ALISON FRANCK, CSA
BB: Where did you go to college for theatre and/learn the trade in order to move to NYC to pursue a career in theatre as a casting director and/or what brought you into the casting field?
AF: I went to Syracuse University and have a BFA in Musical Theatre. When I graduated from Syracuse I went to a regional theatre, Playhouse on the Square, in Memphis, TN - they offered internships for actors and when we were not performing or rehearsing, they placed us in different areas of the theatre and I was placed in the administrative offices (rather than costumes or the scene shop) and I worked in the box office, in subscriptions. When auditions were happening for all of the productions (like 15 a year), I would help run the auditions and work with the directors on ideas of who to cast. It was that process that really started forming my interest in casting. I came to NYC in 1993 after two years with Playhouse on the Square and then got my Equity card a few months later. I toured for two years and in 1995 I decided I wanted to look into the world of casting because I hated touring. And I realized that to be a performer with my skill set that was the kind of paying work I would need to accept and I didn’t want it. I asked around town “how does one become a casting director?” everyone said: “get and internship” I ended up leaving acting in 1995 (21 years ago) and started two internships for two major casting offices: Lynn Kressel Casting and Johnson-Liff Casting. And in February of 1996, Johnson-Liff hired me full time as an assistant.
BB: What do you find the most challenging part of being a casting director?
AF: Every job presents different challenges. The number one challenge is always, especially in casting musicals, is that we always have a group of people who all have to agree on one person: The director, the musical director and the choreographer, and often also the producers. To find one
actor who pleases everyone can really be challenging. It takes a lot of thinking outside the box” sometimes to really combine the talents needed to keep everyone happy.
BB: Are there big differences in being a casting director for theatre vs film/tv?
AF: The main difference for auditioning for film/tv and theatre is that we film film/tv auditions and for theatre it is live in front of the team. However, usually for final callbacks even in film/tv, many of the creative staff is in the room as the actors are also being filmed and now sometimes we are filming theatre auditions, or having someone skyped into the audition….This is because modern technology now makes it possible to have people live for an audition but not actually have to be in the room. Obviously the mediums are different what the final result of the project will be… also, for film/tv we do a lot of “offers” to big stars without having auditions for them…(Sometimes for theatre as well)
BB: Are there big differences working as an independent casting director versus in a larger office setting with many other casting directors at your side?
AF: I like BOTH working in a larger casting office and working on my own. I am more used to working on my own, BUT there is so much that is so wonderful about working with an office. Not just the “extra help” but the great way everyone has their own perspective and ideas that can really enrich the casting process.
BB: What do you recommend for others who might want to pursue a career as casting director?
AF: INTERNSHIPS. Really, right now, the only way to get a job in casting. Also watch all of the film/tv and theatre that you can, but also research actors. I seriously never can stop learning the talent that is out there. It is not only constantly changing, but,also every day a new need for a
kind of talent is needed. SO, never stop collecting ideas, and ways of reaching out to talent.
BB: What has been a few of your most favorite projects and what are you currently working on?
AF: I love working on new projects. I love working on readings and creating even they way we can double actors. I always feel like my expertise is more valuable in the beginning stages of a piece. That being said I loved casting 1776, Funny Girl, Ragtime and The Bakers Wife at Paper Mill and recently The Producers on tour. I think my favorite kinds of shows are the ones that need all different character types.
BB: For actors any words of advice/pet peeves and/or things your wish to impart?
AF: If a casting director or your agent reaches out to you with an audition appointment, please respond. The times for appointments are really being held hostage until you confirm or cancel. You need to do one of those things when you hear about an audition, and that doesn’t mean confirming
until you change your mind the night before the audition or the day of the audition, either. That time slot is being HELD by you, so when you don’t show up, that means that is one less actor we will be seeing that we could have seen someone who would have shown up.
Obviously there are days actors wake up and are sick, have a family emergency or book another job, but make sure you cancel your time so the team isn’t waiting around wondering where you are. What may seem like a no brainer about letting casting know you will not be at the audition ,
but….you would be amazed at how many actors lately just blow it off, with no contact.
BB: What is one thing that you have learned while actively pursuing a NY career in the arts that you wish you would have known/learned before moving to the city that you could impart to others?
AF: Never stop learning and studying. Never rest on your laurels.
BB: Any words of inspiration or anything else you want to say/impart?
AF: Prepare for your auditions. I am always confused when some actors come in and clearly are “winging it”. Occasionally, some act like they just got the audition materials 10 minutes ago, even though I know I sent it out over a week ago. Sometimes actors ask questions that prove that they clearly did not read they play…and some dress like they just don’t understand who the character is, not understanding the period, the location, the class of the role, the dialect, and what the relationships are. Obviously there are times the script and background info is not available, so really read the breakdown thoroughly, really understand with all of the resources available how to make your audition it’s very best. GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND. It always makes me frustrated to see actors not doing their homework. But, when the actors truly prepare and all of that work proves that they really have a crystal clear vision of what to do at the audition. It can be truly magical. Even if that actor does not book the job. I will absolutely keep them in mind for the next project that comes across my desk that suits their talent.
Alison Franck, CSA (*Casting Director*) has been working in casting forover 20 years. Current projects are national tours of *A Christmas Story, The Musical!, Saturday Night Fever *and *Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas* (for the 6th year in a row). Her recent projects include: National Tours of *Hello Dolly* starring Sally Struthers, *The Producers, Guys and Dolls, **Man of La Mancha*, *Hair, Dreamgirls, My Fair Lady, Ain't Misbehavin'* starring Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Workshops of* Gloryana* at The Public and *Queen of Mean: the Rise and Fall of Leona Helmsley* at the Actors Temple. Off Broadway plays *It's Just Sex* and *The Donkey Show* (directed by Diane Paulus). Alison also worked in television casting of "Soul Man" starring Dan Aykroyd, "LateLine" starring Al Franken, "Talk to Me" starring Kyra Sedgewick, and pilots of "Freaks and Geeks" and "Madigan Men, voices for TV series "Peter Rabbit", also several films including *Broke Even* starring Kevin Corrigan. Alison was the Resident Casting Director for Paper Mill Playhouse for 10 years, where she cast over 50 productions, including the Broadway transfer of I*'m Not Rappaport* starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen, directed by Daniel Sullivan. Regional:* Pirates! *(Goodspeed/Paper Mill), *Hairspray,* and *Les Misérables (*North Shore) and 2007's mini-tour of *Seven Brides for Seven Brothers *(TUTS/Paper Mill Playhouse/North Shore/TOTS).
Whether you are interested in becoming a casting director and/or are an actor wanting some great advice from behind-the-table, here is an excellent in-depth interview from New York Casting Director Alison Frank!