Understudies, double-casting, illnesses at high school level?

<p>I'm wondering, for those who are involved in high school productions or have kids involved, do your high schools use understudies or double-casting? If not, what happens if a performer is seriously ill and unable to perform?
Also, for anyone who attends a performing arts high school or takes performing arts classes in high school, are there required performance? And, if so, what happens if a student is ill and unable to perform?
I'm concerned because my daughter's school does not use understudies or double-casting and has a heavy-handed "the show must go on" policy, and kids are "encouraged" to show up and perform no matter how ill they are.</p>

<p>Here's our experience.....</p>

<p>While not school, I recall when my kid was Annie in Annie at a local theater and had NO understudy. All through the rehearsal period, my D had allergies with this old theater (it's hard as my D has been allergic to our local theater and theater is her life, LOL). So, she had to get some kind of prescription from a doctor to get through the rehearsals. There was something in this medicine that was eating away at her stomach and during dress rehearsals, she was in so much pain bent over that she had to actually leave the theater. I kept thinking about what would the theater do if she could not go on? We were advised to stop this medication and that did the trick thankfully (not for the allergies but at least she didn't have these bad side effects). </p>

<p>At our high school, I noticed in her sophomore and junior years, they had understudies for just the lead roles (she was the lead both times). The understudies were in ensemble otherwise. Actually, in tenth grade, they let the understudy do her role for one matinee, which I thought was very nice. Anyway, fast forward to junior year, which in my D's case, was her final year of high school and her final musical. Her understudy was her best friend. During the rehearsal period, and immediately following her last college audition, she was in a very serious car crash with severe injuries which took her out of everything for the rest of the year. Thankfully there was an understudy as her best friend played her role. My D's first time out of a hospital bed after three weeks was opening night and she was allowed out to see the show. It was hard to watch and not be in it but I'm glad they had an understudy! I think it is a good idea not only in case of illness or accident, but it gives another person an opportunity to do a bit more than their ensemble role. Sometimes the understudy is someone who moves into lead roles the following year. </p>

<p>In college, when my D played leads, she didn't have any understudy. I always wondered about that just in case (given our experience in high school).</p>

<p>My D did all of her performing at the high school level (regular public, not performing arts) and had the lead her Junior and Senior year. Her junior year she was Rose in Gypsy, which if you know the musical it is a VERY demanding part. There was no understudy (although in the program they listed an understudy), but I can tell you that she could not have stepped into the role and I often thought about what would happen if my D was ill. (Thank goodness she was not). Don't know what would've happened, to tell you the truth! It all worked out, though!!! She has been admitted to a BFA MT program, though, where all that will be thought through! :)</p>

<p>Last fall, my D was on a national tour. The tour was small with just a cast of 12. They did not have extra understudies or covers in the cast. The tour came to our state and in fact, we hosted the entire cast at our house. For one of the shows we saw, one of the leads was out sick. What they did if one of the character parts was out, was that they utilized a female (or male depending on the role) from the small ensemble parts to fill in for the leads and did the show with one less ensemble part which was not obvious to the audience. But nobody was officially an understudy. I guess you could consider the few ensemble members to also be "swings". I was impressed how this young woman took over this lead role without having rehearsed it. But my D said they they all watch the show so many times that they kind of know all the parts and this particular young woman was on her second year of the tour and she just stepped right into the part.</p>

<p>Seems a tad much for a high school. But the reality is, there are very few times where performers choose not to go on due to illness. I've seen actors attempt to perform when most of us would simply have given up, crawled into bed, and prayed for the end. Not saying it is correct (particularly in high school) but it happens more often than not. There is no crying in baseball (thank you Tom Hanks) and no sickness in theatre.</p>

<p>But as I said. That is too much in high school. The flip side is, who has time to rehearse understudies? Professionally this is normally done by the Stage Manager. </p>

<p>By the way, this isn't brain surgery. Nobody has ever been hurt in any significant way when the show failed to go on.</p>

<p>My daughters have performed while ill. So, yes, most high school or college actors still opt to go on even if ill. (not judging that but just the way it seems) But as you can see, my kid was out of the show and in the hospital, let alone could not even walk and so obviously they had to have an understudy take over her role.</p>

<p>At DD's high school they had understudies for many roles. So when she passed out and broke her nose and three front teeth, someone else stepped in. Bummer.</p>

<p>Soozievt, hope you don't think I believe anyone should go on no matter what. Quite the opposite. I'd never judge anyone for not going on due to illness, etc. I'm constantly impressed by what actors do for a living, so I don't spend a lot of time considering how or what could make it that much more difficult. I'm just saying... from experience... I don't see many walk away from a night on the stage.</p>

<p>kjgc....I agree with you. In my experience, most actors do go on. My kids, as I wrote, have gone on ill. I was just saying that understudies are not a bad idea because there are situations where an actor could not go on no matter what.</p>

<p>At my high school (non performing arts, private school), we did not have understudies. During my senior year, I was Lady Larken in "Once Upon A Mattress" and I was also on the track team. The day before opening, we had our dress rehearsal and then I went to track practice that evening and ended up twisting my knee. My knee was swollen to three times its regular size and I could barely walk but I still had to perform the three shows over the weekend. My performance wasn't as great as I would have liked it, but I made it through with a lot of icing in between scenes and a heavy duty knee brace (thank goodness that all my costumes were long dresses!) If I had an understudy, I probably would have asked for her to have the opening performance and I would have gutted my way through the remaining two- I only say this because I was in incredible pain and would come off the stage with tears in my eyes. </p>

