This guide is written to help Cast98 show directors make the most of features available to them. Where we pick up is from the Cast & Crew tab on the editing panel for a show.
A nifty feature that's too often overlooked or used carelessly, ensemble groups are built to save you (the director) massive amounts of time when building the rehearsal schedule. It is easy to get carried away with groups, however, and having too many of them can hinder your progress.
There are some ideas for how you might group your cast, but in practice you can do it a hundred different ways. No doubt you will, once or twice, start working on a rehearsal schedule and then wish you'd organized your groups differently. It's okay! You always have the ability to go back and rearrange your ensemble groups.
Here are some tips for how to get the most out of your ensemble groups.
Don't use ensemble groups for small casts
If your cast size is a dozen performers or less, you are probably better off skipping ensemble groups entirely. When building your rehearsal schedule, you will be able to quickly select the individuals you need for any rehearsal.
The true power of ensemble groups is realized with large casts of 20+ performers.
Likewise, if you are managing a large cast with Cast98, don't bother creating groups that will only contain a few performers. You'll be able to select those individuals as needed when the time comes, and it will be better for you to maintain a small number of larger groups.
By this same principle, avoid umbrella groups where you combine two smaller groups to form one big group (making 3 groups total). In practice, you'll be better off with just the two smaller groups.
Consider which characters share scenes
Don't ignore the big picture of your show's plot.
If you're doing West Side Story, you're going to want a Jets group and a Sharks group, because these collections of individuals will need to attend rehearsal together frequently. They are in a lot of the same scenes.
For maximum benefit from ensemble groups, this same principle should be applied to any show. So ask yourself: What characters will frequently attend the same rehearsals?
A little bit of a tangent: Using the Cast98 Rehearsal Schedule Builder, you (the director) can select multiple ensemble groups and then add or remove individuals as needed. So maybe you want to rehearse a rumble, but you only need 14 out of the 16 gangsters in your cast. Select your Jets and your Sharks, then deselect the two guys who are not in that scene. It's easy!
Learn more about scheduling rehearsals in the Cast98 Directors' Guide to Rehearsals.
Limit to 6 groups or fewer
It's recommended you try to limit your ensemble groups to six or fewer. The reason is simply for practicality. You must assign individual actors to these groups, and so more groups = more complexity and time wasted if you make it too working on the schedule directly.
Don't group by scene
One way to do groupings seems obvious but is actually quite impractical. Grouping by scene is very inefficient, not just because of volume - you probably have a dozen or more scenes in your show - but because scene components can vary greatly from start to finish and you'll get bogged down quickly.
Picture this: _a scene opens with choreography for a dozen ballroom dancers with a short dance break for another dozen children, followed by dialogue with two main characters before a group of people stumble onto the stage and interact, then the scene concludes with a dramatic solo reprise.
If you lumped this all into one ensemble group, you're going to over-invite for any one rehearsal because you don't need the dancers or children if you're only blocking dialogue, and vice-versa. Or if you break up the scene into 3 segments, you're now configuring 3 or 4 groups and you've only captured 10% of your total show. Plus, you will only rehearse that scene a couple times before tech week, so the benefit you get from all your work to configure the group(s) is very limited.
So this advice is given to protect you from wasted time: don't group by scene.
The Cast List
Characters & Roles
Roles are always visible to the public. When the cast list has not been published, they appear as Available Roles for potential auditionees to review as they fill out their audition form. It's perfectly acceptable - even recommended - to list all the available roles for this purpose when you first setup your show.
An actor can only be assigned to a role if they have submitted an audition form. This protects performers from being unexpectedly added to a show without consent.
To assign an actor to a role, simply select their name from the provided dropdown menu and Save.
As discussed at length under Ensemble Groups (above), each actor can be assigned to pre-defined ensemble groups. These groups exists solely as a means to assist rehearsal scheduling for the director. Cast members never see their groupings, and their use is totally optional.
Announce the Cast List
There is an email template available for you to copy, paste, and send to all of your auditionees. It is a boilerplate email that includes helpful instructions and next steps for each performer, and you can customize it to your taste before sending.
Welcome the Cast
There is also an email template available to send only to your auditionees that made the cut. It also contains helpful instructions and next steps for each performer as they prepare to use Cast98 for the duration of your show's run. Copy and paste it, then customize to suit you.
Ensemble groups are truly a magical feature when treated with care and without over-thinking. They harness the power of the Cast98 Schedule Builder so you (the director or stage manager) save tons of hours making your rehearsal schedule.
If you have any questions beyond what's covered in this help article, please don't hesitate to contact support.
- Daniel Fowler, Founder
- For Directors
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