QUACKENBUSH: You can ask questions; but, most of the time, it's your job to figure it out. You don't have the luxury of a six-week rehearsal process where you talk to the director. The stage manager gives you the blocking and the basics, and it's your job to come up with it on your own. If they see that something is missing, they will give you notes.
DAVIDSON: They brought in the standbys when A Moon for the Misbegotten began previews. We rehearse with our stage manager on Thursdays and Fridays, from 1 to 5pm. We don't use costumes or properties, we don't sit around discussing the play. There's no feedback. Our job is to get up on the part so we can go on.
MASENHEIMBER: None of the rehearsals are about acting. It's all about logistics.
TM: How do you make the role your own while satisfying the needs of the other actors?
MASENHEIMER: I try very hard not to imitate Mandy. But it's written for him, with his voice in mind; I can only be myself to a certain degree. You have to be in the right place because of the lights, and you have to follow the same tempos because of the orchestra, and you have to keep similar rhythms in the scenes because you don't want to mess up anybody else's show. Meanwhile, you try to be yourself. It's crazy.
DAVIDSON: A standby never owns a character, because it belongs to someone else. I'm not going to be Roy Dotrice, although I'll be close to what he's doing. I watch the show, hear his rhythm.
QUACKENBUSH: It's difficult. You watch the show and, almost by osmosis, somebody's line readings can get into your body without even wanting them to. You have to fight against it. In the rehearsal process, little by little you start to find your own.
TM: How do you keep your performance energy ready when you're not on every night?
QUACKENBUSH: When that beeper goes off, something clicks in.
MASENHEIMER: I was out on my balcony in shorts painting a piece of furniture. It was 6:30, I hadn't shaved in two days, hadn't had dinner. The phone rang and they said, "You're on." I had paint on my hands; I had to shave, shower, and warm up, run through the show in my head and get to work. If you do a show every day and you're playing a role, your whole day is based on that eventuality. Somehow, your energy follows a certain arc to get there. So this is odd, because you don't want to put yourself on that arc if it's not gonna be the destination. You can't build up all that energy and then have to go sit in the basement of the theater.
TM: Why do you stand by?
MASENHEIMER: It's full of frustration. It's not easy. I never get warning. But it's George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa. It's completely an honor. Standing by for Mandy Patinkin is not too shabby.
DAVIDSON: I'm working on Broadway. I'm getting a decent week's pay that counts for my pension and unemployment. I also do it because I want to get close to a part that's great.
QUACKENBUSH: I miss doing eight shows a week and creating something from the beginning. Yet it's a great part. Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun--it doesn't get much better than that! Every time I go on, it's a rush.