A Big Undertaking

Spotlight players welcome understudies to the stage


Aniya Sparrow

SITTING PRETTY: Sitting on stage, Abby Meyers rehearses for the Saturday matinee. Due to their little stage access during most rehearsals, this time was extremely important for the understudies.

A new year, a new director, and a new show. 

The Spotlight Players’ production of “Blithe Spirit” was anything but ordinary. As the cast met on stage to rehearse, a small group met off-stage to rehearse by themselves. They read the same lines, did the same movements, and performed the same parts, but this show was entirely their own. 

Although this small group may have been known as “understudies,” their role was something much bigger. For the first time in school history, the understudies were given the chance to perform on their own. A Saturday matinee show created just for them.

Sophomore Savannah Heinz, the understudy for the role of Elvira, explains her experiences during rehearsal.

“At rehearsal, it’s been a lot [of] us understudies going into the house room and working around what we don’t have,” Heinz said. “We only have two guys and no guy understudy, so it’s a lot of filling [in] for parts that aren’t there.”

Senior Louis Jesse spends most of his time at rehearsal working with the understudies as stage manager.

“We basically do the same things the actors are doing,” Jesse said. “Sometimes they help the actors, or [the actors] help them learn their role better.”

Although the two casts spend a lot of time apart, they find plenty of time to work together according to freshman Abby Meyers, the understudy for Mrs. Bradman.

“When we were first learning blocking we would share notes,” Meyers said. “And a few times we’ve done a run-through and had [the actors] give us notes and advice on how we should play our role.”

Mentorship from the actors has also been a huge part of Heinz’s experience.

“I got very lucky in the fact that Kaylee Wright [who plays Elvira] is a good friend of mine,” Heinz said. “She sent me the Quizlet [with their lines] out of the kindness of her heart, which saved me about three hours of work.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Junior Kaylee Wright helps Savannah Heinz with her makeup. As Wright’s understudy, Heinz and Wright spend a lot of time together preparing for the show. (Aniya Sparrow)

Heinz has also reached out to other cast members on how to best portray the character of Elvira.

“Aniya Sparrow, another of the main cast who plays Edith, helped give me advice in tapping into the alluring side of my character,” Heinz said.

Jesse is proud of just how far the group has come over the course of rehearsal.

“I think they’re doing great for the time we have given them,” Jesse said. “But compared to the actors they might be a little behind…because they have limited stage time.”

Because of their limited access to the stage during rehearsal, Myers has found ways to rehearse at home. 

MAKEOVER TAKEOVER: As someone does her hair, Abby Meyers puts on her makeup for dress rehearsal. Putting on a show takes a lot of work from putting on makeup, dressing in costume, and getting the stage ready. (Aniya Sparrow)

“I mostly use Quizlet to memorize [lines], but I also read through the script in front of a mirror so I can watch my facial expressions,” Myers said.

Myers has found immense joy being a part of a show that is so unique, especially as a freshman.

“I think it’s such an amazing opportunity to be a part of FHC’s first understudy show as a freshman,” Myers said. “It’s so cool to know that [in] my first year here I’m a part of something that’s never happened before.”

According to Jesse, the understudy matinee showcases just how strong FHC’s theatre department is.

“It’s like having a two-for-one deal in the sense that the understudy show will be different from the cast show, showing the strength of our actors and our department,” Jesse said.

For Heinz, the understudy show has symbolized something bigger. It’s a chance for underclassmen and students newer to theatre to showcase their talents.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to bring in the next generation of actors and prime them to be better for the next shows,” Heinz said. “I’m proud to be a part of the show that presents the little guy, the one previously left behind.”