The Understudy’s Journey

By Kevin Lowry, understudy for all male roles except Cyrano

A typically unnoticed, behind-the-scenes role of the theatrical process is the understudy. For this production of Cyrano, I have the privilege of being the understudy for the roles of Christian, Le Bret, De Guiche, Ragueneau, De Valvert, Ligniere and Desiree. (Basically, all of the male roles except for the lead.) A mammoth task by any measure, to not only memorize all the lines, the blocking, a song, and swordplay, but also to be able to bring each character to life in its own unique way.

I began this assignment by reading the play over and over, to try and get a handle on each character track and how they fit into the overall story of Cyrano.  Then I started working on the lines: a job I can equate to drinking from a fire hose.  Pacing myself and focusing on one character at a time was the only way I could manage it. I spent hours recording the lines and cues to be able to hear them aloud and help me get them into my head. I consider myself a very kinesthetic person, so walking through the blocking with the lines really helps solidify them for me and helps me get the character into my body.

Learning the sword-fighting choreography has been a challenge. Working fight choreography by oneself is difficult.  The dance of a sword fight is different with each partner, and since I’m playing multiple fighting roles, I can’t practice swinging a sword against myself! The lack of a combat partner to practice with makes it a unique test of my skills.

I have had the opportunity to “walk” a few characters through the course of the rehearsal process, and that has helped immensely with learning those scenes.

All in all, I am excited to be climbing this mountain of an acting challenge, and I will be ready to jump in should the opportunity present itself. That being said, I ask the cast to stay healthy, take your B12 and vitamin C, and get plenty of rest.

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