In her new documentary “The Standbys,” director-producer Stephanie Riggs shines a spotlight on three musical theater actors who have spent the majority of their Broadway careers as standbys or understudies. For them, not performing is part of the job. “The Standbys” is in select theaters Dec. 7.
What inspired you to make this film?
There’s a concert series called “At This Performance,” which features Broadway understudies. These guys are incredibly talented. I would never want to be in that position, and yet they put themselves in it day after day. They loved it and did it for the craft, the art, and the learning.
What did you learn while filming?
I think the best part about theater is when it reflects life, and when it shows you what you can do to live the most full life possible. I would look at these three and what they were going through, and it gave me strength as a person, not just as a filmmaker. What is the one role you are truly irreplaceable in? They were an inspiration to me.
Do you have advice for aspiring actors or directors?
You’re the only one that’s going to say, ‘This is worth doing. This is worth investing in. This is worth baring your soul for.’ You have to trust yourself and see it through, because no one else is going to do it for you. I was majoring in directing for the theater [at Carnegie Mellon], and my parents told all their friends I was majoring in unemployment.