Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Life of an Understudy

Steve Czarnecki, who is an ensemble member in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, was nice enough to share a blog entry with us! Read on as Steve discusses some of his other responsibilities on the tour.

Name: Steve Czarnecki

Role in the show: Ensemble

Hey all!

You may know me as an ensemble member in the current national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. However, I thought I would talk a little bit about my other responsibilities in the show. I am the understudy for both the Beast and Gaston. Each of the main characters in our production has two people understudying them, and many of the ensemble members like myself, understudy two parts--which can be both exciting and nerve racking.

From L to R: Nathaniel Hackmann (Gaston) with Steve Czarnecki and Jeff Brooks

To date we have performed the show somewhere around 220 times. And of those I have performed as the Beast thirteen times and as Gaston twice. Preparation for all of this began around day one of rehearsals in January. The understudies and I would frantically write and rewrite staging as it was given to the principals. Of course, we would do this only when we had the free time away from learning all of our own ensemble responsibilities. It was definitely challenging as things would change from rehearsal to rehearsal and you had to adjust your notes "on the fly." However, there was the comfort of knowing that after we opened in February we would begin to have our own understudy rehearsals!

Finally the day came where I was going on for the first time. Now THIS was a situation that made me more nervous than perhaps any other performance I've ever given. We had just had our first understudy rehearsal a few days before and now it was time for me to go on as the Beast. Many, many things run through your head as you perform. First and foremost, your lines!! You've gone over them a million times but now, for the first time, you are doing them with the rest of the cast! Furthermore, you want to make the audiences experience of the show the same as they would get seeing the "normal" cast of the show. You have to keep up the integrity of the character that the other actor has established. It is scary but also wonderfully exciting! The energy of your cast mates giving all their love and support and the experience of putting yourself into a new part is thrilling. Being an understudy is one of the most important jobs in the theatre, it can be very challenging, but more importantly it can be the most fun you'll ever have!

The whole cast after rehearsal at Gateway Playhouse!

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