Fresh Eyes on The Understudy, 1st Installment

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Fresh Eyes on The Understudy (L to R): Katrin Kasper, Bonnie Keling, Alan Scott Holley and Trish Garner
Owen Carey

Our first cadre of Fresh Eyes (Trish Garner, Alan Scott Holley, Katrin Kasper, and Bonnie Keling) attended the first rehearsal for The Understudy on August 11th. During this rehearsal, there were introductions, presentations from designers and director, and the actors read the script together for the first time ever; after that, Michael Mendelson (director) and Gavin Hoffman (actor) began working through the monologue that opens the show.

We offered our Fresh Eyes a list of questions that they could either use or ignore to spark their observations: How did the rehearsal line up with your expectations? What was the most surprising thing you saw or heard today? What did you notice about the way people work, and how do they interact with each other? What do you think will be the trickiest part of the show to pull off? Their responses could be in whatever form was easy for them – paragraphs, bullet points, scribbles on cocktail napkins. Their responses exceeded our greatest expectations -- very thoughtful and probing! Here are a few excerpts from their comments, but you can read their full responses here.

[It] was interesting to see the chemistry of the actors start to take shape.  Jake and Roxanne kind of gave each other a hesitant, flirty kind of look when the script called for them to kiss, versus the in-the-eyeballs, direct look between Roxanne and Harry when their turn to kiss came up.  It was a little bit like a fencing match — each person confident, but feinting and parrying here and there. – Trish Garner

The way Gavin Hoffman read “Harry” was great. My impression of Harry was less confident/sarcastic, more of a defeated character/loser, when I read the script. I liked him much better when I heard how Gavin presented it. – Katrin Kasper

Intrigued by Michael's suggestion to explore film noir storytelling & sound tracks. And his emphasis on following the playwright's punctuation, full stops, pauses, etc reminiscent of finding the rhythm in Shakespeare's poetry & prose. – Bonnie Keling

Each individual shared his or her take on the ideals as well as the challenges for this play, and boy, let me tell you, there are plenty of the latter. The Understudy is a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to the set, which is, as was stated by many, an important character in and of itself in this play. – Alan Scott Holley

Although the humor in the script obviously helps, it will be challenging not to make this play too heavy, too preachy.  But human, approachable.   Particularly because it is a play about actors talking about acting. – Trish Garner

I kept wondering about the set design and what it will look like on stage; I guess everybody tried to picture it. It’s kind of funny that it seems to be a challenge to create a theatre atmosphere in a theatre. – Katrin Kasper

Questions I have are: 1. Does the pseudonym 'Robert Merrill (sp.)' have meaning or ....? 2. What does the gun represent?  Is it a red herring? – Bonnie Keling

 [The director’s] behavior was indicative of what I’m sure is a well-known fact among directors: you can read and study a play for weeks, but as soon as you’ve got actors in the room reading and providing their own interpretation, the game changes. – Alan Scott Holley

In a couple of weeks, our Fresh Eyes will be back in the rehearsal room to watch some scene work and a run through of the play. We’re looking forward to sharing those observations with you!