Jerry (Reed Birney), a quiet and dispirited middle-aged actor, works as a standby for an off-Broadway show. Facing financial woes and questioning his art, he spends the day in rehearsal with the stage manager (Saidah Arrika Ekulona) and his bored and uninspired fellow-understudies (Pat Nesbit, among others).
At curtain time, when the lead actor calls in sick, Jerry is thrust into the star's dressing room and a whirlwind of last minute preparations: makeup, costumes, and quick notes from Glenna, the leading lady (Christine Ebersole).
The curtain rises and, on cue, he walks onstage into the blazing lights to face not only an expectant audience, but also the possibility of a personal and artistic triumph — or failure.
Storyboard with script excerpt.
Standby is a very personal film for me. It's a story about the fear of failure, and the re-igniting of passion — for art and for life.
As a professional actor, I've been a standby, or understudy, many times in my career. While it can be a rewarding and challenging job, there are drawbacks: the anxiety of never knowing when you might, at a moment's notice, have to go on for another actor, giving your version of their performance of their role, and the ever-so-slight ego blow (even though you're compensated) of sitting on the sidelines.
This film is about some of the joys and heartaches of a standby's life.
Director, Screenwriter & Producer
Robert Gomes is a filmmaker and actor living in New York City. Standby will be the debut film from his new company For the Birds Productions.
He has been a professional actor for over thirty years, appearing on Broadway, in numerous off-Broadway shows (including Shmulnik's Waltz and The Temperamentals, both produced by Daryl Roth), many regional theater productions, and in film and TV.
As an understudy/standby, he's stood by for Paul Rudd, Mark Feuerstein, John Benjamin Hickey, Michael Cumpsty, Denis O'Hare, Robert Lupone, Todd Weeks and many others.
He produced the award-winning short film Deflated, directed by Dustin Shroff. He also produced segments for the online news magazine "Out at the Center," which was presented by The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City.
Upcoming projects will include a screen adaptation of the play We Were There (a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the gay rights movement); and he is co-writing a series, Rio House, with Dustin Shroff, set in Austin, Texas about a bohemian enclave.
Producer & Art Director
Dustin Shroff is a filmmaker and production designer based in Austin, TX.
Some of his most recent film and television design credits include Travis Mathew's Discreet, Lisa Donato's There You Are, Daniel Stuyck's The Eternal, and the Wanda Sykes-produced "Talk Show the Game Show." He has also designed commercial work for clients including AT&T, Facebook, Budweiser, Google, IBM, USAA, and Dell.
His award-winning short film Deflated played in more than thirty film festivals internationally, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Iris Prize. The film also received three distribution deals, and is part of Peccadillo Picture's Boys on Film anthology. Deflated is the first film in his Broken Arrow series: a group of stories exploring gender and sexuality through the eyes of Chris, a boy growing up in the suburban sprawl of the American Bible Belt.
Dustin is excited to bring his experience and love for filmmaking to the production of standby.
Daryl Roth is honored to hold the singular distinction of producing seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: Clybourne Park (Tony Award); August: Osage County (Tony Award); Anna in the Tropics; Proof (Tony Award); Wit; How I Learned to Drive; and Three Tall Women.
The proud recipient of ten Tony Awards and London’s Olivier Award, she has produced over 90 award-winning productions both on and off Broadway. Broadway productions include: Indecent; Annie; Bea Arthur on Broadway; Caroline, or Change; A Catered Affair; Come Fly Away; Coram Boy; The Country Girl; The Crucible; Curtains; A Delicate Balance; Desire Under the Elms; Deuce; Driving Miss Daisy; Fela!; The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award); The Humans (Tony Award); Inherit the Wind; Irena’s Vow; Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?; It Shoulda Been You; Kinky Boots (Tony Award, 2016 Olivier Award); Leap of Faith; A Little Night Music; Lucky Guy; Mary Stuart; Medea; The Normal Heart (Tony Award); One Man, Two Guvnors; A Raisin in the Sun; Salome, the Reading; Shuffle Along; Sylvia; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Thurgood; A Time To Kill; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; A View From the Bridge (Tony Award); War Horse (Tony Award); Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Year of Magical Thinking; and You Can’t Take It With You.
