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At the Artios Awards with 'Billy Elliot' Casting Director Nora Brennan

Billy Elliot the musical Last night at the Artios Awards in New York City, Back Stage caught up with casting director Nora Brennan, who casts children for the Broadway and national tour companies of Billy Elliot the Musical.

"It's very exciting," Brennan said of the annual event. "It's an opportunity for all the casting directors and agents to get together when they're not working, and recognize the best work going on in theater, and film, and television. I think it's a lot of fun, and it's thrilling."

The Artios Awards are presented each year to CSA members for outstanding achievement in casting in theater, film, and television, based on the criteria of originality, creativity, and contribution of casting to the overall quality of a project. In addition to the awards ceremony, the Casting Society of America strives to create a community and promote unity and cooperation among its members throughout the year.

"I know they do a lot of social things together," Brennan said. "CSA has a bowling league, and softball, and those kinds of things, which are great. And I know they're trying to promote a mentorship, which is fantastic. Really, the only way you can learn this is if someone teaches you."

How did you begin your casting career? Did you have any mentors?

"Well, I started out as a Broadway dancer."

So your relationship with casting directors started on the other side of the table.

"Absolutely. And I found that very useful, to come from a performing aspect, because I completely empathize with everyone and I know what they go through. Learning new music by tomorrow, and all the things you have to do."

People always say that casting directors are on the side of the actor. You are proof of that.

"100 percent. I started out as a dancer-actress-singer, and I would assist for auditions. I just loved those days. Those were my favorite days, when you could see somebody getting a job. So I remember just thinking, 'God, I just look forward to these days so much.'

"So then I assisted several different casting directors, learned bit by bit, and jumped out on my own."

Would you recommend that every performer take on the role of a casting director, as a learning experience?

"I think it's great if you can be a reader, if you get that opportunity. I don't know that every performer would like the casting experience. I mean, you really have to be finished with performing, so that you don't feel like, 'Oh, I wish I were doing that.' You have to really come to that place where it's like, 'I've done what I wanted to do, and now I want to start this chapter of my life.'

"And for me, it's been a perfect fit. I'm just very, very happy doing it. I'm very lucky."

Read more about the 27th annual Artios Awards, including the ocmplete list of winners, at BackStage.com.

For more info about upcoming auditions for "Billy Elliot," pick up a copy of Back Stage or search the casting notices on BackStage.com.

-- Daniel Lehman

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Well, Nora, all I can say is you've done one hell of a fantastic job casting the children - Billys, Michaels, Debbies, Ballet girls, tall & small boys - for BETM. Thanks a million for all the enjoyment and great theatre you've helped bring to this great show!!!

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