The Understudy

The Understudy Playgoers Guide


UPSTAGE: Guides for Playgoers

For select productions, Education@Roundabout creates an issue of Upstage, a guide designed to enhance the theatre going experience. Each Upstage features interviews with the actors, designers and directors from the production as well as contextual information about the play itself and activities for use by educators.

The Understudy (0.8MB PDF)

Interview with the Director (800KB PDF)
Interview with Julie White (100KB PDF)
Interview the Playwright (250KB PDF)
Interview with the Set Designer (200KB PDF)
The World of the Play (250KB PDF)
Vocabulary (100KB PDF)

Activities (100KB PDF)
Activity: What makes something funny?
(40KB PDF)
Activity: How can we learn about setting and character through text analysis?
(40KB PDF)
Activity: Connections between Franz Kafka and Theresa Rebeck
(40KB PDF)
Activity: Clues in the dialogue from the play
(40KB PDF)
Activity: The power structure of your school (40KB PDF)
Activity: How we behave in different circumstances (40KB PDF)

Related Categories:
2008-2009 Season, The Understudy, Upstage

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For many years, I have been hoping to bring Theresa Rebeck and her work to Roundabout, and I’m thrilled to finally have this opportunity to share her wit and wisdom with you through The Understudy. Theresa has long been one of our most prolific and gifted contemporary playwrights. What sets Theresa apart is not just the simple humanity of her characters and the impeccable structure in each individual play, but the scope of her work and her no-fear approach to tackling different genres. She has written the comedies Spike Heels and Bad Dates, the modernized Greek tragedy The Water’s Edge, the thriller Mauritius, and the post-9/11 political satire Omnium Gatherum, co-authored with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. While so many writers are easily pigeon-holed, Theresa continues to be absolutely surprising with each new project, defying definition while maintaining high quality. This is no easy feat, but Theresa pulls it off with aplomb.

The Understudy could be considered Theresa’s “backstage” play. The story takes us into rehearsal for a hit Broadway show, in which a hot action movie star (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is trying to make his mark and the new understudy’s (Justin Kirk) tangled past with the stage manager (Rebeck veteran and Tony-winner Julie White) leads to trouble both hilarious and heart-breaking. Best of all, the play they’re working on is a long-lost Franz Kafka masterpiece. Needless to say, though no one morphs into a giant cockroach, this simple rehearsal gets very complicated.

Director Scott Ellis (Roundabout’s Associate Artistic Director) has been with this play from the very beginning, when he staged a reading of it here in May of 2008. My artistic partnership with Scott has long been one of the most rewarding in my career. With work at Roundabout including Streamers, Twelve Angry Men, 1776, and She Loves Me, Scott is always a strong guiding force for a production, and I know that he will bring ingenuity to the funny, fantastical world that Theresa has created in The Understudy.

Bringing you new plays from established playwrights is an important part of Roundabout’s mission, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to share the newest work from one of our best modern writers on the Laura Pels Theatre’s stage. With a new play, it is always particularly interesting to hear your thoughts on the production, so I hope that you’ll continue to share your opinions with me on this blog.

I look forward to seeing you at the theater!

Todd Haimes

Related Categories:
2009-2010 Season, The Understudy


For the Love of Actors – Interview with Theresa Rebeck


Playwright Theresa Rebeck offers a funny
Valentine to dramatic art with The Understudy.

Theresa Rebeck photo: Monique Carboni

Theresa Rebeck photo: Monique Carboni

"The show must go on...." Few theatregoers realize what it takes to make that old cliché come true. One thing that makes many a show go on when it really shouldn't is a well-rehearsed understudy. When a lead performer can't take the stage, another actor boldly steps in. It's all kind of heroic, actually. Theresa Rebeck’s newest play, The Understudy, set during a Broadway understudy rehearsal for a fictional play based on the writings of Franz Kafka, displays her affection for actors' willingness to shed emotional blood for our benefit.
... Read More →

Related Categories:
2009-2010 Season, Front & Center, The Understudy

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