New theatre teacher chooses two casts for “Our Town”

Claire Gilliland, Opinion Editor

Drama productions at Bear Creek have a long history of success, and new theater director Cassie Champeau aims to continue that tradition.

To help make this year’s production, “Our Town,” even more successful, Champeau decided to form two casts.

This change in casting was met with mixed reactions from Bear Creek students.

“It’s fun because I get to watch the show but I still get to be in it for a week,” actor Chloe Johnson, who plays Emily in week two and smaller roles in week one, said.

“I prefer one cast just because that’s how I’ve worked before,” costume designer Katie Biddle said.  “Two casts is a new thing, so I’m trying it.  I hope it works.”

Champeau had a large turnout to auditions and she didn’t want to cut kids with talent or who showed promise or a great love for theater.

“When I realized how many talented kids there were, I wanted to give as many kids as possible a chance to do it,” Champeau said.

Champeau has split up the play’s performances by week: in the first week, one cast will be performing one Friday show and two Saturday shows.  The next week, the second cast will do the same.  Champeau’s choice to have two casts gives more actors the opportunity to perform in the play.

“I guess it gives people more chances, but there are the people who are actually wanting to become actors,” sophomore Catherine Morelli said.  “That’s not what’s going to happen.  There’s only going to be one cast, and then there’s going to be understudies.”

Morelli doesn’t think that having two casts is realistic, but Champeau defends her decision as more in line with what professional actors will experience.

“If you do professional theater, which is what I’m trying to prepare them for, you’re going to have understudies,” Champeau said. “A lot of people get their break by doing understudying, and so this is almost a version of understudying, except you’re guaranteed to perform.”

Having two casts can make putting on a production easier or harder, depending on the play.  In the case of last year’s production “Bye Bye Birdie,” two casts would have involved more work training actors because it is a bigger production.  “Our Town” is a play with few props or sets, allowing the actors to mime their actions.

“For a show like this, where it’s one hundred percent completely acting, it’s better to have two casts because you have more people to fall back on,” Johnson said.  “It’s easier if someone decides that they can’t do it, or if it gets to be too much, or someone has to drop out; it’s easier having that back-up.”

Champeau has already had some issues with actors not showing up to rehearsals due to other extracurricular activities and has directed plays in the past where students could not perform one week because they were sick or injured and just switched shows with the other actor playing the same role.

“You still need to learn how to play smaller parts because, when you go out into the world, there’s going to be a hundred people that are more talented than you,” Champeau said. “You may be the most talented person at Bear Creek, but I’m not teaching you to stay here. I’m teaching you to go out there, and out there there’s a million people like you.  That’s just the reality of theater.”

“A lot of the leads are playing secondary background characters in the week that they’re not leading in,” Johnson said.  “In week two I play Emily, but in week one I have a couple little, tiny roles where you can find me in the background.”

To make this possible, Champeau is adding small background characters, like a couple or a townsperson, to the play.

This change doesn’t necessarily mean more work for the students.  Champeau has created a schedule for every day until the production that lists who needs to come to rehearsal each day.  Her organization makes it easier for these students to take part in other extracurricular activities, like sports or clubs, because they know what days they have to rehearse and what days they have free.

Champeau herself certainly has more work, and so does Biddle.

“From a costuming standpoint, it’s not going to be fun,” Biddle said. She has to make two versions of some costumes because the actors are different sizes and can’t share one.

Champeau is willing to do extra work to make sure she can include more people in the play and spread the appreciation for theater among her students.

“The thing about double casting is that I want people to get bitten by the theater bug,” Champeau said.  “I want people to come in and be a part of this.”