by Morgan Siobhan Green
My journey to Be More Chill is a marker for me: It’s the beginning of me accepting myself. I was brought on to Be More Chill during the transfer to Broadway. Full disclosure, I hadn’t seen the show before I went in. It was sort of a relief and freedom in not knowing what the show had already decided what its four women should be. Instead, I just brought me, which was apparently enough.
I can honestly say I had an awesome time during the audition process. I went in to my final call with a Harry Potter Crop Top, Jeans, and a joke. I am so glad I decided to be comfy and me. Also, reaffirm my freedom of expression since my final call was on my birthday. I made some very freeing and expressive and got to sing “Smartphone Hour” with the Joe Iconis, who is as nice as he is talented.
I cover all four women in the show: Chloe, Brooke, Jenna, and Christine. It’s been an amazing process to go from not seeing the show to now being in it. I remember rehearsal and going, “Oh. That’s what happening and now I have to learn it. Four versions of it.”
I learned so much about myself and the need for me to be myself throughout this journey. That’s easier said than done. This industry treats us like we’re replaceable. That’s not entirely false but none of us are the same. Each of us brings something different to the table. I truly believe that.
To date, I’ve been on twice. For the same role: Jenna Rolan calling! Stepping into the shoes of Tiffany Mann is quite a daunting thing. She has a throat from Pluto. Like, her voice is ridiculous! The amazing thing about the creatives would be their expectations of any of the Standbys/Understudies. We will never be like the ten onstage. They will never be like us. Instead, we embrace the different interpretations and the fact that the fans of this show root for uniqueness of the sixteen. I think that sends an important message to what a show can do. It can make space for all kinds of people to be themselves.
I would have to say fittings are crazy for an understudy. I have like forty costume pieces and it’s a lot. I have been told I have the most wigs in the cast and they’re all pretty stellar. Our wig designer Dave Bova did a fantastic job at acknowledging who and what I am in his designs. A black woman has only played one of the four roles. If I ever go on for the other three, it’ll be something magical for fans that are African-American. They’ll actually get to see someone like them onstage, in costume, and playing a character they love regardless of how they looked.
I will never forget the day news broke with the Broadway cast. I almost immediately got fan art. None of the kids drew me as Jenna. They were so imaginative and excited at the possibility of me playing any of the other roles. Our fans give me so much hope for the future of the world. We are definitely moving in the right direction. Slowly but surely.
People always ask, “What’s it like?” You know, I understood the understudy part but they are NOT playing when they say standby. Which leads me to say, I guess I also expected to feel ready at all times. Ha. That’s hilarious. Instead, I’m learning to embrace the adrenaline and rush of doing the show and not knowing everything. I can only control what I can control. What I can control are knowing my lines, where I stand, and being there in the moment. I honestly don’t know what I expected. It’s Broadway, every theatre performers dream. I can say this: I have fun in understudy rehearsal and that chaos is…quite indescribable. I try to play as many roles at once as I can. It keeps me on my toes. Sometimes I literally have to ask myself “Who am I right now?” I can say what I love about our show is the human interaction. I never feel too far away from the community that enjoys our little skit. The kids are so invested. The parents are so invested. Often times, it seems like a show is trying to grow a fan base: not ours. They’re the reason why we get to do what we do. It’s a reminder to me of what theatre is and should be. It should be made because there’s a need and people want to see it.
I can honestly say what I love about our show is the human interaction. I never feel too far away from the community that enjoys our show. The kids are so invested. The parents are so invested. Oftentimes, it seems like a show is trying to grow a fan base: not ours. They’re the reason why we get to do what we do. It’s a reminder to me of what theatre is and should be. It should be made because there’s a need and people want to see it. You know, I understood the understudy part, but they are not playing when they say standby.
Which leads me to say, I guess I also expected to feel ready at all times. Ha. That’s hilarious. Instead, I’m learning to embrace the adrenaline and rush of doing the show and not knowing everything. I can only control what I can control. What I can control is knowing my lines, where I stand, and being there in the moment.
I can honestly say the play is the same. The joy is the same. Listening in the show is so important. As an understudy/standby, I may never fully feel prepared, but I trust my cast mates.
Every week, I make an effort to go see company members whose dressing rooms are far from mine. Just to connect and say hello. I want to look at them. Check on them. I don’t want to be on stage with strangers. I know that’s not always the case but in this case, it is. There are sixteen of us total. There’s nothing wrong with me wanting to check on my co-workers and the crew.
As a new Broadway performer, I root for everyone. I hope I never go on because someone is sick or hurt. I believe that gracefulness is the most important trait a person in my position should have. I’ve equated all humans to having flashlights. It’s so easy to turn yours on and flash it on yourself. There’s beauty in knowing when to shine your light on others in good faith that when it is your turn, undeniably your turn, they’ll shine their light on you.
I am grateful for this experience and what its teaching me. It’s teaching me about moments, gracefulness, and the need for theatre by the people for the people. Broadway can and should be both.