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Under Studying

August 30, 1987

On behalf of the many talented "unknown" actors and "understudies" from Providence to Costa Mesa, I would like to comment on Dan Sullivan's implication that when understudies take over parts on Broadway (or anywhere), they are somehow of a lesser caliber than the "stars" or "names" they replace, and that they thus bring a "summer stock" quality to their performances ("Summer Stock in Big Apple," Aug. 23).

Usually these talented, hard-working understudies have been with the play since it first went into production, and Actors Equity requires constant understudy rehearsals so that the actors are prepared in the event they must take over a part. Sometimes, they may later even become stars themselves.

Dustin Hoffman was understudy to the young lead on Broadway in "The Subject Was Roses"; Faye Dunaway in "After the Fall"; Jane Alexander for Sandy Dennis in "A Thousand Clowns"; and Cloris Leachman in the Nellie Forbush role in "South Pacific." Were they any less talented then than they are now? Maybe less experienced.

If Hal Wallis didn't happen to catch the understudy the night she went on in "The Pajama Game" many years ago, Shirley MacLaine might be spending this August as an "unknown" performing the Rita Shaw "character part" in the same play in a little summer stock theater somewhere in Cape Cod.

You know what, though? She'd be the same hard-working, talented Shirley MacLaine.

PAUL SILVA

Tujunga

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