You’re Always Auditioning

Monday, 15. April 2019 0:08 | Author:

Auditions suck. Just ask any actor. For that matter, ask any director. The problem from an acting point of view is to demonstrate that you are the best choice to perform a given role with—if it’s a generous audition—a couple of prepared monologues and a cold read against people you’ve never met. In just a few minutes you have somehow convince a director that after you’ve learned the lines and had some time to work on the character, you will be able to bring this character to life on the stage. It’s an impossible task. And it’s just as bad from the director’s point of view.

This is why directors use other means to help them make their casting decisions. Some even use casting directors, who also use methodologies in addition to the actual audition. Directors will call other directors and their friends to find out about potential actors. They go to shows and observe the actors, how they work, how they perform, what they might be capable of. They network. They invite actors they think might be able to do the job to come in. They interview. Then they hold an audition, sometimes to see if what they thought was true really is true.

Directors are in the judging business; it’s what they do. And they mostly do it all the time. The wise actor learns, hopefully sooner rather than later, that s/he is always auditioning.  Audition time is not limited to the time the actor is actively auditioning.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate. A good while back an actor I know went to an audition. She is a bubbly out-going person and a man walked by as she was getting out of her car. They had a brief conversation about the difficulty of finding parking spaces. Then they met again in the elevator that she was taking to the interview/audition. Again they had a brief up-beat conversation. They both got off at the same floor but went in different directions. She checked in for the interview, waited a few moments and was ushered into the interview room. Behind the desk sat the man with whom she had just made friends. Her formal audition went well, perhaps because she had already auditioned and didn’t know it. She got the job.

The other story didn’t turn out quite as well. We were casting a musical; when I say we, I mean I was the director; additionally there was the musical director and the choreographer. We were doing an open callback, which is to say that all those called back were in the room. There was one actor we had pretty much decided would be the second lead, but we wanted the callback to confirm that decision. The actor that we had in mind was in the room when we got there, as were a number of other actors. As we got settled, we noticed that the actor we had in mind was not only overly loud and boisterous for the situation, but he was displaying an inordinate amount of egocentricity. His behavior was offensive and unacceptable. Each of us decided individually (we discovered later—we did not discuss it at the time) that we would rather not put up with that behavior and attitude for the rehearsal period. Fortunately, there was another actor there whose callback was excellent; he was the actor who got the role.

Behavior and attitude before and after the actual audition matter. In fact they matter all the time. It’s something actors need to know.  And it’s not just in the theatre that this happens. Wedding photographers, for example, are auditioning every time they meet potential clients.  Even when they are shooting, a potential client is watching and judging—deciding if this is the person they want to do their wedding. Graphic artists are always auditioning for the next project. Painters are always auditioning for the next commission or the next show or both at the same time. Writers audition for readership for their next book. Both stage and film directors are always auditioning for producers. No one escapes.

Like stage directors, people who seek creative services ask others; they watch, they evaluate—before they ever get around to calling for an appointment.

Not only actors, but every creative person who sells his/her work is always auditioning; there is no down time. It is something that we all need to be aware of—all the time.

Category:Marketing, Theatre | Comment (0)

Chunk It

Sunday, 31. March 2019 23:32 | Author:

A couple of weeks ago I took on a new project. This brings the total of personal projects to seven plus my day job which has its own set of projects. That may not be a lot for you, but it’s a significant number for me, particularly because the new project is a very different project with challenges different from my normal run of projects and thus demands a different kind of attention to actually get it done.

The question of how to move forward on all these projects at once naturally arises. Multitasking would be the immediate answer of many. Unfortunately, multitasking is mythology—at least for me. I find that if I try to do more than one thing at a time, everything seems to take longer and the work on each task is less than it could be. But dutifully I went to the internet to see if perhaps I was missing something. It turns out that multitasking really is a myth. Look it up. And it turns out that my experiences with attempted multitasking are supported by nearly every study on that topic. Study after study shows that attempted multitasking really takes more time and results in lowered productivity; one study even suggested that multitasking was actually bad for brains.

If not multitasking, what? Handling the projects sequentially would seem be a good choice, particularly as it facilitates flow and appeals to my obsessive personality; however, because of the nature of the projects and various deadlines, this is not feasible. The question then becomes how to move forward on all projects in a somewhat efficient manner.

