When you read ‘(sub)’ next to the name on a schedule, what’s your reaction? Are you excited about trying someone new? Or devastated that your beloved teacher isn’t there? Do you skip class? Or go anyway – albeit with a bit of a chip on your shoulder? Subs have their work cut out for them. It’s hands down the hardest and most humbling teaching we do.
Typically, new teachers climb onto sub lists aspiring to secure a spot of their own on a studio or gym schedule. Is this sub expected to teach like the teacher whose spot they’re covering, or do they teach like themselves? How best to navigate the negative bias of being a substitution for the ‘real thing’? My friend who’s an actress likens this to guest-star syndrome – nobody on or off the set knows if they really want your character in their story.
I got my start subbing for someone who ended up gone months longer than expected. I didn’t really teach like him, but then again, I barely knew how to teach. I learned early on that no matter what or who you teach like, you can’t please everyone… even if you become a season regular.
How rich these guest-starring days are though. They challenge us to discover our own character and voice, The vulnerability of being new is a blind date/audition haunted by Oscar Wilde’s, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”That is, of course, until you do it all over again to sub for someone else.
Somehow in the jumble of self-doubt, botched sequences, and name of poses and people you forgot you discover who you are. You begin to realise that the role of a teacher is that of an ongoing understudy. Yes, people become your ‘regulars’ and there’s comfort in them knowing your bad jokes and tendency to mistake right from left, but the truth is we’re asked to begin again and again as we stand in front of a room or a camera throughout the years.