Can you stand out from the herd?
Have you been to a cattle call? What was it like? Tell us about it by joining the conversation!
The Audition Fantasy: It’s just you and the director, and maybe the playwright. They listen attentively to your prepared monologue, then together you go over a scene several times, making different choices with each pass. They ask detailed questions about your resume, and you swap stories about working with artists you all know. After about half an hour, they confer briefly—then offer you the part, right there on the spot.
The Audition Reality: The halls are packed to the gills with eager hopefuls all up for the same part. A stage manager keeps the auditions moving so quickly that each actor gets a minute and a half, max, with a harried casting director. If you’re lucky, he gives your resume a bit more than a cursory glance. You dive into your monologue and you’re just about to hit your stride when you hear, “Thank you!” and the casting director calls out, “Next!” The stage manager steers you back into the throng of thespians who grumble about being treated like… well, like livestock.
That’s a cattle call.
Other auditions may be reserved for performers with agents, or those who are already known to a casting director. But at a cattle call, a casting director will see dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of wannabees, each one putting himself or herself up for a part in a play, musical, or film. These mass auditions are generally open to anyone. Often, even non-union performers can try out. All you have to do is show up.
Some shows use cattle calls to audition potential chorus members, others to cast understudies or smaller parts. The show’s director doesn’t usually attend. She’ll wait until the next round, once the casting director has narrowed down the pool of possibilities for each role.
Because of the sheer volume of the crowd, the aspirants may be hustled—herded—along in a brisk and generally impersonal manner. Dehumanizing? Perhaps. No wonder actors come up with colorful phrases like “cattle call.” They’re a healthy antidote to the reality of constant rejection.
And yet cattle calls continue to draw ambitious would-be stars, dedicated newbies, grizzled pros in search of a break, and tons of others who think they have a chance. Who knows, you might just get lucky and land a life-changing part!
This video was made by the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.
Since 1949, the Stella Adler Studio has trained some of the most important American actors and has evolved into one of the most culturally rich environments in New York City. The Studio’s mission is to create an environment with the purpose of nurturing theater artists who value humanity, their own and others, as their first and most precious priority while providing art and education to the greater community.
Training programs include a professional conservatory, NYU Tisch BFA program, summer intensives, teen conservatory, seasonal part-time workshops, and an outreach division offering free training for inner-city youth.
The Cattle Call Team:
Written and Directed by Ryan Chittaphong
Director of Photography: Chris Ford
Actor #276: Welland Scripps
Actor #414: Julia Giolzetti
Actor #529: Alex Purcell
Actor #607: Stacey Bone Gleason
Casting Directors: Luis-Daniel Morales, Angela Vitale, and J. Steven White
Waiting Actors: students of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Boom Operators: Alex Purcell and Welland Scripps
Set Design: Robert R. Sweetnam
Music: Austin Sanders and Chris Ford
A Special Thanks to Glamsmash Productions