Brisa’s Pieces: Grassroots Star Casting

Brisa’s Pieces: Grassroots Star Casting

By Brisa Trinchero on March 07, 2013
There have been a lot of discussions in theater circles recently about the growing prevalence of (and dependence on) “star casting” or “stunt casting” on Broadway. But the Great White Way is not the only place that celebrities are popping up. Producers and artistic directors Off-Broadway and at regional theaters around the country are also reaching into their Hollywood rolodexes in an attempt to boost the box office.

The reality is, however, sometimes shelling out the big dollars for a star pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. In this day an age where stars are ever more niche-y, getting a Hollywood personality doesn’t ensure that your audience will flock to the box office. TV stars will only be known by a fraction of your audience and if they can’t pull off a musical theater role, no amount of screen time is going to save them.

What excites me, are local theater companies who realize they have the power to create their own local stars, rather than importing or borrowing them.

How do these theater companies do this? In the simplest terms, they give their local leads star billing. While it’s not unusual for big name stars to be named on ads, brochures, headlines, etc, it’s much less common to see local stalwarts given such billing. The local artists may have their faces plastered on the brochures and postcards, but less often will the marketing collateral also include their name. And yet, as some smart theater companies who’ve made this kind of investment in their local talent can tell you - there’s proof that if you treat your top local talent like stars, your audiences will gladly perceive them that way.

In fact, I’ve come across several articles recently that urge local theater companies to exercise their unique power to put local stars in the spotlight, figuratively as well as literally.

Giving local talent star billing and attention can elevate that actor’s status and bring long term value to both the artist and the theater. If you’re doing your job right, that very same “unknown” you’ve cast in the lead for one show will be the box office draw for your next show.

Audiences love name recognition so give them what they want. Headline a local performer who audiences know and love or introduce them to a fresh face that they can embrace. Audience will happily recognize them as stars.

Theater companies are in a perfect position to create stars, so why don’t we rely a little less on borrowing them and start making our own?

Read all of Brisa’s Pieces here.

You can reach Brisa via MTIShowspace or on twitter: @brisatrinchero. I also blog about the art and business of new musicals at I look forward to hearing from you!