Behind the Scenes of Westminster Theatre

Max N

To those outside of the Westminster theatre world, it can seem strange or random how plays and musicals are chosen. Everyone knows that there’s one play and one musical, but the details can seem blurry. How do Susan McMillan, Adam Fry, and Linda Searles do it? Well, here’s a look behind the scenes of Westminster theatre.

First of all, how are plays and musicals chosen? The different drama staff have a variety of methods to choose the year’s production.

Mrs. McMillan usually works with the director to choose a play. The directors, and their methods, vary. According to Mrs. McMillan, “Sometimes, it’s a show that the director just wants to do. Sometimes, we find a curricular tie-in. It really differs.”

Mr. Fry made some similar points, but his process was unique. He said, “I typically look at a few things when I decide on a show. First, what have we done recently? We like to choose shows with a different style and tone than ones we just did. We also consider the students we have at our disposal, and their strengths. This year, we have a lot of strong dancers. That contributed to our decision on High School Musical as the production this year.”

Another question that some outsiders have is simple. How do auditions work, and how is a cast chosen? Mrs. McMillan and Mr. Fry had very similar responses concerning this topic.

Mrs. McMillan said, “Auditions are usually 5-10 minutes long. The students will read a scene or monologue from the script. It’s a short period of time, so it’s crucial that the actor makes a good first impression, or they won’t get called back.”

Mr. Fry agreed, adding, “Auditions are difficult. It’s actually, in my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of directing. I have to make decision based on the brief scenes and song snippets that the kids show me. I agonize over casting every year and have to think about it from a bunch of different angles. It’s especially challenging because it often comes down incredibly close, but I can’t have every auditioner in the show. It’s a real challenge.”

As for cast size, Mrs. McMillan said, “Most shows have from 30 to 45 people, but we get anywhere from 75 to 125 auditioners each year. It’s both a curse, because you have to cut people that you really like as a person if they’re underperforming, and a blessing, because you end up with the cream of the crop.”

Mr. Fry added, “Even once you have the basic framework for your cast, you need to really decide who goes in what role. For that, you have callbacks. Callbacks are a lot less stressful than the audition period. It’s a chance for the people we’ve singled out as the best to demonstrate what their strengths are-singing, acting, dancing…it’s more lighthearted.”

By now, the cast has been chosen for the upcoming musical High School Musical Jr. They’ve already begun rehearsals. While there’s still work to be done, and lots of it, the musical is well on its way to fruition, thanks to the work of Mrs. McMillan, Mr. Fry, and the rest of the drama staff.



Photo courtesy of