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In the performing arts, casting is a vital pre-production process for selecting a cast (a meaning of the word recorded since 1631) of actors, dancers, singers, models and other talent for a live or recorded performance. It typically involves a series of auditions before a casting panel, composed of individuals such as the producer, director, and choreographer. In the early stages of the process, candidate performers often may present prepared audition pieces such as monologues or songs. Later stages may involve groups of candidates attempting material from the work under consideration in various combinations; the casting panel considers both the talent of the individual actors and the chemistry of their combination.

Depending on the prestige of the role, casting calls may go out to the public at large (typical for community theatre), to professional and semi-professional local actors (for supporting roles in theatre and film) or to specifically selected actors (for leading roles, especially in films).

In the production of film and television, a similar process is followed.

However, especially for major productions, the process of selecting candidates for sometimes hundreds of parts and possibly thousands of extras may often require specialized staff; while the last word remains with the people in artistic and production charge, a Casting director may be in charge of most of the daily work involved in this recruiting process during pre-production. Some of them are building an impressive career, e.g. working on numerous ambitious Hollywood productions, such as Mira Sorvino, Mary Jo Slater and Rick Millikan.

At least in the early stages and for extras, casting may be decentralized geographically, often in conjunction with actual shooting planned in different states, e.g. in Hollywood or New York (studio) and one or more exotic locations (e.g. Hawaii, the Far East) and/or budget locations, e.g. Canada, Ireland. Another reason may be tapping in to each home market in the case of an international co-production. However for the top parts, the choice of one or more celebrities, whose presence is of enormous commercial importance, may rather follow strictly personal channels, e.g. direct contact with the director.

The resulting list of actors filling the parts is called a cast list.

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