Festival Announces External Understudies
Many may not be familiar with what it actually takes to prepare to be an understudy. What is an understudy and what does it mean to be an external understudy? The Festival announces these external understudies who will work behind the scenes this season to prepare roles for which they may or may not ever be asked to perform. These artists studies the lines, movements, staging, exits/entrances, costume changes, and if needed, music and choreography of another performer in the event they must fill in, so that the show can go on!
This group of actors are called external understudies because their focus is preparing these assigned understudy roles only. While they are incredibly important to the process, they are not cast in productions this season, though some do have other positions within the Festival.
Nick Denhalter will understudy Dennis, Jonathan, and Trevor in The Play That Goes Wrong, plus Cominius/Citizen in Coriolanus and Lucius/Hortensius in Timon of Athens. Denhalter graduated from Southern Utah University with a BFA in classical acting. He has performed at Southern Utah University, Iron Stage Theatrical, and Off the Cuff Comedy. Denhalter has been in the Festival’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2011, To Kill a Mockingbird in 2012, and King Lear and The Sound of Music last season.
Derek Charles Livingston is currently the Interim Artistic Director and Director of New Play Development at the Festival. After playing Thurgood in Thurgood last season, he will return to the stage to understudy for Bob/Moving Crew in A Raisin in the Sun, which he is also directing. Livingston received a BA in theatre arts from Brown University and an MFA in film production and direction from University of California-Los Angeles School of Theater, Film, and Television. He received the New Hampshire Drama Award for Best Actor and has played Tupolski in The Pillowman, Simon in The Whipping Man, and Nat Turner in Insurrection: Holding History, to name a few of his roles.
Rita Martin will understudy Lena Younger (Mama) and Mrs. Johnson in A Raisin in the Sun, as well as Mrs. Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical. She is affiliated with Christians in Theatre Arts and has performed at Hale Center, The Grand Theater, and University of Utah’s Babcock Theater and Black Box Theatre.
Lawrence Mbaki will understudy George Murchison and Joseph Asagai in A Raisin in the Sun. This is his second season at the Festival, having been in Much Ado About Nothing.
Darci Ramirez will understudy Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as serve as dramaturg for A Raisin in the Sun. She received a BFA in acting from Brigham Young University and was a KCACTF Irene Ryan Award Finalist. She is a director, actor, dramaturg, and has done voice-over work. She has been involved in productions with Salt Lake Acting Company, Brigham Young University, the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts, Harrington Center for the Arts, and Utah Valley Artists. Previously at the Festival, Ramirez was the seminar manager from 2018-2022 and an assistant dramaturg last season for King Lear, Sweeney Todd, The Sound of Music, and The Tempest, as well as understudying in All’s Well That Ends Well.
Jacob Sorling will understudy Understudy for Aufidius/Nicanor/Titus Lartius/Citizen in Coriolanus and Timon/Servilius/Ventidius/Factotumus/Soldier in Timon of Athens. Last season, he understudied Caliban and others, and actually went on for Sebastian, Trinculo, and Ferdinand in The Tempest. Sorling has performed at The Second City Hollywood, The Pack, and Rise Comedy and received a BA from Adams State University. His film credits include Inch Thick Knee Deep and Death Parts Us.
Elise Thayn will understudy for Junius Brutus/Virgilia/Valeria/Citizen in Coriolanus and Apemantus/Flaminius/Isadore/Jeweller/Poet/Soldier in Timon of Athens. Last season, she played Mariana in All’s Well That Ends Well and was an understudy for Miranda, Ariel, Antonio and others in The Tempest. She has been in The Tempest, The Wolves, Cabaret, and Mother Courage and Her Children at Southern Utah University, where Thayn also received a BFA in Theatre Arts.
The 2023 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 21 to October 7 and includes Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical, A Raisin in the Sun, The Play That Goes Wrong, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and backstage tours. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting bard.org.