When you are offered a role as an understudy, there is always a disappointment when something big is decided against you. The public sees these roles as programs, but sometimes it is hard to understand that one has a larger role to study. You look at the rejection and ask yourself, “What is this?” but it makes sense. The point, dear friend, maybe the sheer workload, but perhaps we underestimate the understudy. It’s time to roar from the rooftops about how much time and effort The Understudies put into these roles to pay for the feedback from the audience. Here are 5 reasons why we love The Understudies and why they are so much more than just a part-time job.
They attend every rehearsal the lead actor demands, endure a lot, and spend their time sitting in front of the camera and taking notes. They go to rehearsals where they sit down and wait for something to be done and tell you five minutes before the end that they’re not going to help you. If the director asks you to step in and not ask questions, you are ready and you do it with a smile on your face and ready to prove yourself. You’re there to do the daily sequence of steps and rehearse until you’re done, only to hear, “You’re not going to help out.
Apart from attending most, if not all, of the rehearsals, you have the opportunity to learn lines that you will probably never read to anyone but yourself in the mirror.
Preparation is key to making the process smoother when applied, and understudies must prove reliable. When you strap yourself into your solo and hear the harmony in the car, you humm along and unintentionally give out the call to casting, whether you like it or not. Undergraduate students are not resentful, they have proven that they are up to the task and ready for it.
You are often in an ensemble, and in the pre-study period, you usually learn more than one part. You can have a small part for an hour, where you learn everything about the lead role and all the roles you get.
Your memory as a junior is jam-packed and organized with finesse, it must be like a sponge that absorbs everything and does not break under pressure. You can’t let yourself be pressured, you have to evaluate the show, change costumes, remember all the songs you’ve done on the way and what you might need five minutes before the curtain comes down. Speaking of pressure: What makes the role of understudies more important than that of the main actor?
You have the script in your drawer, you remember all the lines and scenes before the actors come on stage. Look at the role in the West Side Story, which is never without a background, it’s the most important part.
Inevitably, students never get the chance to play the role in a real show, but if you’re lucky, you get the chance to step in during rehearsal. This makes the experience of an understudy all the more satisfying, and it’s not like hearing the audience applaud during a live performance. The rest of the team and the cast are at your side when it matters when you’re in high-pressure situations. If you do well, you will be praised for it, even if you are not aware of it.
I think every actor should be involved in a role at some point in their journey, but often there’s never a chance to use it for work. There is a lot of effort put into working with the understudy and it is a wonderful quality to develop: the ability to see things from a different perspective. If there was one part you would like to study, what would it be and what is it all about?