The answer is to chunk it, it being time. Basically it just means spending significant time on each project successively. Hardly a new idea, but one that seems to work.

For me, this idea evolved into a two-step procedure: (1) Review each project every day to refresh and determine the next step in whatever process is involved. This brief review also allows the subconscious the opportunity to consider the project and work on it while I’m eating lunch. (2) Select a project and a chunk of time and do nothing else for that amount of time. (I’m not using a timer, but the thought occurred to me.) Presetting an amount of time to work on the project allows full concentration for that chunk of time, which, in turn, allows the development of flow and the minimization of distractions. Limiting the time also allows moving from one project to another in the same evening. Obviously, the longer the time spent on a single project, the better, but this becomes an individual choice. Chunks could be so large that one would take up the entire project time for one day; the next day could then be used for a different project, and so on.

There is an alternative to presetting the amount of time allotted for each project. When I review projects, I look for the next step. The completion of that next step then becomes my target. I then work on that project until that target is achieved or until that step becomes a failure; only then do I move on to the next project.

It’s a new system—to me anyway, but so far it’s working well. Will it work for you? It might. Give it a try; chunk it.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0)

Art and Money

Sunday, 17. March 2019 23:38 | Author:

There’s no money in art. Everybody know it: conservatives, liberals, moderates of every strip and hue. Everybody. That’s the number one reason that parents give for discouraging their children from pursuing the arts. They are sure their kids will starve, because it’s common knowledge that there’s no money in the arts.

Except, it’s not true.

Recently two reports were released that challenged this conventional wisdom.  One was 2019 State of the Arts Report for the State of Texas and covered the year 2017. The other was data released by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and covered the year 2015. These reports went a long way toward refuting the common mythology concerning art and money.

The BEA/NEA data shows that the arts sector contributed more to the US economy than the construction, transportation and warehousing, travel and tourism, mining and extraction, utilities or agricultural sectors, $763.6 billion to be precise. There are only two sectors that contribute more: retail trade and healthcare and social assistance. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The key findings were these:

  • That $763.6 billion constituted 4.2 percent of the GDP.
  • The arts sector involves 4.9 million workers who earned $372 billion in total compensation
  • The arts added “four time more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.”
  • The arts had a $20 billion trade surplus.
  • Between 2012 and 2015 the arts had an “average growth rate of 2.6 percent, slightly higher than 2.4 percent for the nation’s overall economy.” The growth rate was 4.9 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Texas, unlike some other states, is not mentioned in the BEA/NEA report. However, Texans have their own state-level report. Here are the key findings from that report:

  • The arts industry in Texas generated $5.59 billion in 2017.
  • That amount generated “nearly $350 million in tax revenue.”
  • “Houston and Dallas each generated nearly $1 billion.”
  • “Austin and San Antonio each generated more than $350 million.”
  • The “arts-and-culture industry” has grown 15.5 percent during the last 10 years.
  • The arts sector of the Texas economy employs “nearly 800,000” people.
  • Arts jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2026

And this in a state that “is 41st in arts funding among all U.S. states.

It should be obvious that the impact of the arts at both the state and national level is tremendous. In fact, Robert L. Lynch, the CEO and president of Americans for the Arts, has said “The U.S. [BEA’s] research makes clear that, if you care about jobs and the economy and infrastructure, you need to care about the arts. Strategic investment in our arts and cultural organizations is not an extra, it’s a path to prosperity.” The BEA/NEA data is illustrated in a series of charts and tables and is broken down by states.

And the value of the arts is not just dollars. Research indicates that in Texas “students enrolled in arts courses attend school more regularly, have a 15% higher pass rate on standardized tests, are more likely to stay in school, graduate, and attend college.” Data also shows that “art in hospital settings can reduce patient anxiety, pain, length of stay, and readmissions.

So the next time you hear someone say that arts are a waste of time and energy and that no one can possible make a living in the arts, point that person to the data that tell us that the opposite is true. The arts have a huge impact on American life and economy. The arts matter—in more ways than we realize.

Category:Uncategorized | Comment (0)

Want to Be Famous? Make Some Friends

Sunday, 3. March 2019 23:03 | Author:

We’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” It turns out that in the case of artists, it’s not what you know or who you know; it’s how many who’s you know. In a 2018 study of abstract artists’ fame, Paul Ingram and Mitali Banerjee determined that cosmopolitan social networking was a better indicator of fame than either creativity or originality. Essentially, the study found that artists generally labeled “abstract” were famous in direct proportion to the size of their circle of friendship, with more fame attributed to those whose groups of friends were multinational.

