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Monday, March 9, 2009

Resume: Listing Understudy Credits

This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I posted an answer there that I wanted to repost here:

How does (or doesn't) one list a resume credit when the actor has prepared for a live production (several-day run), and at the last minute, had a medical emergency, and someone else stood in for the performances?

The original actor was cast, and rehearsed, but on opening night, someone had to pick up the role, and was able to pull off the part due to the nature of blocking (and having the "paper" as part of a prop)?

I guess this would be like if an understudy ended up going on in place of the original, but there was no understudy person per se.

TAE Responds:

This is a great question. Did the original actor perform in the role at all? If not, I would say that the replacement actor could list the role fully on their resume. If they only performed partial performances, or if they feel uncomfortable claiming the role outright, then they could list the credit as:

Name of Role (u/s, performed)

You could also ask the theater if they have a preference as to how to list it. I was in a similar situation once- I was doing South Pacific and the lead actor had to leave our show for a medical emergency during tech rehearsals. We did not have an understudy but I had played the role at another theater, so they asked me to step in. I did a few performances, but the lead actress came back in time to finish almost the whole run. The producer told me to just list the role by name (and leave understudy off) because he felt that I had earned the right to list it fully. So, asking the theater might not be a bad idea.

Now, it’s another situation for the actor who has been replaced:

This is, indeed, a tough one because 2 people technically have the right to say that they earned the role. My gut tells me that in this case the actor should only put this on their resume IF they include a special mention of being replaced. If you look at IBDB (which is the internet database for Broadway shows) actors who have been replaced due to illness or injury are listed as "replaced before opening." (For example, visit and search for James Carpinello, who was injured while doing Xanadu.)

If you have any doubts or questions you can, again, contact the theater and see if they have any suggestions. The most important thing is that you have someone to vouch for you if someone decides to call the theater to inquire about your credit (it rarely happens, but it has happened to me in the past.) You want your resume to be as honest and up front as possible, because casting folks can sniff out a fib immediately.

Hope this is helpful. I couldn't tell from your post if this is something that happened to you or a friend, but either way I think congratulations are in order!

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below! Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out

9 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Unknown said...

interesting, thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this--this happened to me. I've been wondering how to list it. Not involved with the show at all, I was called two hours before performance to replace an actor who got sick. We rehearsed briefly, and I went on on book the first day, then fully memorized after that. I did 1/4 of the run, with the original actor doing shows before and after me. So far I have listed the part with the notation "sub," because neither understudy nor replacement seemed to fit, and I wonder whether the theatre itself has any record of this event.

Erin Cronican said...

So glad this blog was useful for you- and congratulations on being available at a moment's notice!

Unknown said...

This was really helpful, thank you. I only ended up going on for half a show, but without any rehearsal, so feel I can use (u/s performed). Thanks again!

~kahana~ said...

thank you for posting this - we're in the middle of a four-week run, and one of the principals had a medical emergency after the first weekend. We didn't have any understudies, but as AD/SM, was basically off book on everyone's lines, blocking, etc., so I was asked to step in last week, and again this week. There's a very real chance the principal may not be able to return, in which case i will finish out the run. I'm really uncomfortable with how to put this on my résumé, so your advice (i.e., u/s, performed, and checking with the theatre) is very, very helpful!!!

Erin Cronican said...

HI, Kahana - I'm so glad this was useful for you. And congratulations!!! :)

~kahana~ said...

i really like your website, and followed a link to The Seeing Place Theatre - it sounds very interesting - infortunately i'm a continent and ocean away - hope to get there someday ! thank you again!!!

Anonymous said...

So, I am currently a swing, assistant dance captain, and understudying two roles in a production right now. I'm a little confused as to how to list this all on my resume. Also, I've been on in one of the understudy roles and not the other. Should I list these differently?

Erin Cronican said...

Hello! Thanks for your question. There are a couple of ways to list it, but the best way to be simple (and save space) is to only list the role you went on for and the dance captain. It can look something like this (the "|" note different columns):

Show Name | Role (U/S, performed)/Asst Dance Captain | Theater

If you end up going on as a swing, then you would decide which role is best suited for your resume (which one really matches your brand/type and the kind of roles you want to play) and then you would choose that one for your resume. As a swing, you'd list it as "Role (Swing, performed)"

Hope this helps!

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