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Dictionary Meaning and Definition on 'Understudy'

Understudy Meaning and Definition from WordNet (r) 2.0
    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]
Understudy Meaning and Definition from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
    Understudy \Un"der*stud`y\, v. t. & i. (Theater) To study, as another actor's part, in order to be his substitute in an emergency; to study another actor's part.
Understudy Meaning and Definition from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
    Understudy \Un"der*stud`y\, n. One who studies another's part with a view to assuming it in an emergency.
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Wikipedia Meaning and Definition on 'Understudy'

In theater, an understudy is a performer who learns the lines and blocking/choreography of a regular actor or actress in a play. Should the regular actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness or emergencies, 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.

In the opera world, the term used is cover or covering.

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 theater (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 theater.

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