A thorough discussion of this study by Casey Lesser can be found at In this article, Lesser posits that not only were diverse networks important as indicators of fame, but that they were also a “source of creativity” and had the additional benefit of providing the artist with a “cosmopolitan identity.”

Much of the data for this study originated with a 2012 exhibition about the birth of abstraction at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. MoMA has provided an interactive diagram of who knew whom that clearly makes the point that the most connected artists—in this case Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky—were the most famous.

And lest we think that this study represents an anomaly, remember that Emily Dickinson did not become famous until relatives who had much wider social networks worked to get her poems published. It is also notable that people who are famous in one art can let it be known that they are involved in another art and instantly be more famous in that second field than many who have worked in the field for a lifetime, but who have had much smaller networks of friends and acquaintances. For example, Jim Carrey and Jonathan Winters are two comedian/actors who have become almost as famous for their paintings as for their performing.

So what does that mean to us?  It means, simply, that all the hype about establishing a diverse social network isn’t hype, it’s the path to recognition. Of course, there is no indication as to whether today’s social networks, e.g. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, et al constitute networks of “friends” as the term is used in this study, i.e. a group of people who actually know each other. One would guess that the more active one is in any given forum, the more likely s/he is to be able to call it a real group of friends.

Please note also that the more diverse the group of friends, the more likely it is to indicate potential recognition. Also, internationality counts.

In concrete terms, this means that we must “meet new people and network across professional industries in order to open [ourselves] up to career opportunities and advancement….We won’t become famous in a vacuum and should seek to diversify our social circles.” And although we may not want to be movie-star famous, we probably do want to have our work seen and known. That, in itself, is a kind of fame. To achieve that we must not only maintain social networks, but we probably need to curate our followers and followings, so that we come to actually know those with whom we interact.

And we must not forget personal, in-person networking, which is probably the most potent form of networking going. If Ingram and Banerjee’s study is to be believed, in order to have our work known to the world we must enlarge our circle of friends. Today would be a good day to start.

Category:Audience, Creativity, Social Media | Comment (0)

How Much Skill Do You Need?

Monday, 18. February 2019 0:20 | Author:

An old article on the hyperrealistic work of Leng Jun circulated through my news reader this week. Hyperrealism is probably the epitome of drawing and is practiced by only a few artists. And while such work is interesting, even amazing, it seems to exist for no other reason than itself. Perhaps that is enough.

The real question in my mind is how much skill does an artist need? Certainly not all artists have to draw as well as Leng Jun or any of the other hyperrealists to create their work, but how well do they need to draw? Do they need to be able to draw at all? It seems that if one is a visual artist, drawing is a basic skill. Even Banksy has an opinion on the matter: “All artists are prepared to suffer for their work but why are so few prepared to learn to draw?” (from his book Wall and Piece).

For that matter, how much skill does any artist need? The intuitive answer is “as much as s/he can get.” But is that the right answer? Certainly every artist needs some skill, but does very artist need as much drawing skill as Leng Jun? Some would say “no” and cite successful artists who seem to have excelled without being able to draw. Some would even use Picasso as an example; those, however, would have demonstrated that they were not familiar with his early work. The man could draw, perhaps not on the level of Leng Jun, but certainly competently.

Others, of course, would say “yes” and point to that exact same early work, arguing that had he not been able to draw well, Picasso would never have gotten to the pinnacle of his success. But did Picasso need the extreme technical mastery that Leng Jun’s work requires? I would argue that that artists do need competency in basic skills; however, they need not be “the best” at any one skill unless their specialty demands that.

Readers of this blog know that I am a fan of John Chamberlain’s sculpture but probably do not know that I have had welding training (I do not claim to be an expert, but I am competent). I have examined Chamberlain’s welds on a number of his works carefully and can verify that he was not the best welder on the planet. He did not need to be; he needed to have enough competence at welding to assemble his sculptures securely enough that they could be transported. And that he did; he had no reason to reach the level of competence expected of, say, a gas pipeline welder.

