The Finding Yolanda Casting Search was the most recent collaboration between the artistic development and communications departments at Arena Stage. We are producing our fourth production of Crowns this spring. Most regional theaters in the United States have a production or two that they bring back on a yearly basis, most commonly A Christmas Carol. However, after several years, it can become difficult to procure media coverage for these types of productions. With this in mind, we were looking for a new angle to garner attention from the local press. At the same time, our casting department was feverishly looking for a young, talented African-American woman to fill the role of Yolanda. Our casting director, Daniel Pruksarnukul, came up with an idea that accomplished both goals--an American Idol like contest to find Yolanda. The communications staff and artistic development staff pulled together to create an all day open call. It was sponsored by ABC7 and News Channel 8, each of which aired free 15 second promos for several weeks leading up to the auditions. The Finding Yolanda Casting Search also received coverage in the Washington Post, ABC7, News Channel 8, Back Stage Magazine, WTOP, WAMU (local NPR), DCTheatreScene.com, TheaterMania.com and BroadwayWorld.com. We invited our audiences to come and watch the open call as well, giving our audiences an inside look at what happens at auditions. The winner was announced on the ABC7 evening news.
This was a win-win for both departments. Casting found an extremely talented young lady to fill the role, and communications had an angle to pitch to the press.
Check out video of the winner. Congratulations Zurin Villanueva! Looking forward to working with you.