Casting can be tricky...all of those fragile egos involved that you want to protect, yet knowing that there are simply going to be some students that work for certain roles and some that don't.
Before you even hold auditions, have a meeting with interested students. Let them know what you're looking for - what play you've chosen, how many parts there are (male and female), maybe let them know specifics about each character (Hero should be short, Othello should be dark, or whatever you feel is important for your production).
But be honest and upfront with them. If you have 50 people trying out for a cast of 20, then obviously there will be some bummed kids. Let them know about all the technical opportunities - set painting, costume sewing, props, advertising, lights, ushers...the list, literally, goes on and on! There is a job available for everyone, and a director that sees strong work ethic and team-spirit in someone selling tickets, but who desperately wants to act someday, is going to remember that. Remind them, too, that there are NO small parts, only small actors. This may sound cheesy, but it is very true. Help them understand how important every part (on or off stage) is to the production.
If you have a small pool of students to choose from, consider asking faculty or staff to play older roles. Maybe your principal would make a great Polonius - he might be quite believable opposite a sophomore Ophelia!
Give me your thoughts! :)
I agree that this is hard. I chose randomly- sort of. I chose children randomly and let them pick their role. That way kids that got large roles wanted large roles, and vice versa. It seemed to work out!
How do you handle the disappointment of students who have set themselves on playing a big part which they are just not cut out to play? How do you make them happy with accepting a perhaps smaller role or even relegation to the stage crew?