Attend as many
rehearsals as possible
Contracts are extremely varied for understudies, from attending every rehearsal and every show of the run or only 6 understudy rehearsals. The more rehearsals that you attend the better prepared you will be for your time on stage.
This is a job
While this sounds obvious, in theater the lines can be blurred. However, the actors, director, stage crew are not there to be nice to you or make you feel like a star. They are all there to do their jobs. Not to say that understudies don’t remember everyone who did make them feel appreciated! This is a work environment and should be treated as such.
Once rehearsal ends is when your practice truly begins. Grab people from your acting class, friends, family or anyone who wants to act to rehearse and go through what was learned during the day. Can’t find anyone to rehearse, use your imagination!
Take advantage of the
The only time you are guaranteed to work are understudy rehearsals and runs. Theoretically this will be the only opportunity for you to perform! Enjoy the time. There is nothing more frustrating that an understudy who comes to the first understudy rehearsal and doesn’t know anything. Don’t be that person.
Being an understudy is not super glamorous. It is hard work. HOWEVER, this is all part of the journey. You are getting to do what you love for a living. This is the dream!
The understudy, the dark horse of every show. For those wanting to get started in theater, this is a great way to gain EMC points and experience working in an Equity environment. While it may sound like easy work, being an understudy is exceptionally difficult. It involves an extraordinary amount of patience, concentration and work behind the scenes.
Come off book to the
An understudy, during a large part of the rehearsal process, will have nothing to do with the undersides. The main cast will be the primary focus and knowing the material of the show will make your job easier. The main cast will perform the show many times before the initial run. As an understudy, there is a possibility you will be thrown into the mix without a proper rehearsal. Be prepared for anything.
Prepare to sit and
During rehearsals, the main cast will be the focus. The understudies may be sitting in the back of the room, on the floor or wherever there is space. Being an understudy is like sitting in a 6 hour long lecture. Prepare as such. Stretch, pack snacks and drink plenty of water. Every rehearsal is an opportunity to learn something new. Find new motivation, watch blocking, track backstage movement, observe fight call. Pick something to focus on and really observe. Take copious notes!
During an Equity rehearsal there are scheduled breaks for the actors. This is the time that understudies get to play! Familiarize yourself with the set, props, and run through your blocking. Make sure that this is ok with production ,but once you get the ok, really explore and get your rehearsal time in.
Once the show starts
your work is not over
See the show! Things change during a run of a show. Kinks get worked out, different jokes land, others don’t, blocking changes. You are responsible for these changes!