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Disagree w/ parts of your assessment
Posted by: earlybird 11:41 am EDT 07/03/22
In reply to: re: Does a standby have to attend each peformance? - whereismikeyfl 07:34 am EDT 07/03/22

"The point of a standby is to have an actor of note so that when Venessa Redgrave or Brian Dennehy could not go on, the audience will not be as disappointed. The trade off is they get more notice and can be at home. Usually understudies cover a number of roles and might not be someone who would play Mary Tyrone, Hickey, Hamlet, etc. For this reason, there is an understudy on hand if there is an immediate emergency. The stand-by is someone who might be cast in the role--if not on Broadway then off-Broadway or in a major regional house."

I might be wrong, but virtually none of this lines up with what I've always known standbys to be.

Firstly, I think it's pretty rare to have a standby who's even a semi-significant name. It happens occasionally, but that isn't the case for the vast majority of standbys. In terms of TALENT, yes it's true that a standby is often just a capable as the principle, but that's just part of the job. It doesn't mean they are necessarily an "actor of note." Nor would it have anything to do with preventing audience disappointment, except in the sense that producers will always try to minimize audience disappointment by hiring capable covers.

And even if we do sometimes see standbys who are more notable names, I don't think that's at all "the point" of the standby position. Yes, there might be a certain hierarchy between the 1st cover and 2nd cover, but that's just an incidental factor in what's essentially a logistical distinction. I've always interpreted the point of the standby as: if there's a lead role that's particular difficult and prone to call-outs, they want to have a 1st cover who's in the area, and doesn't have a regular nightly track in the show, so the substitution can be executed as smoothly as possible. As such, my understanding has always been that the standby may very well go on with even LESS notice than an understudy. Not that this would be the norm, but that the standby would be prepared for that scenario, in addition to being a 1st cover for routine call-outs.

Also, it's true that a standby is more likely to only cover 1 role, but I've definitely seen times where that isn't the case. Especially if you're dealing with a small-cast show where the covers wouldn't have an ensemble track, thereby making the functional distinction between an understudy and a standby all the more nebulous and marginal.

I'm sure these things vary from production to production, so I don't doubt that there's anecdotal evidence of the scenarios you're describing. But it doesn't sound like the norm to me, nor does it sound like the POINT of a standby.
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