Reason #1: Someone else gave an interpretation that was closer to what the director wanted: There are many different ways to interpret most parts. If someone else comes closer to the director’s vision of the part, that actor may be a better choice because the director has far less work to do to get the actor to match that vision.
Reason #2: Someone else was better prepared at auditions: The actor giving the more polished performance has an advantage. In the case of a cold reading, he’s shown that he’s already got a good grasp of the part and will pick up new ideas quickly; with a prepared monologue, he’s shown that he’s enthusiastic and serious about wanting the part and working hard at it.
Reason #3: Another actor was physically better suited for the part: Some of the physical requirements for a part may be age, height, weight, coloring, hair length or style. If the part requires someone to lift and carry another actor off stage, obviously the director is going to cast someone physically capable of doing that. If someone comes in with all the necessary physical characteristics of a part as natural attributes, he or she will be one step closer to a part than someone who requires heavy makeup to pull it off.
Reason #4: The director wanted a certain “mix” of physical characteristics among the cast. Different heights, weights, and coloring can make the show not only more visually interesting, but can also help the audience follow the plot: if two actors are physically very similar, audience members may actually get confused about who’s who! Likewise, if there is supposed to be a family resemblance among the characters, the director may try to cast people who look like they could actually be related. If the director has only one actress who could logically play the daughter, and has a choice between you and another actor for the father, you may not get cast if you look younger than the actress the director has no choice but to use. You lost out on the part not because of anything you did or didn’t do, but simply because you wouldn’t work playing opposite that actress.
Reason #5: The director was unable to get you to deliver what he or she wanted to see. Directors often give you direction as you’re auditioning. The director is working on two levels here – he or she has seen something in you that works, but would like to see if you can change what you’re doing to better fit his or her idea of the character. He or she is also checking to see how well you take direction to determine how easy you are to work with.
Reason #6: You’re an unknown quantity. You gave a really strong reading and are physically perfect for the part, so how come you lost out to someone who seems to get cast all the time? Is the theater group cliquish, and unwilling to accept new faces? There may be another explanation: the director knows what the other actor can deliver and doesn’t have a clue as to what you can do in the long term. The director just doesn’t know you, your work habits, your ability to get along with others, or your sense of commitment to the show and to the theater group. If the show is a challenge for director and cast alike, taking on a new actor, particularly one that hasn’t had much stage experience, may be more than the director feels like handling. He or she may opt to go with “tried and true.”
Reason #7: You have difficulty remembering lines. If you can’t remember lines, you’ll have difficulty developing character, and everyone on stage with you will be very, very nervous — not exactly a situation conducive to turning in a great performance. Directors will do anything to avoid casting actors with line difficulties.
Reason #8: You have a reputation for being difficult to work with. If every director you’ve ever worked with was “stupid”, if in every show there’s someone you just can’t get along with, or if the green room magically empties when you walk in, you need to do some serious thinking about how you interact with others. Producing a play is a team effort, and if one member of the team is consistently not part of the program, that person will not be asked to play again.
Reason #9: You are perceived as unreliable. So you’re late once in a while, or have to miss rehearsals because you’ve got a lot going on and inevitably there are scheduling conflicts. No big deal, right? Wrong! Being consistently late wastes everyone’s time and makes you look less than serious about the show. Missing rehearsals can throw off the entire schedule, especially if you have an important part. Do it often enough, and directors are going to cast someone who has a better grasp of exactly how short the rehearsal period is.