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Casting Children with Same Age Cast

  • 1.  Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-04-2019 12:37
    Ok, here's an interesting one...  How do you successfully cast "children" when you are working with only grades 9-12? Of course the obvious is to cast your 9th graders or smaller-in-stature students as the children, or maybe pull from a nearby middle school, but in my case, middle school students would not be able to compete with the show eligibility wise (and competition drives our big show), and my 9th grade performers are out-performing my "elders."  Many of my younger performers are more "mature performers", as in their stage presence and experience is needed more in the leading roles.

    Should I just back out now, and find a show with a closer aged cast?  Or does anyone have some known "tricks" to pull off performing as taller-than-the-leading-cast-members children? (without staging them as sitting on rocks the whole show! Haha)

    Analiese Hamm
    ECHS Drama Director
    Statenville GA

  • 2.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-04-2019 16:22
    How great is the age difference of the characters? If the child character is old enough to have hit puberty they could be taller than the older characters. I'm certainly shorter than many of my students and even a significant number of the middle schoolers. I'll acknowledge that I'm very short, but height doesn't mean maturity. They just have to sell the characters with physical and vocal choices that are more appropriate to the age of the character they are playing. I also don't care about seniority or age in casting and have had freshman leads and seniors who play children on stage.

    Shira Schwartz
    Chandler Unified School District
    Chandler AZ

  • 3.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-05-2019 08:25
    Jeremy and Jemima in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!! So yikes! I'm looking at casting girls for both, just because of my limited male pool and for vocal requirements, but both girls that would be cast would be older than my Truly. However, they do have the "youthful" high energy playfulness in their personality, in contrast to my more prim and proper (younger) Truly.

    And hinging on this...if anyone would like to share their experience with Chitty, please do! I absolutely adore the show, and this next year might be the only chance I can come close to producing it cast wise (I have a jam up Characatus), but I am definitely stressing about the car and the children!

    So have I completely lost my mind?

    Analiese Hamm
    ECHS Drama Director
    Statenville GA

  • 4.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-06-2019 03:11
    My Helen Keller was a 9th grader and my Annie Sullivan was a very tall 12th grader.  I thought all was good until Helen grew four inches during the rehearsal period.  The show was great and no one commented on the child v adult optics.  Suspension of disbelief.

    Kathleen Conner
    Financial Consultant
    California State Thespians

    Sent from my BlackBerry Smartphone on the Verizon 4G LTE Network

  • 5.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-05-2019 10:28
    Casting is casting.  Cast the right person for the job.  If the actor is invested enough, the audience will buy what you're are selling.  Casting smaller stature people helps in the suspension of disbelief,   but I've cast people who aren't the smallest person in the room and they have come across through acting and physicality as children.  If you don't have the time to create that world on the stage or you don't feel comfortable with it,  then select another play that better suits the group you have.  Break and leg and may all your theatre seats be filled.
    Kelly Thomas
    Poteet Theatre
    Mesquite, TX

    Kelly Thomas
    Mesquite TX

  • 6.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-15-2019 00:41
    There’s nothing worse than a kid hearing “you’re too tall to play Dorothy” even though she has the voice of an angel. This year I have 3 couples who look odd because one is tiny & the other tall but pairing them by size would have our best female with a much smaller part. Years ago I use to stand the leads next to each other to make sure it didn’t look weird. Now I don’t care. The audience is very forgiving when the quality of the work is good. Sometimes I make a joke out of it like last year when our school principal was smaller than most of the kids. In one scene when he gave a speech, I had him carry a box, acting as if it was so heavy, then he stood on it for the speech, then he carried it off as if it was a giant boulder, was hilarious!

    Maria Stadtmueller
    St. Augustine School
    Kendall Park, NJ

    Sent from my iPhone
    Do This (Before Bed) to Burn Belly Flab All Night Long

  • 7.  RE: Casting Children with Same Age Cast

    Posted 12-18-2019 06:07

    You are correct in the idea of casting 9th graders in children's roles. Many of them really do look considerably younger than their 11th and 12th grade peers. You are also correct that you can often cast girls in young boy roles. It's pretty much required in a show like Peter Pan for example. But yes, in a show like The Miracle Worker, a 9th grade Helen Keller and a 12th grade Annie Sullivan works great. I recently cast a small for his age 9th grade boy as Les Jacobs in Newsies with equal success. 

    I have a small school so I have to carefully pick shows that suit my kid's strengths each year. It sounds like you already have your show picked. If I had a lot of strong freshmen and they all looked like little kids next to the rest of my students, but they were still my strongest performers, I might pick a show where kid characters were the leads, like Matilda or School of Rock.

    I think casting smaller girls as the boy and the girl should work great for you. Especially in a show like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (or Mary Poppins). It's pretty easy for girls to play the proper young British boys in those shows and it actually fits the styles of the piece. 

    Good luck!

    John Monteverde
    Drama Teacher
    Pittsfield High School
    Pittsfield, MA