#18: Understudy to the Rescue #1

Dear Friends,

Last night, we concluded the Table Work segment of our rehearsal process with a really terrific read-through of the whole show.  It was pretty inspirational; it’s always a rush to hear Shakespeare and understand it.  There’s some serious talent in this cast, and the bar was set high last night.

Karen Estrada deserves a big ol’ shout out: she’s understudying the roles of Viola and Maria, and Tami Workentin, who plays Maria, called in sick, so Karen stepped in for her last night and did a marvelous job.  She received a well-deserved round of applause at the end of the day.

Understudying is a tough job.  You’re essentially preparing for a role that you may never perform, and must be ready to go on a moment’s notice.  I understudied several roles at Yale Rep while I was a grad student, and LUCKILY never had to go on.  I always gave the actors I was understudying the same opening night gift: a big bottle of Vitamin C, with the note “DON’T GET SICK.”

Last January, I was doing The Taming of the Shrew as a part of Chicago Shakespeare’s “Short Shakespeare!” series, and one snowy morning, I got stuck in traffic on my way to a matinee.  Afraid I would be late, I called in, and my understudy, Gerson Dacanay, who was in the cast playing a different role, started running my lines while HIS understudy, Tim Gittings, who was working somewhere in downtown Chicago, leapt on his BICYCLE and rode through the Loop in a SNOWSTORM to cover for him.  As it turned out, traffic cleared and I got to work just in time.  So Tim just turned around, drenched but somehow grinning anyway, and rode back to work.  I felt terrible and bought both of them a bottle of wine.  Understudies are cool.

The moral of the story: be nice to your understudy.  They’ve totally got your back.

Incidentally, my understudy for The Comedy of Errors, Jason Economous, was the guy who introduced me to my wife.   Just another reason to be nice to your understudy…



1 Response to “#18: Understudy to the Rescue #1”

  1. 1 jonathanwest
    January 4, 2008 at 2:31 am

    This is good. But I prefer the dog’s writing. Nice job.

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