Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The History Boys in Bizarro Universe

You know how in comic books super heroes enter a bizarro universe where there is a parallel Superman or Spiderman. I actually don't read comic books so I'm not sure what really happens in Bizarro World.

But we here, backstage at the Arden dub the understudy run, the Bizarro Run. The Arden has a policy of understudying all the parts for all the productions. The understudies attend our rehearsals when they can but also rehearse with the Assistant Director. After we open the show, the understudies perform the play on the actual set using the actual props, lighting, sound, etc. The artistic department at the Arden then watches the run to ensure that the understudies know the part well enough to go on in a pinch.
These understudies are culled, for the most part, from the non-professional actors in the city. Every once in a while a professional actor in the production will understudy another role in the same production. In The History Boys, the actor playing Crowther (Peterson Townsend) is also understudying Irwin (if you know the play).

It is such a blast watching the exact same production with different actors. The understudies are supposed to imitate (for lack of a better word) the performance of the actual actor but one can't bringing a bit of him or herself to the role. I'm actually in the middle of the understudy run right now as I write this. Some of these actors are so good; it's a joy to watch them. I do feel a bit bad for Peterson though; he's not only performing the role of Irwin but because one actor is understudying two of the boys, he also has to do all the transitions as well. He's doing a great job though. Tonight, however, he has to come back and perform the role of Crowther.
So do the rest of us on the crew of course. It's always fun though, to visit bizarro world.


  1. Ah yes. The understudy's lot is not a happy one. It's like being vice-president in a way...

  2. Sounds like you're really enjoying it even if it was a five performance weekend! I'm not familiar with the play but you know, I used to be a little disappointed when I'd go to the theatre to see a particular person play a role and the 'understudy' came on. Even though the understudies were totally competent (and in the case of Phantom of the Opera actually better than the 'star'). I always felt a little ripped off!

  3. i imagine it was pretty cool for the understudies to get to actually play the parts and to watch as well. each actor breathes a different breath of life into the same part. bizzaro world is not too bad...smiles.

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    Will you entrust me with your address?