When I started the Drama Ministry at the Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, I took the traditional approach of auditioning church members for the roles in the church play. I posted an announcement in the church bulletin, scheduled the date, and proceeded to hold auditions. Well, the obvious occurred; only a handful of people showed up for the audition. I assigned roles to the members who showed up (even if they were not the best candidates) because no one else auditioned. Let’s face it, if someone comes out to audition and doesn’t get assigned a role what’s the probability that person will come to another audition…very low. Remember, we are talking about untrained church members who are volunteering to participate. I have to give a role to the individuals who came to the audition; however, I still have to go out and solicit other church members for the remaining open parts. Some newly solicited church members may better fit the role I felt compelled to give out in the audition. So I decided to drop auditions and assign all pasts in my church productions
I know what you are thinking; how will I know if a person is right for a part unless I audition them. You are correct; I do audition them, but not in the traditional way. I audition them by establishing a relationship with them as a member of the church. In my Sunday-to-Sunday conversation with members of my church, I don’t just carrying on a casual conversation, I also listen to their voice tone, watch their mannerism and how they express themselves. Do they have an interesting look, do they make eye contact easily, and are they jovial, stern, motherly, harsh, bashful, etc. I try to see everyone as actors and actresses.
For each role in my production, I will have at least two persons in mind; my first choice and my second choice. So your concern may be; if I’m personally soliciting and casting people then I’m excluding some members who may want to participate whom I don’t personally know. Not really. People can (and do) come to me to let me know they want to participate in the Drama Ministry. That’s great, so now I start getting to know them in my “conversational audition” as noted previously. I let them know my process of assigning roles and tell them I will reach out to them as soon as I have an appropriate role for them. I have a core team of my more experienced actors and actresses, but I also have a pool of church members that I can cast in my upcoming production. I always include a mixture of my core and solicited actors in each production. If a solicited actor turns out to be bad or misses too many rehearsals, I still have core members I can cast to take the role.
The real value of this approach is not that I always have a fully cast play, but that I engage more members of our church in ministry. I want to get the pew warmers up and involved. Most members want to do “something” but will not take the initiative and respond to a church announcement. You will find that when you approach individuals face-to-face and ask them to participate, the majority of them will say “yes”.
Terry is the Drama Ministry Coordinator at the Calvary Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland and the Founder of Gospelscripts.com. Twitter @gospelscripts.com