When planning a season, the IRT artistic staff must carefully balance their creative wish lists with choices that are fiscally responsible. Often, the size of a cast or an unusual technical element will determine how feasible it is to produce a particular play. When a show requires young actors, there are even more considerations—and costs—to take into account.
The vital funds contributed by IRT donors each year allow the Theatre to fulfill our mission to serve our multigenerational audience. The American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, can spark important conversations across generations, but it requires three young actors in the cast. It is donor generosity that allows the IRT more artistic freedom to select shows that might require greater resources, but that ultimately serve our mission and our community in important ways.
Why do young actors require more resources than the same number of adult actors? For starters, the IRT must employ a Young Actor Liaison for any production that includes an actor under the age of 16 years old. Gloria Caruana, who will be filling the role for two of the three productions this season requiring a Young Actor Liaison, told us about the extra care and attention required to manage the intricacies and hectic schedules of the young actors at the IRT and ensure that shows with young actors are successful.
In her role as Liaison, Caruana is responsible for managing every aspect of the young actors’ time on a given show, and it is a job that evolves over the course of a production. Before the company goes into rehearsal, Caruana will spend up to 35 hours preparing the schedules and plans that help ensure the young actors are comfortable and successful. She then attends every rehearsal session so she can collect and organize all of the important information the young actors will need throughout the run of the show, including when and where they enter and exit and what props or costumes they need in each scene.
Once the show is in performance, Caruana will be backstage at each show, keeping track of the young actors, ensuring they stay safe, and helping them with costume changes. The work varies dramatically from production to production. “During A Christmas Carol there are around 20-30 costume changes for the young actors,”Caruana said, “however, during last season’s To Kill a Mockingbird there were only 3-5.” If a production has fewer young actor-related demands, the Liaison is available to help the production team with other backstage needs, like moving scenery and props.
From the first rehearsal to the final curtain, Caruana also serves as the main point person for each young actor’s parents; her duties include (but are not limited to) answering questions, addressing concerns, and communicating all scheduling details and changes. She is sensitive to the fact that these families lead busy lives. “In many cases, the parents of our young actors are working, so they respond to messages or ask time-sensitive questions outside of the normal 9-5 work hours,” Caruana said. This requires flexibility from Caruana, who knows that late night email responses or early morning phone calls may be required to ensure the young actors’ success.
Due to A Christmas Carol’s uniquely demanding schedule, all of the roles requiring a young actor are double cast. This season’s company was made up of ten young actors, split into two teams of five, who alternated performances. The company ranged from ages 11 to 14, and all were juggling school responsibilities with their work on the show. Having two companies allowed for a reasonable amount of rest time for the young company members in order to avoid burn-out or overextension during the run of the show. Of course, it also means twice as many actors to keep tabs on for the Young Actor Liaison.
When we spoke in early January, Caruana had just completed this most hectic production of the season, seeing the large young actor company of A Christmas Carol through 58 performances. However, when asked about her favorite part of her job, Caruana was quick to answer, “Sometimes I have young actors who, at the beginning, don’t think they can make it through the rehearsal process, but by the end of the show they have such an amazing confidence about them. There is nothing better than watching young people fulfill a dream they did not think was possible.”
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