Friday, May 6, 2011

Casting, Chemistry, and Us

By Erin Gaynor, Development Intern

It’s pretty typical when you start to make some motions toward being employed, that you meet with the entire team you’re going to work with. It’s to make sure you’ll work well together because at the end of the day, you don’t want to work alongside someone who is inconsolably awkward or poorly mannered (or insert your own coworker horror story here). I always assumed the same for casting, but on a much more melodramatic level.

“Sparks are flying through the air! We have found our leading couple!” That is what I imagined Adam Belcoure, the Goodman’s casting director, would say when the romantic leads in Stage Kiss, Jenny Bacon and Mark Montgomery, met in the audition room. Turns out, they had barely spoken prior to the Chicago magazine photo shoot for Stage Kiss they did shortly before rehearsals began.

Jenny and Mark are clearly comfortable with one another and feel at ease. Any sort of awkwardness feels like playful innocence. So how does Mr. Belcoure do it? How can you predict chemistry between two individuals before they’ve ever met?

“I can’t claim I have a gift,” Adam modestly tells me, saying that when they are looking for actors with chemistry, they search for someone with “presence, something that’s exciting to watch.” For Stage Kiss, Adam said they knew the leads needed to be “steamy” and “have some sizzle; they needed to have romantic chemistry and sexuality.” But, bear in mind, “we don’t pair people up.” When asked why not, Adam conveyed that people communicate sensuality and when casting two of these people, “we hope they have it together.”

The truth is, us as audience members dictate casting far more than we realize. “Audiences want to see certain people together,” said Adam. “We want to see attractiveness, but the criteria for sexiness on stage and on film are different.” The actor John O. Roberts has joked that when cast for stage, he’s the sexy lead, but when cast for film, he’s “the robber or the homeless man.” We, as audiences, demand strong jaw lines and flawless features of individuals like George Clooney and Brad Pitt (which is probably why so many female actresses resort to plastic surgery as they age). But for the stage, Adam tells me actors’ sexiness “lives in [their] body and voice versus looks.”

As a former actor, Adam has an insider’s perspective.“Loving actors and what they do keeps me interested, and as a casting director, I get to see performances that no one else gets to see.” By keeping a comfortable atmosphere and a friendly demeanor, Adam creates an audition room that can lead to the easy, sensual performances necessary for Stage Kiss.

Photos: Mark L. Montgomery and Jenny Bacon in Stage Kiss. Photos by Liz Lauren.

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