The Show Must Go On: Freshman Understudy Rises to The Occasion

Eva Hendricks '11 and Max Samuels '11 perform in "Curtains." Hedricks was able to return to the show for their second performance.

Four hours before the opening night of “Curtains,” Eva Hendricks ’11, who plays Carmen Bernstein as the lead role, was sent to the emergency room after reporting abdominal pains after Thursday night’s preview.

Hendricks was unable to perform on opening night on Friday, which left only one other option. Understudy Sydney Robinson ’14 to play the part.

All actors were shocked when they received the call to arrive at Staples a half hour earlier than expected. But no one was more shocked than Robinson herself. “When I heard, I went straight into hyperventilation. I was so scared!” Robinson said. “I was scared for Eva being in the hospital and scared about falling flat on my face in front of a nearly sold out audience.”

Luckily, even as a freshman, Robison took her role as an understudy seriously and was ready to perform. “She knew about 90% of the lines, blocking and choreography,” said Kerry Long, wife to director David Roth.

Cast members were impressed with her preparation as well. “This was an enormous part that she had to put on, and it was amazing how prepared she was,” Tyler Jent ’13 said. Jent plays the part of Aaron Fox in the show.

There was just one small problem; Robinson had never had the opportunity to perform her new part from start to finish. With a matter of hours to spare, the entire cast and crew of “Curtains” got working.

The costume crew went to work on altering Hendricks’ costumes for Robinson. The directors changed some last minute blocking, and the cast members ran through Robinson’s scenes for the first time together.

“[The other actors] all helped me so much, whether it be catching a line I missed or just giving me their support,” Robinson said. “They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met.”

The time to rehearse had come and gone, and it was time for Robinson to step foot on stage as the new Carmen Bernstein.

“To my knowledge an understudy has never gone on in a role this large- at least not in the last 25 years,” Roth said. But Robinson filled these large shoes perfectly as she wowed the audience opening night.

“We were so incredibly proud of how everyone banded together to make it work – it is a real testament to the organization and to these kids ability to roll with the punches like pros,” Long said.

The “Curtains” cast was happy to hear that Hendricks would be returning to the spotlight for the rest of the performances, but not before Robinson received her much deserved standing ovation.

Robinson gave the performance of a lifetime; at the ripe age of 14, she delivered a sensational performance for the award-winning theater program. Robinson sets a new standard and will be an inspiration for all future understudies to come.