When there are two understudies for a role, who decides which one goes on?

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adamgreer
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This is something I've always wondered...

When a role has multiple understudies, where there is no standby, and neither understudy is designated as a first or second cover, who makes the decision which one goes on? Is it the stage manager? Like, for example, a show like Legally Blonde, where most of the roles have two covers (not including Elle, where Becky Gulsvig is very clearly the first cover), who makes the decision which of them goes on?
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I'm not sure who, probably the stage manager. They put on whoever is most prepared.
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I'm not sure who, probably the stage manager. They put on whoever is most prepared.
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"I DO."

What a fantastic, helpful answer.
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well usually it seems they try both early on and stick with the stronger/ more appropriate of the two.
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Who is the "they"? At 6:30, if an actor calls in and says they've lost their voice and can't go on, who makes the decision? The stage manager?
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Hmm...maybe the producers or the assistant director. I don't think the stage manager usually makes that call.
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The stage manager.
And then what if you are?
What a Prince would envision?
Although how can you know who you are till you know
What you want, which you don't?
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They probably arm wrestle for it.

I have no idea, but you'd think it'd be decided in the two actors' contracts, if not explicitly stated in the program, who would go on under which circumstances. I don't see why it would be the stage manager's decision.
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Depends on when the call is made that someone can't go on. If it is close to show time, the stage manager usually makes that decision. I have a friend who was one of the understudies for Matthew Broderick in PRIDUCERS. When he went on vacation, he played it one week and the other understudy did the next one.

It also depends on if they have a role in the show and their understudy is ready to cover for them. It can get complicated.
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Maybe because on Broadway, the stage managers are basically the main person in charge?
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On a day to day calling "out" need, the stage manager makes "the call". (Usually)

When its a pre arranged thing whether a day or to cover a vacation it is USUALLY the producers.

Of course, some producers maintain more control of even the day to day things as well.
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On Broadway it would have to be the stage manager. This is because unlike the assistant director or the producer. The stage Manager is there every performance.


Usually someone is considered the first cover and someone is considered the second cover even though it might not be in the playbill. For example, in Poppins Catherine Walker is the first cover for Ashley Brown and Megan (blanking on the last name here) is the second cover. If Walker can't go on for whatever reason the Megan goes on. But, I have seen that during Brown's recent vacations they seem to split the role evenly between the two.

So, in the case of most shows there is a first and second cover. It isn't in the playbill but it is there. The first one usually has more time to practice the role then the second cover but both can go on.
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I see. When it's less than a day's notice it makes sense for the stage manager to make the call, cause the directors or producers aren't typically at the show every night.
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something i've always wondered.... do understudies get paid extra if they go on (or if they go on for a week during someone's vacation?)

secondly... can someone refuse to be an understudy? Is that looked down upon? i know that i couldn't be an understudy (or a cover for that matter).... i couldn't handle the pressure and plus i don't have the stamina or mental power to handle all roles... i need to focus on one thing at at time.. i'd be perfectly content being an ensemble...
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I was told that in Mamma Mia when a lead is on vacation, the understudies alternate performances. I don't know if this is true if someone is sick.
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Inside sources tell me it is decided by a coin toss.
....but the world goes 'round
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I think someone could refuse to be an understudy. But, keep in mind that some small lead roles are techncally that small part plus the understudy to a lead. For example, in Legally Blonde whoever is playing Margot is also an understudy for Elle. When casting they try to find someone who can do both.

And, just like in Mamma Mia it is not uncommon for shows to alternate between the two performers. There is usally a first cover and a second cover and the rotation starts with the first cover and goes on from there.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
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I think someone could refuse to be an understudy. But, keep in mind that some small lead roles are techncally that small part plus the understudy to a lead. For example, in Legally Blonde whoever is playing Margot is also an understudy for Elle. When casting they try to find someone who can do both.

And, just like in Mamma Mia it is not uncommon for shows to alternate between the two performers. There is usally a first cover and a second cover and the rotation starts with the first cover and goes on from there.
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
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When I was a resident cast member at out local Equity theatre, we toured a school show during the day and understudied the main stage shows at night. It was in our contracts that this is what he had to do. We would have gotten paid extra if we went on.
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Generally, the stage manager makes the decision. The director and producer will decide which actor will be the first cover and which will be the second cover. As was pointed out, even when there are two understudies one of them is usually designated as the first cover. Also, it depends on the preparation of the understudies as well. Some understudies need more prep work and therefore they generally go on more frequently because so much rehearsal time was invested on them. They almost always alternate.
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of course you can reject an Understudy/Standby offer or request, but why would you? Unless there is a legit reason

for example... Daniel Torres was originally cast as the Standby for Gavin Creel in the upcoming GODSPELL. Daniel, however, wanted to try for more. He re-auditioned for a new "track" and was cast as Understudy for Gavin/We Beseech Thee soloist.

again, it's all about personal preference.
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TooDarnHot, thanks for the interesting story.

I believe understudies do get paid more when they go on. All actors that understudy roles get an extra $33 a week per role they understudy.
And then what if you are?
What a Prince would envision?
Although how can you know who you are till you know
What you want, which you don't?
So then which do you pick:
Where you're safe, out of sight, And yourself, but where everything's wrong?
Or where everything's right And you know that you'll never belong?