Swings & Understudies?
Coping with COVID ala Broadway
Imagine replacing a key manager or leader with only 12 hours notice, due to illness?
Last week, Opening Night of the tour of “Come from Away” in Minneapolis had 7 of the 12 actors who were sick or exposed to COVID. It happened last week and the day was saved by Swings, Understudies and Alumni from previous tours and Broadway:
In addition to our work in the Learning field, we are also Broadway producers and it has been a wild and challenging time to “re-boot” theater as COVID continues to impact casts of shows. Luckily, professional theater is ready for an actor to be sick - with Swings and Understudies:
A SWING is an off-stage performer responsible for covering any number of ensemble tracks, sometimes as many as 12 or more roles.
An UNDERSTUDY is an ensemble member ready to take over a lead role in the show.
These are incredible roles filled by agile and amazing performers - who need to be ready to go on stage with just a few hours (or less notice). But, normally there are just one or two in a performance. With COVID tests performed almost every day on cast members, swings and understudies have been key. But, do we have that same ability in our corporate workplaces?
Our friend and colleague, Allie Trimm, had less than a day’s notice that she would be “on” as the replacement Glinda in the show Wicked on Broadway for the first time. Her parents flew a red-eye to come see her perform. On the top of this post is the small piece of paper audiences got with their programs that night - announcing Allie and many other Swings and Understudies on stage as replacements. (Note, Allie has performed on our Empathy Concerts last year and was a star of Allegiance with Telly Leung).
And, Allie Trimm was amazing - here is her picture as Glinda:
We should learn from Broadway’s readiness to adapt. Let’s think about how we can prepare our workforce to be our version of Swings and Understudies. Sure, it happens informally - but it is time for us to be more explicit in the Talent and Learning field. Plus, what a great development strategy.
Would love your thoughts about Swings and Understudies in the workplace. Send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in learning,