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NOTEBOOK: Quick — somebody call the understudy!


When I interviewed Paul Thelen recently about his role as co-director of the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center at the University of Iowa, we also talked about his theater experience. I asked him what his favorite role was while on a 20-city tour with the Nebraska Theatre Caravan. Turns out it wasn’t any particular role, but one memorable night when — with less than 24 hours’ notice — he had to fill in as understudy when the lead actor got sick on opening night with a sold-out house of 2,500 people at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. The part? Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” 

“It was a true actor’s nightmare,” Thelen recalled. “I had never actually performed the part; I had done kind of a walk-through, but that was it. He got better the next day. What was really great was they offered for me to play it again later in the tour, if I wanted to. I was kind of excited about it, but there was sort of a trickle-down effect with other people having to play different roles, and they weren’t so keen on doing that. It was an amazing experience.”

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