Today, I offer you a tale of two understudies. Well, really it’s the story of two different leads who had to call out of shows. The leads were from two different titular-character driven productions. By that, I mean the show was about one character, and the rest of us were just there to dance around behind them.
The first who had to call out was a man. His voice went kaput, and he had to call out for a day. He was a great guy who knew how hard the job of his understudy was going to be. Rather than throw a tantrum about his understudy going on, he did everything he could to help his understudy succeed. Right down to being on vocal rest in the wings during the show to make sure all of the understudy’s quick changes went well. At the end of the performance, people congratulated the understudy on doing an amazing job. But they also thanked the lead for being such a gracious and wonderful person to help his understudy get through the show.
The second to call out was a woman. She waffled about calling out for several days, giving her understudy several mid-show heart attacks, then finally called out. She left her costumes scattered where she had tucked them for pre-sets without a list of where things could be found. It took the whole company searching to locate where she’d stashed her act two jewelry. But the cast pulled together and got the understudy through the performance. At the end of the show, everyone congratulated the understudy on how well she’d done. And thanked the understudy for being so calm and cool despite having to spend time searching for costumes. No one had any nice things to say to the lead when she got back to the show. And when the lead had a temper tantrum because her jewelry had been moved from all it’s hidey-holes and back to her dressing room station, we all lost whatever respect we had left for the lead.
There are two ways to deal with an understudy going in for you. You can be the gracious man, help and love your understudy and be fundamental in their success. Become a part of the praise they receive and there is no need to fear their accomplishments.
Or you can be the woman. Hinder your understudy’s success. Let your part of their story be the thing they had to overcome, and the praise they receive will be in spite of your actions. Then their triumph will be a threat to you because they proved to be the stronger person.
You can choose to face the situation with love or with fear. Which path you take will determine what people think of you as a person and as a performer, not how well your understudy hit the high notes.