The Department of Theatre students have the opportunity to work and audition for Pioneer Theatre shows located on the U campus. Students have been cast at all levels from regular roles to understudies. Students also have the opportunity to work backstage as dressers for their productions. Having this theatre on campus gives student the chance to meet people in the theatre community and see a behind the scenes look of professional productions.
Two student from the Department of Theatre were cast as swings in Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of The Last Ship. Swings are members of a cast who don’t go on every night, but they are prepared to go on for any of the ensemble roles they are assigned to. They have to be within 10 minutes of driving from the theatre when a show is happening in case someone in the cast cannot perform.
Jamie is from San Jose, California and has been doing theatre from a very young age. This was her first time being a swing, but not her first production at Pioneer Theatre, she was recently seen in Pioneer’s Count of Monte Cristo. “It was scary, but was a great learning experience,” Jamie said. She auditioned for The Last Ship and got called back for the part of Meg, but knew she was too young to play that part. She was offered the part of a swing and knew she would regret it if she didn’t take it.
As a swing, Jamie covered all of the female ensemble member’s tracks. “During the rehearsal process if a cast member was sick, I would have to cover roles I wasn’t originally assigned to, which was crazy,” she said. Even though she wasn’t in the show every night, she never felt like she wasn’t part of the cast, “sometimes being a part of what you love is enough.” She said that this skill set is something she is going to be able to take with her for jobs for the rest of her life.
Bailey got a little taste of what it’s like to be a swing when he was in Young Frankenstein at The Grand Theatre in 2015. “Being a swing was daunting, enlightening, and most of all hard,” Bailey said. He started doing children’s theatre when he was young and in high school he started thinking about pursuing a career in theatre.
He covered seven tracks in The Last Ship, two of which were speaking parts. It takes a highly organized person to be a swing, so he used the two scrips, one for making notes and the other to organize and color-code the blocking for the various characters he covered. The best-case scenario the swing will brush up on the part before going onstage, but that is not always the case, in case of an emergency the swing might have to go in immediately and rely on their memory and practice or the script.
During the production of The Last Ship nobody got sick or injured, so Jamie and Bailey never had to go on for a role. The director let them perform four of the ensemble scenes during the final performance and they got to take the last bow with the entire cast, an experience both Jamie and Bailey were grateful to have. Being a swing is not easy, but hard work can pay off in the end.
by Kim Davison