<p>Flash forward to college, where I was in "Chess" last semester. I was in the ensemble and also the understudy for Florence. The leads were actually double cast and then Florence and Svetlana also had the understudies (so 3 girls total knew each role). We had 6 performances and each cast got 3. I never got to perform as Florence but I was at every rehearsal for both Florence and ensemble. During the rehearsals where I was only there for Florence scenes, I watched and took blocking notes (I only got to physically run a scene once since one of the girls playing Florence was at UPTA's in Memphis). Even with only observing rehearsals, I knew all the lines, blocking, and choerography and felt prepared enough to perform as Florence if called upon. They say being an understudy is one of the most under appreciated roles in theatre, but it is also one of the most fulfilling and I couldn't agree more. </p>

<p>I'm honestly all for understudies because you can never predict the future. Things come up all the time in theatre and performers can't perform so it is always good to have someone else who can step in (and who is eager to!)</p>

<p>Our high school uses understudies for the leads. For one of the technical rehearsals the final week before the show goes on, classes are invited in from an inner city middle school and the understudies all perform their roles along with the ensemble. Their parents of the understudies are invited too. I think it's a nice way to acknowlege all their hard work and they are more than ready to go on if needed. The kids who come to see the show always have a great time, meet the cast and say they want to do theatre in high school too.</p>

<p>My D was in the musical all four years of high school. There were only understudies for leads her senior year when they did Les Miserables. There was an understudy run through a week before the show opened but no understudies were needed. D did a lot of community theatre and the "by children-for children" productions were double cast, but the regular community theater productions were not double cast nor did not have understudies.</p>

<p>Fast forward to her second year in college D was in Oklahoma and there were understudies for all parts, including swings for the ensemble members. D was Gertie but also the understudy for Ado Annie. She got all the vocal coaching, dance instruction, rehearsal coaching but did not go on during the run of the show, nor did any of the other understudies. About a month after the show ended, the leads were scheduled to perform at a luncheon for donors for Arts scholarships. Because Ado Annie was sick, D was asked to go on to do "All or Nuthin" which was lovely for her. I was thrilled to be able to see her performance at the luncheon.</p>

<p>Our high school usually have understudies for the lead roles. For some popular shows where there are a lot students auditioning, there are 2 casts and each cast do 2 or 3 performances.</p>

<p>Our high school did not use understudies. I can't think of a time that it was a problem, but of course something like what happened to Sooievt's D could happen, and then I guess they would have to do some quick shifting of roles. </p>

<p>When my son was 6, he played Winthrop in a production of "Music Man." It was a 6 week run and about the 3rd week I could tell he wasn't feeling well. He spent all of Friday throwing up, but insisted on going that night because they had no one to cover his role. He actually went on stage and did pretty well although I could tell he wasn't quite as energetic as usual. During the chase scene at the end when he was supposed to stay on stage and run around, I saw him exit and then come back on. He had gone off to throw up and came back on as soon as he could, and went straight into his lines. I felt like a terrible Mom for letting him go on but he was very insistent and said he had to.</p>

<p>Also there was local production of Grease that my D did not audition for because she had too many conflicts during rehearsal. The second week of the show they called her to see if she could take over for Rizzo because they had to fire the girl playing her. My D got 1 afternoon of intense rehearsal and went on that night. She did fine and decided that she kind of liked doing it that way- all the fun of being on stage without the rehearsal time!</p>

<p>Slightly off-topic, but when my friend saw Wicked a few years back, Kristin Chenoweth was in a bedazzled neck brace.</p>

<p>Our small public h.s. does not usually double-cast, and never has understudies. In 2008, kiddo ended up doing a school time performance, then being hospitalized for the next 3 shows, able to (sort of...) do the closing performance. She was a Doo Wop in Little Shop, so not a lead, but it did require several semi-frantic calls from the emergency room to let people know, so choreography, etc could be adjusted in less than 2 hours. D also sang the melody in their trios, so apparently the sound was....very different. I swear her doctor (who is a musical-lover) kept her in-patient the last night so she wouldn't try to sneak onto the stage too soon...</p>

<p>Responding to above reply...I remember seeing Ms. Chenoweth on Ellen talking about that..she was actually offering the neckbrace (signed) to Ellen to auction off for one of her charities. She said she had injured her neck during a previous performance of Wicked, a part where she threw her head back for the scene and actually whipped it a little too hard. But Glalenda can certainly get away with a beddazeled (did i spell that correctly)anything!!</p>

<p>Patti Lupone did "Gypsy" in bedroom slippers because she broke her toe.</p>

<p>Ms. Lupone can do ANYTHING she wants IN ANYTHING she wants!!!! :)</p>

<p>Our high school did Annie Get Your Gun this spring and the girl playing Annie was declared academically ineligible (no pass, no play) not long before the show was to open. The choreographer (mid 30s) who is also a talented performer had to step in to play the part because there was no understudy. Our school is small and shows are chosen based on the current crop of talent, so basically Annie Get Your Gun was chosen with her in mind. There generally is not a deep enough pool to double cast or even understudy.</p>