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

<p>Our high school and middle school do not use understudies. My younger D totally lost her voice due to a virus the week of the show when she had one of the leads in middle school. We spoke to our pediatrician and he was all set to give her steroid spray if it did not get better. Said he uses it ocassionally with kids on B'dway (we are in a suburb of NYC.)</p>

<p>Older D was Belle in Beauty and the Beast a few weeks later. I was pretty paranoid about a repeat of the same virus.</p>

<p>Last summer when my D was in Broadway Rising Stars in NYC ( a one time event), she completely lost her voice during the couple of days leading up to it (rehearsals). She ended up having to start steroids the afternoon of the concert! She still went on. I think this is common with actors/singers to go on with the show almost no matter what. But as I wrote higher up on the thread, there are times when an actor is unable to be in a show at all (hospitalization, etc.).</p>

<p>My D was the U/S for Polly in for Crazy For You and and she played Bobby's Mom! (Gotta love high school productions!) The last week of rehearsals, the actor was feeling a scratchy throat so she asked if her U/S could sing from the wings. My D did and after the first song and the reaction from the pit and her fellow cast members, the lead told the director that she was feeling much better and would sing the rest herself!</p>

<p>Everywhere I've performed doesn't use understudies but last summer when I was in "Urinetown" at Stagedoor Manor, our Hope lost her voice during our first performance. The morning of the 2nd performance the director grabbed one of our ensemble sopranos, handed her a script, walked through the blocking with her, and got her fitted into the original Hope's costume. Our Tiny Tim also got sick for that performance so another ensemble member was given his lines. They both carried scripts for the whole show and it actually turned out great. If we had understudies the whole process might have been easier, but it's hard to learn a whole show in 3 weeks, let alone learn an additional part on top of your own.</p>

<p>We went to a show at a local high school recently--this was a revue, with different "leads" for different numbers. One of the leads had an illness which harmed her voice, and she was unable to sing--so she acted out the song as planned (a lot of stage business, not lipsynching), while another girl stood on a riser in the back and sang the song. We thought this was a pretty classy way to deal with the situation, but it obviously wouldn't work for a lead in a full musical.</p>

<p>Oh gosh, this thread just brought back my saddest high school memory! I had a lead, huge part, in my high school play senior year. We were doing just a single performance. (Seems odd now, but drama was not a wildly popular EC back in those days and we probably couldn't have attracted an audience for multiple shows.) My laryngitis hit during dress rehearsal and I was completely voiceless by the night of the performance. We had no understudies, but it turned out that the script girl knew everyone's lines by heart and fit in my costume, so she played my role while I stayed home, feverish and weeping (silently).</p>

<p>My offsprings' high school frequently doublecasts leads to accommodate the many talented students. They tried having understudies one year, using ensemble members, but the understudies never got sufficient stage time to prepare and felt learning two parts was too burdensome in the context of other school demands. I like doublecasting--I think at the high school level, theater programs should be as inclusive as possible.</p>

<p>Our HS produces one major musical a year, typically in the fall. No understudies are identified. The autumn of my son’s junior year, he was cast as the Wolf in “Into the Woods”; the lead male role went to a senior, who had been groomed to be the Baker for quite a while. Seniors are used as leads, to showcase and award them for dedication to the theater program. A week before Opening Night, the senior was dismissed from the cast for disciplinary reasons. The director was then frantic - hundreds of tickets had been pre-sold; advertising for the show had been distributed, etc. No thought was given to delaying the show. The director went to the principal and the superintendant to get permission to use an equity actor to fill the vacated role (we live close enough to NYC that there plenty of actors who could fill the bill and make the tight schedule in time).</p>

<p>Confidently, my DS went to the director and told her – “Don’t spend the money on a professional actor; I can do it.” He convinced her that couldn’t find an actor to be the Baker any better than him; he quickly learned the lines, the blocking and the songs in five days, and rest of the cast spent overtime in rehearsals, helping him get ready. The show went on to be a huge success, both artistically and financially for the HS theatre program.</p>

<p>Epilogue: The director (MFA in directing from Middlesex University in London) went on to author college letters of recommendation for my S, as well as becoming his college audition and monologue coach. S used this experience as the basis for his college admission essay; he’ll be starting at Tisch (Atlantic Studio) this fall.</p>

<p>Our HS does not have understudies for its plays/musicals, but my daughter's ballet company has understudies for lead roles or they double-casts parts. I'll never forget when the girl cast as Clara in the Nutcracker was in a serious car accident 3 weeks before the performance. She was on her way to rehearsal and hit a patch of ice. A passenger in the car was killed.</p>

<p>My D's high school sometimes double cast, especially the girls parts. But that was mostly because there were so many girls and that gave them all a chance. They did 5 shows, three for one and two for the other cast. The two show cast were usually made up of underclassmen. This past year was the first time in a long time that the lead female was not double cast.</p>

<p>My DD's public arts school sometimes double cast and sometimes did not. It depended on the show - demands of the lead parts, strength of students available and overall size of the cast. For example, Aida they double cast but Fame and Cats they did not. The school did 7 or 8 shows. In general upper classmen were cast in the leads but not always.
During Aida they had to replace one character mid-show because he got sick during the performance. Doubles were always required to attend all performances and be ready to go if needed. In DD's first show as a 3rd grader she was in a double cast role and for one show her double didn't show up for the call and she was called to fill in. She was ready to go about 10 minutes to curtain when the original cast member arrived after a car mix up. That is when we began to see she had nerves of steel for the business.</p>

<p>Our hs does not double cast straight plays, only the lead parts in the annual musical. The female lead in one of the straight plays had a family tragedy occur two days before the show opened. As there were no understudies, my D was asked to step in (more with the expectation she would be on stage with the script in hand). Instead she committed herself to completely memorizing the show (and she had a LOT of lines!). After a two hour blocking session with the director late on a Sunday night, her first full rehearsal was the cast's final dress the next evening. She did it all off book exactly as written and staged (and four costume changes--one she even had to change while speaking lines to a character onstage). It was quite the moment and the thing that made her realize for sure that she had to study acting in college. We will never forget it!</p>