tandbys, understudies, and swings. What’s the difference? Bill and I watched The Standbys this week, and I found it fascinating. Having grown up in California, I possess barely a fraction of the connection that New Yorkers feel for theater. As far as I have generally been from Broadway, I love musical theater and live performances, and go on Broadway binges whenever I’m in the 212. Predictably, I’ve gotten heartbroken with the rest of them whenever a little birdie insert told me that a headliner actor would be replaced by a standby that night.
Watching Standbys, my heart just went out to every standby, understudy, and swing. The documentary follows the lives of three such professional actors, and oh, the knots their stories tie in your stomach! This is paycheck-to-paycheck and gig-to-gig like few industries know it. You get a humane, thoughtful glimpse into lives that we’ve all been conditioned to pay no attention to. Well-paced and well-edited, The Standbys was a great inclusion for SF IndieFest’s DocFest.
If you’re in a literary mood, I think I can recommend The Dangerous Animals Club by Stephen Tobolowsky. Who is Stephen Tobolowsky? He is a character actor that you have probably seen in a lot of stuff (Memento, Glee, Deadwood, Totally Baked…There is no rhyme or reason. What a resume!) but had no idea could spin a yarn offscreen. And his yarns are funny. DAC is the beautiful, deckle-edged incarnation of Tobolowsky’s podcasts. Though I have no doubts that he’s got a great voice for podcasts, it’s just really satisfying to hold a hardcover book with a woodgrain-embossed design in your hands. It feels significant and solid.
I haven’t actually read the book yet, but I lent it to Bill. DAC has tipped him into audible laughter daily, which I take is a good sign. I’m still slogging through Cloud Atlas (I’d be happy if I didn’t have to plow through another Adam Ewing chapter, but I’m also telling myself that his sections are boot camp and I need to suck it up.), but I look forward to reading DAC.
While I know it’s overwhelming to think about all the messages and information bombarding our minds every day, how lucky are we to have easy access to the back stories of forgotten people’s lives?