When you get that original gleam of an idea for a play, you spend all your time developing plot and characters and none at all thinking of how many lives will be affected if it is produced.
From the director to the set designer to the endless parade of actors to the audience, hundreds and probably thousands of lives are influenced. You give some people work, some a shot a greater things and hopefully, enjoyment and an enriching experience for the audience.
Watching the actors stride in, eager to please and at their best, my mind goes back to my original brief descriptions of the cast. Did I describe the salesman as handsome, aggressive and in his mid 30s? I must have, because there is a parade of Don Drapers passing in front of me.
With so many top-notch actors in this city casting is definitely a buyer’s market, but finding the perfect fit is the challenge. That guy was great, but perhaps a few years too old. That woman gave too angry a reading. Maybe she had a bad day, or maybe she’s a bad actress. We have no time to find out.
This is a brutally competitive business, and anyone who can’t handle rejection is in the wrong place. Donald is incredibly kind to each actor, with an encouraging word for even the weakest of the lot. We are down to the “callbacks” this Friday, and will have the cast set before the end of the month. Opening night is October 26th, and March Madness will run through November 18th. I’ll keep you informed!