AskDefine | Define understudy

Dictionary Definition

understudy n : an actor able to replace a regular performer when required [syn: standby] v : be an understudy or alternate for a role [syn: alternate] [also: understudied]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Verb

  1. to study or know a role to such an extent as to be able to replace the normal performer when required
  2. to act as an understudy (to someone)

Noun

  1. a performer who understudies; a standby

Extensive Definition

An understudy is a theatrical term for someone who learns the lines and blocking/choreography of a leading actor or actress in a theatrical play. Should the lead actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness or accident, the understudy takes over the part. Usually, when the understudy takes over, the theater manager will make the announcement prior to the start of the performance.
Several actors made their name in show-business by being the understudy of a leading actor and taking the role over for several performances (an example being, Sir Anthony Hopkins with Sir Laurence Olivier, when Olivier became ill with cancer during the run of the National Theatre's The Dance of Death, 1967).
More recently, the term "understudy" has generally only been applied to performers who will cover a part, but still regularly perform in another role within the show; usually a minor, extra role. Performers who are only committed to covering a part and do not regularly appear in the show are often referred to as standbys. Standbys are normally required to sign-in and remain at the theater the same as other cast members, although sometimes they may call in, until they are released by the Production Stage Manager. If there is no doubt about the health of the actor being "covered," or there are no hazardous stunts to be performed, a standby may be released at the first intermission if not before. At times, standbys are required to stay within a certain area around the theatre (10 blocks in New York City is a common standard). The standby must also have a cell phone so that at any time they can be called to the theatre.
The term is also regularly applied in association football, most often to describe a second choice goalkeeper whose appearances are limited to when the regular first choice player is absent through injury or suspension. A notable example is Chris Woods as long term understudy to Peter Shilton for the England national football team.
In musical theatre, the term swing is often used to refer to a member of the company who understudies several chorus and/or dancing roles.
In the opera world, the term used is cover or covering.
understudy in German: Einspringer
understudy in Dutch: Understudy

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

act for, advocate, agent, alter ego, alternate, alternative, amicus curiae, analogy, answer for, appear for, attorney, back up, backup, backup man, bit player, champion, change, change places with, changeling, commission, comparison, copy, counterfeit, crowd out, cut out, deputize, deputy, displace, double, double for, dummy, equal, equivalent, ersatz, exchange, executive officer, exponent, extra, fake, figurant, figurante, figurehead, fill in for, fill-in, front for, ghost, ghostwrite, ghostwriter, imitation, lieutenant, locum, locum tenens, makeshift, metaphor, metonymy, mute, next best thing, paranymph, personnel, phony, pinch hitter, pinch-hit, pinch-hit for, pleader, procurator, proxy, relief, relieve, replace, replacement, represent, representative, reserve, reserves, ringer, second, second in command, second string, secondary, sign, spares, speak for, spear-carrier, spell, spell off, stand in for, stand-in, standby, sub, subrogate, substituent, substitute, substitute for, substitution, succedaneum, succeed, supe, super, supernumerary, supersede, superseder, supplant, supplanter, support, supporting actor, supporting cast, surrogate, swap places with, symbol, synecdoche, third string, token, understudy for, utility man, utility player, vicar, vicar general, vice, vice-president, vice-regent, vicegerent, walk-on, walking gentleman
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