Sunset Boulevard ensemblist Sean Thompson shares his crazy story of going on for the role of 'Artie' on Sunday - a role he neither plays, nor understudies.
"I was assigned the featured ensemble role of 'Artie Green' on my first day of rehearsal for Sunset Boulevard at DC's Signature Theatre. It was 2010. This was my first Sunset; there have been three. I was so excited! It was a small role in the ensemble, but it was pivotal to the plot - and this was my first big regional theatre job. I was 24. And proud of myself. But probably had room to grow."
"I also understudied the male lead, 'Joe Gillis.' I never went on for him at Signature, but I went on to play the role in 2014 at the Media Theatre near Philly. I was playing opposite (Broadway's) Ann Crumb (Aspects of Love, Anna Karenina, Chess, Les Mis); my buddy Patrick Ludt was playing 'Artie.' In playing with Patrick through that run, I remember thinking fondly back at 'Artie' and my pals in Signature's (amazing) production."
"A Broadway revival was announced. After ten months of taking a break from auditioning in New York (an activity not for the faint of heart), I knew I had to be seen for it. I annoyed Tara Rubin's office until I got an appointment to audition. I don't think I'm exaggerating there, I was pretty incessant. I think I missed the dates for a chorus call and, anyway - I got an appointment for the revival (thanks, @tararubincasting :D )."
"I ended up being cast as the understudy for 'Joe Gillis' - which was probably the single-greatest moment in my life so far. Again, exaggeration-free. Preston Truman Boyd (whom, at the time of this writing, I cherish) was cast as 'Artie.' I'm fairly certain I've told Preston, on more than one occasion and after more than one or more beverages of a particular variety, that after I saw his 'Artie,' I never wanted to see another. So, in short, I didn't have to learn 'Artie's' track at all. Just 'Joe.'"
"But when, on the final matinee of our fourth to last week, Preston was forced to call out with a rolled ankle and his understudy, sweet Barry Busby, was remarkably stuck in Europe after a series of plane cancellations and varied misadventures, someone had to play 'Artie.' I told Tim Semon, our lovably dry production stage manager, that I'd played 'Artie' six and a half years ago and could do it if he was stuck."
'"I am stuck. I need you to do it.'"
"I left for the theatre maybe two hours early and on my entire ride there, I got real actory and geeked out over considering who my 'Artie' *was.* I got my head out of the clouds real quick when it dawned on me that while I might be able to dig the lines of dialogue and music out of my brain, I'd had no idea what Preston actually does every night. What backstage traffic does he have? Where are his props? Where are his quick changes? Wait - are we the same size? WAIT - what am I wearing?"
"And - ooooh maybe I'll ask to wear glasses. But doesn't Siobhan ('Betty,' 'Artie's' fiancee) wear glasses? Wait - there are added lines for Preston that I didn't do at Signature. I'm going to run through them. On this train. To myself."
"Why is she looking at me like that?"
And on it went until I got to the theatre and honestly just decided to have a good time. I rehearsed music with Kristen Blodgette and Michael Patrick Walker; and we had a good time - there was a lot of laughing. I rehearsed with our dashing 'Joe,' Michael Xavier - and I remember a lot of laughing then, too. In fact, once the whole cast got together to run through our New Year's Eve number, I remember a lot of laughing. The spirit, while work-minded, was alive and refreshing. That's basically how these six months on Sunset Boulevard have been.""
"I was doing parts of my own track as well as playing 'Artie.' So, obviously, there were moments of OMG I WAS *THIS CLOSE* TO MISSING THE "CAR CHASE" and LOL I HAVE TO GO MOVE THIS COUCH BUT I'M WEARING A DISTRACTING HAWAIIAN SHIRT - PLEASE DISGUISE ME."
"But mostly, I remember a lot of laughing."