Author Topic: RUNNING: Injured actor, no understudy  (Read 5659 times)

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zayit shachor

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RUNNING: Injured actor, no understudy
« on: Feb 06, 2008, 03:11 am »
I'm running sound for a production of As You Like It, and we've got an interesting situation on our hands.  I'm interested to hear what you all think about it.

Tonight (two days before we open), our Orlando was injured toward the end of the run, and went to the hospital with what sounded suspiciously like a broken rib - although I don't know any details yet.

It got me to thinking about what would happen if his rib was broken.  Of course, the show must go on - but the problem is that early in the play, there is a pivotal wrestling scene, the result of which is the cause of the rest of the plot.  It would be a hard scene to reconfigure for an actor who is unable to fight, and there are no understudies for this show (it's only a two-week run).

I'm not the SM here, so thankfully I don't have to deal with this in that capacity.  But given these circumstances (important fight, no understudy, actor unable to participate in said fight) I would love to hear some opinions on how to effectively deal with the situation as the SM.
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 01:51 am by PSMKay »

J

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #1 on: Feb 06, 2008, 10:52 am »
Well, since this is before opening, in my opinion, this is not the SMs responsibility to solve the problem. It's for the director and the artistic director (who decided that understudies weren't important or affordable).  An SM can only do so much to fix a problem that's not fixable. Not having understudies is a huge problem. It ties your hands to a point. Of course another person can stand onstage reading the lines from the script but I always find that to be really annoying. 

If this were a week into the run and it happened, in this situation I'd contact management since no understudies were hired, and alert them to the problem. Worst case scenario would be then to make an announcement before the show explaining that a pivitol moment of the show will not be played out. OR, as mentioned above, have a stand-in onstage to read lines (like an intern from the company) But since it's before opening, I think the SM just goes with and helps to implement whatever decision the director and artistic director make (and if the SM has suggestions or ideas, he/she should throw them in of course!)

ReyYaySM

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #2 on: Feb 06, 2008, 12:14 pm »
zayit: Is this in an educational or professional setting? 

Personally, I would contact management and ask how they want to proceed (cancel performances, cut the fight, have someone go on with a book, etc) and then help facilitate and execute the plan (call the actors that we're cancelled, call a rehearsal, etc). 

I've encountered the situation where an actor was injured or otherwise unable to perform and the show did not have understudies.  In one situation, I was the ASM and we had an actor break her thumb lifting a piece of furniture during a scene.  I alerted the SM and escorted the actor to the dressing rooms.  It was during a preview, so the full artistic/production staff was there.  The producing director and director decided not to stop the show and the SM told me that the assistant director was on her way backstage and would be going on with a book.  It went very smoothly.  The actor was out for the rest of the week and the AD went on as an understudy. 

On another show, I had an actor unable to perform opening weekend due to medical reasons.  I contacted the producing director, and it was decided in lieu of delaying opening he would step into the role and perform with a book.  We still had rehearsal hours left and the director was still in town, so we did an emergency put-in.  He made a live pre-show announcement before each performance about the situation (and got applause upon his entrance and exit every night...)


zayit shachor

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #3 on: Feb 06, 2008, 01:06 pm »
zayit: Is this in an educational or professional setting? 

It's an educational setting, but the theater department is "pre-professional", and they try to do everything as though it were a professional company.  So, I was wondering what would happen professionally in this situation.

klcurrie

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #4 on: Feb 06, 2008, 06:28 pm »
I've had several instances where something has happened to an actor when no understudies were available.  Once due to an injury received during a performance, once for the death of a parent the morning of a matinee, and once for extreme illness on the part of the actor.  In all three cases, these were small non-equity companies that do not regularly hire understudies and each time the performances were canceled.  In each case I, as SM, was asked my opinion, but the decision was made by the management of the theaters involved. 