Her many off-Broadway credits include: The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey; The Baby Dance; Beckett/Albee; Buyer & Cellar; Closer Than Ever; Dear Edwina; Defying Gravity; Die, Mommie, Die!; Love, Loss, and What I Wore; Manuscript; My Name is Asher Lev; Not a Genuine Black Man; Old Wicked Songs; Olive and the Bitter Herbs; Our Lady of 121st Street; The Play About the Baby; Stars of David; Talking Heads; The Temperamentals; Thom Pain (based on nothing); Wiesenthal; and De La Guarda, which ran for 7 years as the inaugural production at the Daryl Roth Theatre, a landmark building on Union Square.
Film credits include the upcoming Custody starring Viola Davis; Albert Nobbs starring Glenn Close, directed by Rodrigo Garcia; the Emmy-nominated Dinner with Friends; The Lady in Question; A Very Serious Person written by Charles Busch; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; and My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story a documentary exploring the relationships of well known New Yorkers and their dogs.
Rob is an experienced designer for television, film and theatre. He began his career at the Walnut Street Theatre after graduating with a B.F.A. in Scene Design from Boston University. He then went to Actor's Theatre of Louisville where he worked with the nation's top designers including Ming Cho Lee, John Conklin and resident designer Paul Owen. His early years included associations with Tony Award-winning designers John Lee Beatty and John Arnone, working on Broadway projects as diverse as The Sisters Rosenzweig and The Who's Tommy. His theatrical design career in New York flourished with designs at Off-Broadway companies such as Manhattan Class Company, Playwrights Horizons, SoHo Rep, WPA, Julliard School, Jewish Repertory Theatre, Second Stage and Primary Stages. Major regional credits included Hartford Stage, Dallas Theatre Center, Alliance Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Missouri Rep, Portland Stage Company and the Old Globe. Later New York commercial theatre credits include Stomp (American designer), Sherry Glaser's Family Secrets (national tour and 2006 revival), Imperfect Chemistry (Minetta Lane) and Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight (Promenade Theatre; dir. John Rando.) Rob was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for An Empty Plate at the Cafe du Grand Boeuf.
His career then transitioned into television and film, working with John Arnone as Art Director on televisions "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," the Fox pilot "Urban Anxiety" and the feature film "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll." He continued his work on television and film including the ABC after-school special "The Stand Up" (Loose Canon Productions) and independent films like "Neptune's Rocking Horse" (Montreal Film Festival) and "The Rub" (starring Michelle Pawk and Karen Ziemba.)
In 2000 Rob became the Art Director for the CBS-TV daytime drama Guiding Light. He has been nominated for three Emmys for his work on that show. He was with Guiding Light through its last episode in 2009. Since then Rob has been the Art Director for CBS News. Designing and contributing to the redesign of shows like CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, 60 Minutes, Face the Nations and many more. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Scenic Design for his work on CBS News this last year.
(Jerry, the standby)
Reed Birney won the 2016 Tony Award for his performance in The Humans. He recently finished the Broadway run of 1984. Recent New York appearances include Man From Nebraska (Lortel and Drama League nominations) at Second Stage, I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard (Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk Award nominations) at The Atlantic Theater, You Got Older (Drama Desk Award nomination) at Here Arts Center. He won a Drama Desk award and was nominated for a Tony for his performance in Casa Valentina. He was Hubert Humphrey the A.R.T. production of All The Way with Bryan Cranston. His Broadway debut was in 1977 in Gemini. In 2012 he returned to Broadway in Picnic. In 2011, he received a Special Drama Desk Award honoring his career as an actor. Other notable productions: Core Values at Ars Nova, Uncle Vanya at Soho Rep (Drama Desk Nomination), Tigers Be Still and The Dream of the Burning Boy (Drama League, Outer Critics Circle nominations), both at The Roundabout Underground, A Small Fire at Playwrights Horizons.
He was in the New York premiere of Blasted in 2008 at Soho Rep (Drama Desk Award nomination.) He received an Obie and Drama Desk Award for his performance in Circle Mirror Transformation at Playwrights Horizons. He was in the acclaimed Public Theater production of Stuff Happens.
He was in the world premiere of Homebody/Kabul at Steppenwolf, The Mark Taper Forum and BAM; Bug (Obie award) at The Barrow Street Theater; The Common Pursuit at the Promenade Theater; and The Cherry Orchard at Williamstown Theater Festival.
