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Automation of casting matrices - Sally's Journal
October 18th, 2009
10:31 pm

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Automation of casting matrices

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From:vinaigrettegirl
Date:October 19th, 2009 10:09 am (UTC)

Que?

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Ummmmmm... Why do you want to know this?

Are you trying to set up a schedule whereby 17 people could rush sround doing five different simultaneous read-throughs, as long as they didn't have to shout "eheu!" in one and then run across the camp to weep tragically at their lover's bedside whilst changing hats for the third play?

In which case, maybe you could just write your own play about that? It'd be a corker.

If it's just various raw numbers, you could set up some statements with simple word-counts where you then pair-count characters: in scenes where if scene = 2 characters and Laertes follows Othello an even number of times you assume they divide the words between them evenly, and if not (e.g., Laertes has three entries and Othello has four) then you assume O has the greater number of words, and probablyt he last word, as well. If it's Laertes, Othello, and Elizabeth Bennett then you have more character-pair permutations to play with; you could set up an upper boundary number, like six, and then work in threes instead of twos.

I can't help thinking that there must be textual analysis programmes which do this thing - have you put your request over to Language Log?
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From:king_of_wrong
Date:October 19th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
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I can't help thinking that there must be textual analysis programmes which do this thing - have you put your request over to Language Log?

Not sure it's really their thing. When I first read the problem spec, I did start thinking along computational linguistics lines - Named Entity Recognition and using a Part-of-Speech tagger to find the proper nouns in the text, but then how would you get the characters from ...?

Sally's question is really more Pragmatics than anything else - metadata on the structure of the discourse, rather than anything actually said in it.
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From:the_alchemist
Date:October 19th, 2009 10:50 am (UTC)

Re: Que?

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Why do you want to know this?

It's an incredibly useful thing to know with any readthrough where the number of characters exceeds the number of actors by any significant amount.
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From:vinaigrettegirl
Date:October 19th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC)

Re: Que?

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Ah. In all the drama stuff in my experience the easy thing is to set an upper limit of characters a person can be expected to voice (three, max, seems to work for most people) and have a large repertoire of plays upon which one might draw, so that you don't end up with four people doing a 25-hander. But I'm an old-fashioned sucker for first reading the plays one wishes to read through with others, and I wouldn't find a purely numerical analysis of the structural metadata useful, as against what I thought about the play and the readers. Working out where, once in a while, you might have Actor A having to answer herself because she's suddenly ancountered one of her own Other Characters just requires a bit of knowledge of how the play works. I can't imagine a scenario in which I might have 16 actors wanting to read through Waiting for Godot, or three wanting to do one of Shakespeare's historical plays.

I think textural analysis would work this one fine if it were configured reasonably well, as suggested by others in other comments. It would be fun to know the answers, too, for the sake of knowing.
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From:the_alchemist
Date:October 19th, 2009 11:53 am (UTC)

Re: Que?

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But I'm an old-fashioned sucker for first reading the plays one wishes to read through with others, and I wouldn't find a purely numerical analysis of the structural metadata useful, as against what I thought about the play and the readers.

Me too, but when you're casting eight different plays, some of which have forty, fifty or sixty characters (something I do once a year), the numerical analysis is a vital aide memoire to supplement the more qualitative analysis.

In that scenario, since the people with big parts will only have one of them, those with minor parts will often have five or six, all called things like "third senator", "fifth citizen". Storing in your head which of these interact with which others, and doing so for several plays simultaneously, takes way more than "a bit of knowledge of how the play[s] work[s]"!

There are extra problems when you're doing something like a television series, where the same characters appear in more than one episode. And extra extra problems with Jacobethan history plays where that applies and also there are lots of people with the same name, and some people who change titles (and therefore character names) between or within plays, and you have to grapple with the fact that Shakespeare (at least) has a tendency to merge more than one historical person into a single character.

[On a tangent, I've done two or three person history play readthroughs, and think they're ace, but I'm probably very strange, and they tend to be something that arises when some people are drunk rather than being planned or cast in advance.]
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