Understudy OnDec 21, 2022
My college buddy Tony Crane recently made his Broadway debut, and I was so very fortunate to be in attendance to witness this extraordinary and well-earned career achievement.
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was in NY for less than 24 hours for a work trip, and my visit fortunately coincided with this particular performance. But for Tony’s sake, this is not a “right place at the right time” tale. This is a story of hard work, talent, preparation, resilience, and a genuine love and passion for one’s craft. This is a life-long journey not for the faint of heart. This is years and years of preparation, rehearsals, and discipline all coming to fruition on stage at the historic Helen Hayes Theater, under the bright lights of Broadway.
Tony is a wonderful, gifted, and successful actor who has stayed committed and true to his work as an artist for over 35 years. Since we graduated college in the early ‘90s, his trust in the process hasn’t wavered, which is not an easy task in an industry full of setbacks, challenges, and constant rejection. This is one of the many reasons why witnessing this career moment - this Broadway debut - was so encouraging and inspiring on so many levels.
This career milestone is even more profound when you take into account that Tony accepted this role with zero guarantees he would ever step on stage for a real performance in front of a real audience. How, you might ask, does that work? Who would accept that role? What kind of strange deal is this? Well, the theater is a unique and strange industry, full of hold-ons, almosts, maybes, and mights. Simply put, there are no guarantees in this industry, especially if the role you accepted is as an understudy.
The name itself says it all. The understudy must study under the main actors. The understudy must know every line, every movement, and every action of the role - or roles - they are supporting. The understudy must stay in the wings, behind the curtain, ready and willing to step in when called upon. The understudy must be prepared every performance, every night, ready and on call to take the stage…with no guarantee of ever actually performing the role. Think about that. How many of us can honestly say we would commit so much time and effort to something that may never even come to fruition?
When I think about it this way, I’m truly in awe of the preparation, the discipline, the humility, and the mindset of an understudy. As leaders, coaches, and educators, we can all learn from this approach. We must be ready and always prepared. We must honor and respect the other roles around us. We must provide whatever is necessary for the company, staff, team, cast to succeed.
We must know our role and do all of this with the understanding, the humility, the awareness, and the preparation that our names may not always be called, and things may not always go our way.
Thankfully, for this production, Tony’s name was called, and things went his way. He got the word that he was going on, and when the curtain rose, the understudy was no longer back-stage, waiting in the wings. The years of hard work, rehearsals, preparation, rejection, success, respect for the process, and a genuine love and passion for the craft…was on full display. On this unforgettable night, for this magnificent performance, at the historic Helen Hayes Theater on Broadway, J. Anthony Crane took center stage…and he was on!
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