So the answer to the question, how much skill does an artist need? is that s/he needs a level of competency that allows him/her to produce his/her work without first having to improve his skill level. Certainly, artists-in-training should seek to master skills basic to their art, but have no real need to go beyond that. There is much more learn about to creating art than an extreme skill level. There is creativity, thought, expressiveness, and ability to communicate just to mention a few. To do the sort of work that he wants to do, Leng Jun needs a very high level of drawing skill; other artists, doing other sorts of drawing/painting do not need that level of expertise. For example, LeRoy Neiman needed drawing skill to produce his paintings, but because his work was far more expressionistic, he did not need the same level of that particular skill; it did require, however, other things.

So as we prepare ourselves for our next projects, it is well for us to remember that we need not be absolute experts in every skill that our work requires; we do, however, need a level of expertise that allows us to create artifacts to carry our ideas to our audience, with maybe a little left over.

Category:Creativity, Education, Quality | Comment (0)

But I Followed the Recipe

Monday, 4. February 2019 1:52 | Author:

How many times have we heard that? How many times have we said that? Whether it concerns our grandmother’s blueberry cobbler or a new cocktail, we often find that even though we followed the recipe exactly, it doesn’t taste quite the same. And it won’t—ever. The reason is because every chef, cook, mixologist, or bartender puts his/her own personal touch on everything s/he makes. It can’t be helped. This is why you sometimes order the same drink at the same restaurant, but it doesn’t taste like the one you had the last time you were there: different bartender.

The same thing is true of art.  We can’t not put our signature on the things we create. We can try to eliminate any vestige of our own ideas from the work in order to create “true” reproductions, but it is very unlikely that we will succeed. No matter how much we study those we consider “masters” or how precisely we copy their style, we will never exactly reproduce their images or sculptures or plays or sonnets. And even if we could, we would have only succeeded in making a copy of someone else’s original.

If we take another tack, we might determine the formulae that others use in creating their work, but, when we apply that one of those formulae, like the cook or bartender with someone else’s recipe, the results will be different. And that is not a bad thing, for no matter how we might try to copy, we are sure to be disappointed; nature almost demands that our work be unique.

This is not to say that we can learn nothing from studying the work of others. Indeed, we can learn much. Writers often say that to be successful, we must be readers first. We can even imitate what we study, and that too is informative; in attempting to reproduce the works we encounter, we learn much about technique and about the implementation of that technique. But while it is likely that our “reproductions” will not be perfect, it is equally likely that as learning tools they are unparalleled.

And having learned from certain artists, we move on, for we find that there is an unending stream of artists whose work is worth studying. And once we move past imitation, what we then produce can sometimes reflect what we have studied, much as we often find bartenders creating unique drinks that are a riffs on old standards. This is a practice often observed in the work of jazz musicians. There is no reason our work cannot do the same.

But ultimately, we have to take what we have learned and apply it to our own original creations: work that is not a copy, not an homage, not a riff. And that is just as well, because no matter how meticulously we attempt to use some else’s recipe, in the end—unless we develop skills in forgery—we produce our own work. Better to embrace our individuality from the beginning. We may study others, absorb the lessons, but finally we must work from our own recipes to create our best work.

Category:Creativity | Comment (0)

Embrace the Metaphor

Monday, 7. January 2019 1:41 | Author:

When you’re doing it, it doesn’t feel significant or symbolic. It just seems like a chore that needs doing because … well, because it’s time. And then you realize that it is symbolic and so then you have to deal with that and decide what it means to you. No matter how routine you think it is or no matter how many times you’ve done it, the taking down of winter holiday decorations marks a passage.

This weekend I took down what in my case was a six foot Christmas tree, a kitchen counter-top tree, and a few cards—not so much in the way of winter holiday decorations, but enough, and I restored the decoration-free arrangement of the spaces. I discovered that it was difficult to determine whether it was the end of something or the beginning or something or both or whether it was a really a restoration of the previous state or the establishment of a new, less-cluttered space.

In my case it was all of the above. It was the end of the celebration of winter, marked by the decorations, which, in turn mark the end of the calendar year. Now that celebration was over and it was time to put the decorations away and restore the room to its previous state, except that because of the clutter of decorations, even minimal ones, the new look is not one of restoration, but one of newness and cleanness. The space has become less cluttered, and this seems to mark a beginning.

That’s a whole lot of (symbolic/metaphorical) meaning for one chore. But once the transition is complete, it’s all those things: an ending, a beginning, a marker on the path. And it becomes time to tackle that carryover list of to-do’s that didn’t get accomplished during the holidays, time to let go of the past, time to move on. Time to embrace the metaphor.

