Leafing through their Playbills, theatregoers may pause over a odd word below the cast of characters in most musicals—“swings.”
What’s a swing?
Actors’ Equity Association, the actors’ union, has declared January 18 its second annual “National Swing Day” in an attempt to answer that question and “honor the unsung heroes of theatre.”
As Equity puts in, “Swings are those members of the company who cover all the other chorus members. Often the most important to cast because of the nature of the job, a Swing must have a wide vocal range, be able to dance and be able to step into a role from young child to an older character, male or female. A Swing also must know the smallest detail of every ’track.’ Essentially, the Swing must be able to do it all and must be ready to go on at a moment’s notice.”
Equity is hosting a social media campaign using the hashtag “#EquityTeamSwing,” which includes special graphics, tweets, and posts honoring Swings. The union will also post photos of swings in the many roles, or “tracks,” they cover.
The day’s festivities will include:
Instagram Takeover – Swings on the road across the nation will take over @ActorsEquity on Instagram for the day, showing the world swing life in four time zones. The participating performers are Meryn Beckett (Kinky Boots in Salt Lake City), Malik Shabazz Kitchen (Hamilton in Chicago), Benjamin Susak (Wicked in Orlando), and Kelli Youngman (The King and I in Los Angeles).
Twitter Chat – Swings from Broadway, including Francesca Granell (Cats), Paloma Garcia Lee (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), Tyson Jennette (Book of Mormon), and Jesse Swimm (School of Rock) will answer questions about being a swing on the Great White Way.
Facebook Live – The AEA Facebook page will go behind the scenes at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre as Henry Gottfried and Olivia Phillip, swings at Waitress, demonstrate how they stay prepared to take on any number of roles at a moment’s notice.
“Swings are the unsung heroes of musical theatre,“ said Rebecca Kim Jordan, Actors’ Equity Association’s Second Vice President and Chair of the ACCA. “A lot goes into putting a musical together and Swings are the 'how’ it can be done eight shows a week. Swings have the company’s back.”