The Future of Broadway is Bright

We sat down with the team at Tara Rubin Casting to discuss how Broadway has evolved and what artists should know about performing on stage.

By: Luke Colling June 17, 2024 Articles

When you attend a Broadway show, you’re often handed a pamphlet titled ‘Playbill’ that highlights the cast, crew, and information about the production you’re about to watch. If you take a closer look at these playbills, you’ll notice a trend.

Some of the biggest shows on Broadway including ‘Aladdin’, ‘Back to the Future’ and more feature a common name – Tara Rubin Casting. As we dig deeper, this office appears in over fifty shows across decades of productions.

We sat down with the team at Tara Rubin Casting to discuss how Broadway has evolved and what artists should know about performing on stage.

The Marquee Shines Bright

Tara Rubin Casting, led by the renowned Tara Rubin, has been a pivotal force on Broadway for over two decades. In any given season, the team is working on a dozen shows, including productions in New York City, New Jersey, and across the United States.

This season, as we celebrate the 77th Tony Awards, they have been involved in numerous nominated shows, showcasing their remarkable influence and expertise in the industry.

‘The Outsiders,’ set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1967, received 12 nominations, including three for performances. The vast range of shows Tara Rubin Casting has worked on is a testament to Broadway’s ongoing evolution.

This transformation is driven by the emergence of new voices and innovative directions on Broadway. ‘Hamilton’ is a standout example; since its debut in 2015, it has catapulted its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, to global acclaim. ‘Hamilton’ has redefined audience expectations for Broadway, and its phenomenal success has ushered in a new era of theatrical recognition and appreciation.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ musical comedy, ’Six’ debuted in Edinburgh in 2017 and later on Broadway in 2021, where Marlow and Moss earned a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

At that time, Moss also became the youngest female director of a Broadway musical at 26. This modern retelling of the six wives of Henry VIII has captivated audiences in New York and abroad.

Even more impressive is how ‘Six’ has thrived to younger audiences. During its run, several songs from the musical became top audio tracks on TikTok and other social media platforms. With the average Broadway theatregoer aged 40 (according to The Broadway League), a broader audience discovering their music has been an important feat for musicals on Broadway and has started a wider trend.

Beetlejuice: The Musical’ experienced a similar resurgence. By leveraging social media, the show became a cult classic for many online fans, which played a significant role in its return to Broadway after its initial closure.

Navigating the rise of Technology for Artists

When discussing technology, it’s an understatement to merely acknowledge its impact in our lives. Uber revolutionized public transportation, while food delivery apps fundamentally altered how restaurants engage with their customers.

On Broadway, technology hasn’t played as significant a role compared to other industries. Until 2020, most casting directors relied on traditional methods like paper and pen, conducting auditions in person.

In recent years, this process has undergone a transformation, and while in 2024, in-person auditions have made a comeback, the utilization of technology by artists and casting directors has evolved significantly.

“With technology, the volume of auditions has increased; an open call previously that ran for eight hours may see 150 people come in, and now we receive upwards of 500 tapes instead. We found that technology helped actors submit for roles and removed the requirement for artists to be in New York City. Technology has been a positive thing for us and the community.”

Tara Rubin told Casting Workbook on how technology has impacted Artists and the Industry.

Technology has transformed the way artists are discovered. Previously, gaining recognition often entailed being in New York City and bearing the associated expenses. However, now artists can be more adaptable and focused. While open calls still occur in the city and are encouraged for artists to attend, it’s no longer a prerequisite for emerging talent.

“The resilience of Artists became prominent during the last five years. For the most part, it all happened in front of us, transitioning from in-person auditions to watching thousands of self-tapes and doing auditions on Zoom – it highlighted the passion that we all have for this field. It was just that little light of positivity during a dark time, that was inspiring to see”

Louis DiPaolo, Casting Associate at Tara Rubin Casting on the resilience of Artists

Casting a Show Completely Virtually

Shows often debut in other regions before they make their Broadway debut. ‘Hadestown’, for example, which debuted on Broadway in 2019 originated 13 years prior in Barre, Vermont. ‘Back to the Future: The Musical’ debuted in Manchester in 2020 before it made its Broadway debut in 2023.

For ‘The Karate Kid: The Musical,’ which premiered in St. Louis in 2022, the production had to go through many hurdles.

During this period, New York City Broadway shows were grappling with a difficult season marked by lackluster box office returns. Despite the uncertainties, the casting process for ‘The Karate Kid: The Musical‘ was conducted entirely virtually, with precautions in place.

Even in today’s tech-savvy era, such practices remain relatively uncommon, as most shows, particularly musicals, typically necessitate talent to attend in-person auditions before landing a role. However, when factoring in travel constraints and the budget disparities between regional and Broadway productions, Tara Rubin Casting opted for virtual auditions, a decision that posed its own set of challenges.

“We didn’t do any casting for the ensemble of The Karate Kid in person because of the timing during the pandemic. We had to trust that the artists could achieve what they did on tape, on stage, and they did!”

Xavier Rubiano, Casting Director on casting Karate Kid: The Musical

Dancin‘, a musical revival that premiered on Broadway in 2023, faced a similar trajectory. It was among the pioneering shows to return to Broadway, placing significant emphasis on choreography and dance elements.

