Spotlight on: Swinging in to a Double Show Day!
5-minute read // Published by Young Peoples Theatre, July 2022
Written by: Hannah Richens and Chelsea Willis
Pictured: Asha Olsen in Understudy Rehearsal for The SpongeBob Musical.
Most people don’t get to see the behind the scenes of theatre shows. You don’t often get to see how the cast works together to make sure every character goes on stage. You don’t often see an actor go on stage as Clarissa Clam during the day, and Buster Bluetang that night. But our SpongeBob Cast member Ruby Edwards knows exactly how this happens. In an unexpected turn of events, one of our cast members was unable to perform, but Ruby Edwards jumped in to save the show with only an hours notice.
Ruby Edwards, (Year 9) used her extensive theatre and dance skills to perform as another role within the other cast. This involved learning a separate dance track, different blocking and new lyrics! This is super impressive and we are proud to have someone like Ruby a part of our productions! This also sheds light on the importance of understudies, swings and covers in our productions, and an important thing to teach our students during class times.
Our Senior Musical Theatre and Think Beyond Musical Theatre students work on learning about the differences between swings, understudies, standbys, doubles or alternatives in class and do practice activities and training exercises for if they were ever given the opportunity to play one of these very important, if not the ‘backbone of theatre’, roles in a production. The names for these roles are often interchanged however, there are importance differences in professional theatre.
Differences between Understudies/Swings/Alternates/Standbys/Doubles
Understudies: An Understudy is a cast member, already cast in the production that performs onstage in costume each show. The performer generally has their own track and is likely in the ensemble or plays a supporting role. This cast member also learns one or more of the principal characters roles and will step in for that role, instead of their ensemble track, if that cast member is out of the show due to illness or leave.
Swings: A swing is an off-stage performer who will typically only go on stage if another cast member is temporarily out of the show. This could happen before the performance begins or even during if someone where to be injured. The swings will usually cover the ensemble and supporting role tracks and can learn multiple parts. A good example of this would be if a lead role was out, then the understudy would step up and the swing can cover the ensemble track.
An onstage swing however is someone who performs in the show each performance, but plays a variety of different characters at different performances or their role can be covered in a different way if they needed to go on for a different track.
Standbys: Standby’s are also offstage performers who cover the Principal roles in the production and are ready to go on for the leading roles at a moments notice.
Alternates: An alternate is someone who occasionally plays the Principal role at scheduled performances to give the regular performer some time off. For example a Principal character may have one night off a week where the alternate is scheduled to place the performance.
Doubles: A double is someone who shares the same role as another performer. The performers take turns playing the role at alternating performances.
Since the spread of COVID-19 we now, more than ever, need to make sure we have cast members prepared to step in if their fellow cast members cannot perform. Aside from Ruby, we have had numerous other cast members cover for their doubles. While those performers are still playing the same role, it is with a different cast, so it does feel like a slightly different shows and takes lots of concentration from the double.
Our previously announced understudy for the role of The SpongeBob Musical, Asha Olsen (Year 9) has been performing onstage as an Electric Skate for the season, however did get the opportunity to fulfil her understudy duties during a technical rehearsal. Asha had the opportunity to play SpongeBob during tech (which is a vital rehearsal to the process) and was outstanding in her ability to adapt to the new role in high pressure circumstances. Not only was she performing the role for the first time but it was the casts first time with the set, lights and microphones. Asha quite literally had to move mountains and learn all of the safety elements for the Volcano scenes as well. We chatted to Asha about her experience stepping into the lead role for Tech.
” It was really fun (to perform SpongeBob today) and everyone was really supportive. I always watch Bridget and Jade so it was great to get up and get to give it a go myself. I got inspiration from both of them and it was really fun”. – Asha Olsen
One cast member in particular, Archer Nicholas-Canning (Year 9) appears in both casts of this production and plays a different role in each cast. In the Mermaid Man Cast, Archer plays Larry the Lobster and then in the Barnacle Boy Cast, Old Man Jenkins. This is not an easy tasks having to remember a different track and different dialogue in each performance. Archer has been excelling in performing both of these roles and has even had the opportunity to play each role in each cast at this point in the season.
As you have seen in a previous article, we have also seen members of the creative team go on for this show and we are in awe of everyone who has stepped up to ensure the show will go on. All these cast members deserve a huge round of applause for their quick abilities to adapt and perform!
The SpongeBob Musical plays for 5 more performances from now until 6 August. Don’t miss out of the #bestdayever
Book tickets here