Given such a charged situation, it’s difficult not to start making pledges of doing this or that or the other thing better, smarter, faster in the coming months. And artists it seems, for whatever reasons, are very susceptible to these feelings. Often, however, the propensity to make New Year’s resolutions is not accompanied by the effort to follow through. Perhaps it’s better not to make specific resolutions; perhaps it better just to go with the symbolism of taking down the decorations: let go of the past state; move on to the next.

Sometimes moving, artistically or otherwise is difficult. You have to let go, you at least have to stick your toe out of your comfort zone. That is hard to do; yet not to do it leaves you where you have been, perhaps more comfortable, but not doing what you could do, not moving forward. Nevertheless, if we are to progress as artists, it’s what we must do.

We must pack up old ideas along with the seasonal decorations and put them in the attic. Then we must look around at the cleaner, less-cluttered space and see what that suggests. It might be something radical, but more than likely, it will be just a new way of looking at things, a new approach to an old problem, a gentle letting-go and moving on. Then, as artists, we  end celebrating the status quo and begin celebrating the passage.

Happy New Year!

Category:Uncategorized | Comment (0)

Advice to the Artist

Sunday, 23. December 2018 22:39 | Author:

Every once in a while there occurs that happy accident when there is a confluence of ideas that arrive from different sources at the same time. For me, this very thing happened this week. First, I read Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a short little book illustrated by Chris Riddell. Then I had a very interesting and informative conversation with a university art teacher who works primarily in sculpture and print-making. Finally, I ran across Jerry Saltz’s “How to Be an Artist: 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)” which appeared on the’s web site and which originally appeared in the November 26, 2018 issue of New Yorker Magazine.

Saltz advises would-be artists to tell their own stories and to do so with their own voices and to not worry about being understood; he compares making art to “getting naked in front of someone else for the first time.” He goes on to tell artists to put ideas and emotions into their work, to spend lots of time practicing skills and producing and to be ready for failure. He suggests that real art is done for love, not money. He has a number of very specific suggestions and very interesting exercises.

The conversation with the art teacher was about whether in teaching art one concentrates on the abstract aspects of art, i.e. that art can give meaning to people’s lives, that artists can influence people, that art can, in fact, change the world, or concentrates on the craft aspects of making a print or brush technique or skills in handling a camera or sculpting practice. He said that he tries to combine the two in that the artist has to have the craft in order to put forward the artist’s ideas. He went on to say that one of the most difficult things he had encountered lately was getting students to use their own voices and tell their own unique stories with their art rather than relying on making “safe” work that keeps them snug in their comfort zone.

Gaiman’s book is really a collection of four short pieces about the how and why of making art. Interestingly, he says some of the same things as Saltz and the art teacher. For example, he thinks that art is about putting forward ideas, and that those ideas, whether they are true are not, have the right to exist and can (sometimes) change the world. He discusses the power of imagination. Gaiman notes that the artist should expect to fail, but should keep working; he believes that the best art is not done for money. He also discusses finding one’s own voice and telling one’s own story. He notes that “the moment you may be starting to get it right” is “the moment that you feel, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked…showing too much of yourself.”

From these three encounters, I have derived seven pieces of art advice which seem valid no matter where someone is in his/her art journey:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Be prepared to fail.
  3. Tell your own story with your own voice.
  4. Put ideas and emotions into your work.
  5. Keep producing no matter what anyone says.
  6. Understand that your work exposes you to your audience.
  7. Make art because you want or need to, not because you expect payment.

There are certainly more, but these seven seemed to be the most important. I would encourage you to read these articles and others for yourself and talk with as many art teachers as you can; then develop your own list.

Category:Creativity, Uncategorized | Comment (0)


Monday, 10. December 2018 0:16 | Author:

This weekend I got to experience two strikes. Strike, for those of you who don’t speak theatre, means to take down the set. It might be to move the set to another location, as in the case of a traveling show, or it might mean simply to tear down the set and clear the stage. The latter I witnessed—twice. The first was the Saturday night strike of a play that closed. The concern was to get the stage clear for a concert on Sunday afternoon. Then I got to watch the strike of the concert (although I’m not sure musicians use the term strike). Both of these events happened in a collegiate setting, and although some of the musicians were union musicians, no unions were involved in either strike.