Casting singers and vocalists virtually can be challenging, but trying to cast dancers made things even more difficult.

“Casting Dancin’ was wild because it was the first dance show we had to cast since the pandemic started. We had thousands and thousands of submissions. We went through them all virtually, and from there, we’d request about 1000 tapes of a 30-second classic Fosse dance sequence that our Dance Team put together for us. When we transitioned back to in-person, we had to find the biggest space in New York City to ensure we were all comfortable and safe. It was the first time in 18 months a lot of these dancers were in a room to dance and the energy was insane.”

Xavier Rubiano, Casting Director on the process in casting Dancin’

How do I get cast on Broadway?

Broadway is one of the most competitive environments an actor can seek. While the rewards are great and the exposure often even more significant – we asked the team at Tara Rubin Casting what they look for when casting their shows on Broadway.

It’s crucial to recognize that Broadway isn’t the sole platform where stage performers can pursue opportunities. Regional productions, touring shows, and cruise performances often offer accessible avenues for performers, particularly those residing outside of New York City.

The fundamental requirement for Broadway performers is membership in the Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing stage artists.

All Broadway theaters operate under these equity contracts, making membership a mandatory prerequisite for those interested in performing on Broadway.

“If you’re starting out, go to the open calls, go to the equity showcases. For every show we’ve worked on, there are artists who went to those open calls who are now on Broadway”

Claire Burke, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

“My advice to young actors is: Don’t take shortcuts. Keep studying your craft. Grow. Get better. Do what you need to do to be the best actor, singer, dancer, musician, ARTIST you can be. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Craft is everything. You need to love the craft.”

Merri Sugarman, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

While training or education isn’t mandatory, it can greatly enhance an artist’s preparedness. One of the greatest challenges artists face is maintaining a consistent performance schedule.

Unlike other mediums, Broadway performers are expected to perform eight times per week for extended periods. Ensemble members and understudies may also be required to learn multiple roles to cover for lead performers.

“One of the traits we look for is being a team player. We’re looking for someone to go into a room and be part of a creative process that can be very vulnerable and stressful. People who can be flexible and positive energies in space. They can take feedback in a positive manner.”

Olivia Paige West, Casting Associate at Tara Rubin Casting

“Every audition is a building block to getting to know you. To think about you for this show or other projects, it matters to show up”

Merri Sugarman, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

“When singing material from your own book of music during an audition or open call setting, choosing a cut of music where you are singing to someone is often a more engaging choice for me to watch than a piece where you are singing about someone/something. 16-32 bar cuts in an open call setting can be tricky — trying to fit everything in that you want to showcase — but, choosing a song that has an active conversation can be a strong place to start. Seeing each artist’s individual point of view, no matter what song they choose to perform, is what makes me lean in and want to know more.”

Frankie Ramirez, Casting Associate at Tara Rubin Casting

Rejection is an integral aspect of the audition process, and equally crucial is receiving constructive feedback. Casting directors serve as advocates for performers; their goal is for you to succeed because your success contributes to the overall success of the production.

“For younger artists, it’s especially important not to get defeated by rejection. We may have a session with the creative team where we can show only 15 people, so that only allows us to call back a handful of actors. It’s important to know that while we’re casting for a specific show, you may be best suited for another production that is down the line and we make note of that.”

Peter Van Dam, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

How important is Social Media for Artists?

Social media can serve as a valuable tool for artists and actors, often regarded as their calling card. When used strategically, actors can leverage social media to share crucial information with casting directors, effectively showcasing their skills and talents.

“Social Media is one tool we may use during the casting process. Instagram and Facebook are helpful ways for us to get quick information on someone’s whereabouts in the world or what they’ve been up to recently, especially, for example, if someone has been out of New York on tour or on a cruise contract.”

Kevin Metzger-Timson, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

A website can serve as an even more potent asset for artists and performers. Olivia Paige West, a casting professional at Tara Rubin Casting, emphasizes the importance of accessibility and contact information on a website. She suggests that even a simple landing page showcasing the artist’s work or contact details can provide a significant advantage, demonstrating how technology can be leveraged by artists to stand out.

“Having contact information easily accessible is super important. The amount of times we have had to reach out to actors via their social media pages to obtain information is all too common.”

Spencer Gualdoni, Casting Associate at Tara Rubin Casting

Broadway offers an exhilarating platform to perform, and for artists willing to take the necessary steps, it can be highly rewarding. The training and experiences gained on Broadway can also prove invaluable in other roles and endeavors within the performing arts industry.

From attending open calls to submitting self-tapes, it’s crucial to recognize the multitude of avenues available for getting noticed and landing a role on Broadway. However, what truly matters is cultivating a genuine passion for the industry and the craft. The casting directors responsible for casting your favorite shows are deeply invested in your success. Whether they come from teaching backgrounds, performance careers, or other paths, they share a common obsession and love for the industry and its artistic endeavors.

For those interested in Broadway, there are other jobs available. From production, to casting, to the creative teams that create the stories we’ve all grown up on.

“We are your champions. We are on your team. We want you to succeed

. When you do well, we do well. And when you do well, the creative teams and producers are excited and inspired.”

Claire Burke, Casting Director at Tara Rubin Casting

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