Sarah

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #5 on: Feb 06, 2008, 08:16 pm »
I once SM'd a show when one of my actresses was hit by a car riding her bike on the way to the theatre on opening night. She was shaken and bruised but otherwise fine. I alerted the director and producer, and together, (with the actress) it was decided that the actress would perform. We held a short re-blocking rehearsal, as there was a lot of physical movement, writhing under tables, running around, etc. We opened on time and the producer mentioned it in the curtain speech. The actress received a very warm round of applause.

Baz

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Re: Injured actor, no understudy
« Reply #6 on: Feb 12, 2008, 12:18 pm »
A few experiences here leap to mind -

1/ An actor (1 of 3) was 'let go' late on the Saturday before the Wednesday Preview. Sunday was the Day Off with Monday and Tuesday being the Tech Days. Management found an actor who had done the role, flew them in and on the Monday morning I and the other two cast walked the actor thru the blocking. Rest of the Tech time went as originally planned and we Previewed without issue or comment to the audience. There had been talk of putting an insert in the program noting the swap, but as the program had not been put to bed until Monday, I pushed for simply swapping out the photo and bio, which was done.

2/ While on an extended tour, one of two two male leads collapsed backstage during a performance. When it became apparent he was not going to be able to go on, I turned to one of our other actors (small role and finished at this stage) and asked if he would be willing on going on (with book), if required. He agreed. Ill actor was put in civvies and resident theatre management saw him to hospital, the other actor got into his costume, I got word to actors onstage there was a problem and, at the actor's intended entrance, I came onstage (in costume as all scene changes in full light), stopped the show and explained we had a had a ill actor backstage, we had a 'volunteer' willing on going on in the true 'The Show Must Go On' form and asked for an applause poll as to whether we would stop the show or continue on. The audience overwhelming voted to continue on and after a moment's prep, we continued the play. The replacement remarkably knew a lot of the lines (rather by osmosis after 24 weeks with the show) and was gently guided about onstage by fellow actors, if needed. Audience went wild afterwards.
Lead actor ended up being out for two days and we did an emergency rehearsal the next day with our 'volunteer'. He ended up doing both his original role and that of the Lead with the only troublesome moment a point when both characters were blocked to be onstage at once. I resolved this by having one character in doorway, facing US, speaking the lines and replying in the other character's voice!

3/ Lead actor (musical) whose voice suddenly went during Act 1 of 2 act production and who said at the Intermission she would be unable to continue on. I had already put a call into management at soon as I noted problem in Act 1 and so the AD was in the theatre by Intermission. Upon being informed she could not continue, I let AD know, he conferred with actor and decided that he would cancel the show. At the end of Intermission, he came onstage and noted the problem and the cancellation, along with an invitation to return for another performance.
Bigger problem was that actor did not go to theatre doctor as was arranged, but disappeared out of the theatre during AD's speech and did not answer calls to cell or hotel, so no way of knowing what the situation was for upcoming shows. Management dealt with this and she returned the following evening.

4/ In the UK, it is often the case there is a Stage Manager and a Deputy Stage Manager (and then various ASMs) and it is often the DSM who will be responsible for taking down blocking in rehearsal and for calling the show. On one production I was involved in as SM, my DSM reported feeling very unwell after the show and, whisking her to hospital,  we discovered she had appendicitis and would need immediate surgery.
 I called an emergency rehearsal for the next day so that I could run thru the show with the Book. Just as well as her  Calling was noted in a form totally unfamiliar to me, in pencil, in microscopic print - and the show was very intensive with visual Qs called almost blind without benefit of monitor or clear line of sight. I rewrote the Qs in BIG BOLD PRINT and inserted these into the Book between rehearsal and evening performance, my ASM took up some of the slack left by me 'in the chair' and the Company muddled thru. A replacement DSM came in the following week (the original out of commission for 3 weeks) and this person was very pleased to see my additions to the Book.

Which only begs reminder that those who Call a show remember they too are not immune to 'Life' and the Book should should be able to (within reason) be understood by anyone in an emergency...
SM'ing since God was a child.

 

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