What was obvious in both strikes was the professional attitude of some participants and the less-than-professional attitude of others. Almost everyone involved had participated in a strike before, so the very few who were complete novices were noted and not considered in this observation. It turned out that those whom I labeled as having a professional attitude, were, in fact professionals, or had, at least worked professionally prior to this weekend. And that fact was evident in their approach to the work at hand.

What marked the professionals was pace and persistence. They worked at a consistent pace, neither too slow nor too fast. They were obviously concerned with safety, but they were more concerned with getting the job done. Unlike others who were less practiced, they did not stop to chat or stand around waiting to be directed or play at the job. They moved very smoothly (and cheerfully) from task to task to task. (Let me reiterate: almost all of the participants were experienced, so the attitude of the professional was available to all. All, however, did not adopt this approach.)

And that attitude, the on-going ability to stay focused and on-task, is, I think, one of the hallmarks of the real professional: the ability to keep working whether there is the possibility for immediate reward or not. It’s an attitude that involves a commitment to doing the work. Strike is part of the gig, so you do it; it may not be the most enjoyable part of the job, but you do it.

It’s the same kind of commitment to doing the work that many, many artists in a variety of arts talk about. It’s the showing up—repeatedly to do the work. It’s the development of a routine that requires that you do so many pages per day or standing in front of the easel on a regular basis or spending so many hours a day working at your art.

And that commitment is, to my mind, one of the marks of a true professional in the arts: one who works at his/her art consistently and repeatedly, one who puts in the time, no matter whether a particular task is enjoyable or not. There are, of course, other characteristics of the true professional, but this is one of the most important. All it takes to be called a professional is to get paid for your art.  Professionalism, on the other hand, is not just a matter of getting paid, not just a matter of talent; it is a matter of attitude and approach.

Category:Quality | Comment (0)

The Most Thankless Job in Theatre

Sunday, 25. November 2018 22:18 | Author:

Recently I overheard a couple grousing over the fact that the performance that they had paid several hundred dollars to see would feature not one, but two understudies that evening. They were understandably disappointed, but their rancor was unwarranted; they had no idea of the reason for the substitute performers. One presumes that management did not make the replacements lightly. Moreover, this was a touring company, with no real “stars;” while the performers were skilled, none were terribly well-known. Yet the couple somehow felt cheated at seeing performers they didn’t know replace other performers they didn’t know. All this was before the performance, so the relative quality of the performers was completely unknown (and, of course, would remain so).

Those performers, the understudies, have one of the most thankless jobs in the performance industry. Unless an occasional performance is stipulated by contract, a person who is an understudy has to not only know the role s/he may never perform, but he also has to study his/her principal performer so s/he can take the place of that performer with minimum disturbance to the production; in other words, s/he seeks to replicate the performance of his/her principal. At the same time, the economic exigencies of live production often require that the understudy carry another role to help justify his/her salary.

Unlike in the movies, the understudy does not suddenly become the star who eclipses the sidelined actor, s/he does her job, replacing the principal actor, until such time as that actor returns to the stage. This sort of thing happens in all live performing arts, because the mentality of the performing arts is that the show must go on, whether that show is theatre, dance, musical concert, or circus.

Lyn Gardner questions that mentality in her article, Must the show really always go on? In the article Gardner discusses the burdens that are placed on actors by a profession that not only demands that the show go on, but that the actor, unless s/he is incapacitated, be there to insure that that happens. Of course, when the actor is incapacitated, the show is either cancelled (anathema to producers) or the understudy goes on.

Over the last three years, I have had to promote understudies to principals in at least one show a year. In every case, the understudy took over the role and ran with it. This points to the efficacy of choosing capable understudies. However, in the non-professional theatre, it’s a job nobody wants. The understudy has to do all the work, and the likelihood of actually getting to perform is, under normal circumstances, very small. Done correctly, it’s enormous work with little to no payoff. But it’s a necessary job.

And it’s not only necessary from the producer’s point of view. Most who are involved with live production think this way. Despite Gardner’s admonitions, actors themselves think this way. I have seen actors perform with fevers, flu, colds, sore throats, sprained limbs, and personal emotional upheaval. They did this because they, like almost all of us who work in live performance and our audiences really do believe that, one way or another, the show must go on. And the way that often happens is through the craft and artistry of the understudy.

Category:Theatre | Comment (0)

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