He made his film debut in 1981 in Four Friends. He is Rep. Donald Blythe on the Netflix series, "House of Cards" and can be seen as Patti LuPone's husband in HBO's "Girls." Other recent TV appearances include "Blue Bloods,” “Madam Secretary," and "The Blacklist," and HBO's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." He won a 2006 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance and in 2011 Actors' Equity awarded him the Richard Seff Award. He has taught acting at Columbia University and The Scott Freeman Studio. He is married to actress Constance Shulman and they have two children, Ephraim and Gus, who are both actors.
(Glenna, the leading lady)
Christine has received virtually every Off-Broadway award and her second Tony for her dual "role of a lifetime" in Grey Gardens. Other Broadway credits include: 42nd Street (Tony Award), Steel Magnolias, On the Twentieth Century, Camelot, Oklahoma!, Dinner at Eight (Tony nomination), The Best Man and Blithe Spirit.
Ms. Ebersole has appeared in many feature films including The Wolf of Wall Street, Amadeus, Tootsie, Richie Rich, Black Sheep, Dead Again, Folks!, Ghost Dad, True Crime, My Girl 2 and The Big Wedding, which features and original composition she wrote and performed for the end credits.
Her extensive television credits include Woody Allen's "Crisis in Six Scenes," "Search Party," "Sullivan and Son," "Royal Pains," "Madam Secretary," " American Horror Story," "Ugly Betty," "Law & Order: SVU," "Boston Legal" and "Will and Grace."
She appeared as Tesse Tura in "Gypsy" starring Bette Midler and was a series regular on the 1981-82 season of "Saturday Night Live."
Ms. Ebersole has appeared in numerous concert halls throughout the country including The Kennedy Center, Boston's Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall. She has performed her many critically acclaimed cabaret acts at the Café Carlyle and venues around the country. CDs include In Your Dreams, Sunday in New York, Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward and Strings Attached.
(Tricia, a fellow-standby)
Pat has appeared on Broadway in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Young Man from Atlanta, and So Long On Lonely Street.
She appeared in the First National Tours of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues (as Rowena); and Copenhagen. She also toured in the Actor Theatre of Louisville's production of Pride and Prejudice.
Off-Broadway credits include Spinning Into Butter at Lincoln Center Theater; Emily at Manhattan Theatre Club; The Skin Game and The Old Lady Shows Her Medals, both at the Mint Theater Company; and English Teachers, Ladies of the Fortnight and The Whole Truth, all with Manhattan Class Company.
Pat is a four-time Carbonell Award winner for her performances in The Price, Collected Stories, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Middle Ages, all at the Caldwell Theatre where she also appeared in The Laramie Project, The Lion in Winter, Enchanted April, Doubt and A Delicate Balance.
Other regional credits include The Young Man from Atalanta at the Goodman Theater; Copenhagen and To Kill a Mockingbird at Geva Theatre; A Christmas Story at Cleveland Stage and Syracuse Stage where she also appeared in Three Sisters; Eleemosynary at the Spoleto Festival; Moon Shadow at Stamford Theatre; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and So Long On Lonely Street both at the Alliance Theatre; Little Foxes at San Jose Repertory; The Last Night of Ballyhoo at the Coconut Grove Theatre; Blithe Spirit at the Asolo Theatre; Steel Magnolias at the Cincinnati Playhouse; Wild Honey at Brandeis Rep; and The Middle Ages at the Westwood Playhouse.
She stars in the short film Dressed.
Saidah Arrika Ekulona
(Claire, the stage manager)
Saidah is an award-winning theatre, television and film actress. She's originated roles on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theaters and international theaters, and originated the role of Mama Nadi in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Ruined, for which she won an Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Jeff Award, Audelco Award and the Black Theatre Alliance Award.
Saidah received her BA from Albright College and her MFA from University of Minnesota.
a final word from Rob
As the director and writer of standby, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to visit our website. If you like what you've read and want to find out more, please consider signing up for our newsletter, sent from For the Birds Productions. We'll have announcements in the coming days about casting, new crew members, and funding.
Every play, every musical you see has a team of hard-working standbys sitting backstage.
Standby is my tribute to those unsung actors — a Valentine to the Theater.
(I promise not to inundate you!)