Auditioning at Bard is unlike other theatre companies: there’s a lot of scheduling and cooperation involved because of our having two repertory companies, Mainstage and Studio Stage, and the fact that actors need to fit two roles. 

The process begins nearly a year in advance of the upcoming season – Bard’s general audition notice goes out in June and general auditions are held in July. We receive resumes year-round and these are kept on file until the creative team is ready to go through them. 

Bard received upwards of 200 applicants and from this initial number, about 60 to 70 people are invited to audition for Christopher Gaze, Associate Artistic Director Dean Paul Gibson and Bard Artistic Associate Scott Bellis based on a number of factors, but the primary one being whether they have classical and Shakespearean training. Actors perform two contrasting Shakespearean monologues and are asked to sing a short 30-second song. 

There are times when directors have certain established actors in mind for certain roles and so there is no need for these actors to audition, they are invited to be part of the production. There are also established actors that sometimes “pitch” a part; this often happens if they’re known for a certain type of role and would like to be considered for something different. For example, a comedic actor may pitch a dramatic role, which the directors and Christopher would then consider. 

In the fall, Christopher visits Langara’s Studio 58 and the UBC Theatre program to audition their graduating class for the upcoming season. He takes time to offer them feedback on their audition and works with them to improve their skills. This is a great opportunity for students to be part of a professional audition and work with one of Canada’s most well-respected artistic directors. 

Christopher protecting the contents of the audition boardAfter the general auditions, casting auditions with the directors take place. All actors’ names are put up on Bard’s unique audition board. Created by Thomas Roach, past Operations Manager, the board is divided into Mainstage and Studio Stage and then again by play. Actors names are placed on to the board next to the character(s) the directors would like them to portray; there’s a lot of moving around and discussion before the final cast is set and the board allows for a visual representation of each decision. It’s kept under wraps and top secret until all final decisions are made. Don’t ask to see it, Christopher will turn you down! 

Speaking of Christopher, he plays a pivotal role in the audition process. From beginning to end, he works with the directors and creative team to fulfill their visions and is an ally to each actor when they come into the audition room, making it a safe and inviting place. 

Once the auditions are completed, the hard work really begins. One of the unique (and challenging) aspects of Bard – since it has two repertory companies, is that directors have to share actors; one director may need someone who is lithe, who can move, dance and sing, while their partner director may need a strong actor capable of lifts. It can make casting choices difficult and directors have to compromise and cooperate with each other. There are also occasions when directors from both stages want to cast an actor and that can complicate things further! 

That’s often where Christopher comes in. As Artistic Director, he looks at the big picture: Bard builds two acting companies each year and each company must work together for nearly six months to create the quality of theatre you, our patrons, are accustomed to. This means he looks at each actor and what stage they’ll best serve and what company they’ll best fit into in a way that will create the strongest ensemble. To quote Rhea Shroff, our Company and Education Manager, “Christopher has a very strong sense of what works and who would be best suited for what production. His intuition is great.”

So, after nearly six months of discussion, compromise and work, casting is complete by late October or November. Contracts are signed and the work continues until rehearsals begin in April for Mainstage and May for Studio Stage. 

It’s not easy or quick but after 25 years, Bard has a system going, and I think you’ll agree, it’s working pretty well. 

Look for sneak peeks into casting on the blog in December and January!

'The Tempest' director Meg Roe, Christopher and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' director Dean Paul Gibson (on Skype) at casting auditions