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Staples Players: The Drama Never Ends

There’s something about opening night and Staples Players.

Last fall, director David Roth’s daughter Lucy was born 17 minutes after the curtain rose on “Guys and Dolls.”  That wouldn’t have been so bad — except associate director Kerry Long is David’s wife (and Lucy’s mother).

This year’s fall production is “Curtains.”  Everyone was excited about last Friday’s opening night (and Lucy’s 1st birthday the next day).  Rehearsals had gone well; music, costumes and choreography clicked; tickets sold briskly.

But right after Thursday’s preview, Eva Hendricks — who plays Carmen Bernstein, a leading role in the clever show-within-a-show — had bad stomach pains.

She saw a doctor on Friday.  He sent her right to the emergency room, with possible appendicitis.

Roth and Long got the news at 3:30 p.m. — 4 hours before “Curtains'” curtain.  They quickly called the other actors in to rehearse scenes with Eva’s understudy, Sydney Robinson.

Make that, freshman Sydney Robinson.

Sydney Robinson (Carmen Bernstein) and Max Samuels (Lt. Frank Cioffi) in "Curtains." (Photo by Kerry Long)

Fortunately, Sydney had done her understudy homework.  She knew virtually all of her lines, blocking and choreography.

“That was a major feat,” Long says. “She had never really rehearsed her role before — there isn’t time to do that with understudies.  They’re responsible for knowing their own lines and blocking.

“Usually, understudies just fill in if an actor is out sick during rehearsals.  This was remarkable.”

Last-minute craziness included alterations to Eva’s many costumes, and some minor changes to blocking.

But Sydney stepped up and into the role, big-time.  She wowed the audience — and her fellow actors.

She had help, of course.  Actors Max Samuels, Matt Van Gessel and Ryan Shea supported Sydney by helping with a line or two, and guiding her around the stage when she was unsure of what to do.

Assistant director Gwen Beal assisted Sydney with each entrance backstage.

Still, it was Sydney’s role — and she nailed it.

“We are incredibly proud of how everyone banded together to make it work.  It’s a real testament to the organization, and to the ability of these kids to roll with the punches like pros,” Long says.

Roth and Long have had understudies for roles that are single-cast — but no one has actually ever had to go on.

Eva Hendricks and Max Samuels in the same roles. (Photo by Kerry Long)

“It was exciting for the kids to see that being an understudy is serious business,” Long says.  “It’s not something you can just blow off.”

Roth made a rare about Sydney announcement before the show.  During final bows the audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation — and the cast responded with equally rare applause of their own.

Fortunately for Eva, she does not have appendicitis.  She returned Saturday night, and wowed the crowd.

This coming weekend, Sydney Robinson is once again an understudy.  But she — and every Staples Player — now knows that, whatever it takes, the show must go on.

Even with Fortunately with, a freshman taking the lead.

(“Curtains” concludes its run this Friday and Saturday [Nov. 19 and 20] at 7:30 p.m.  For ticket information, click here.  Tickets will also be sold this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Staples’ main entrance, from 12:30-2 p.m.  For more details, call 203-341-1310.)

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