Understudies: The Unsung Heroes of the Theatre

Hannah Williams

Urinetown director, Coralyn Martin, has created an ensemble cast of understudy actors who will perform as a principal role in one performance each during the run of the production. I have asked understudy actress, Hannah Williiams, to speak on her experience with this unique production.

What role(s) are you an understudy for?

HANNAH: I am the understudy for Penelope Pennywise, which has been a role that I have wanted to perform since I was in the ensemble of this show in high school over 13 years ago. I am so thrilled to get to go on as this character.

What challenges have you faced in learning two roles for this production?

HANNAH: This is the first time that I have been an understudy, so it has been a challenge from the beginning, but an enjoyable one. I would say the biggest challenge has been making sure I know where I need to be and when. Learning lines is always kind of routine, you drill them until you can’t help but know them. But when you have to remember two sets of blocking, it can get tricky. Particularly when you don’t really get to run your understudy blocking as much during rehearsals.

Can you share a funny story and/or particularly fond memory you’ve made in this experience?

HANNAH: There are many small moments over the whole process of the show that I will hold very close to my heart. This is the first musical I have been able to do in close to 8 years, and it has been the most fun I’ve had in those 8 years. I believe I have made some lifelong friends. The people in this cast, and our incredible director and vocal director, have been such a joy to work with and are just so TALENTED. I think the memory that sticks out most to me would be callbacks, which most of the cast were invited to. I personally didn’t know anyone there at the time. During the callbacks everyone was incredibly welcoming and encouraging to each other. We would cheer for and laugh at each other, there was sharing of cough drops, and commiserating about how challenging certain parts were. There was no animosity or sense of competition, we were just all there to have fun. All of us just wanted to put on a great show, something that I believe we have definitely accomplished.

When can audiences see you as Penelope Pennywise?

HANNAH: I go on as Penelope Pennywise on Saturday September 17th. The show is going to be fantastic any night you come. Cora Hoaglin as Penelope Pennywise is hilarious, and special shout out to the talented Aaron Hoffman for coming into the show directly from Lil’ Abner to be my understudy for Senator Fipp so I can go on as Penelope Pennywise.

Urinetown opens this Friday, September 9th, at the Roger T. Sermon Center. Tickets can be purchased in advance at:


Come back on different nights to see these talented understudies portray their principal roles.

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