Jack Herwig fills in for Imani Noel during KH Players’ production of “Laughing Stock”

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Wyatt Byers

Jack Herwig stands in front of the disassembled show set with the clipboard he used during his performance.

When Imani Noel, senior, fell ill on Oct. 1, the role of Henry Mills in the KH Players’ “Laughing Stock” was left empty and without an understudy ready to fill in. 

Laughing Stock” follows the cast and crew of a small theater in New England during their disaster-filled summer season. When Noel was left unable to perform, the production was thrown into chaos of its own. As the play’s success became endangered, the cast and crew waited for Director Kelly Schnider’s instructions on what to do next. Noel’s role of stage designer Henry Mills was crucial to the plot and, at the moment — empty. Without an understudy available, Schnider chose Jack Herwig, senior, to fill in the part because of his previous experience as an actor. Ironically, Herwig was late that day.

Originally, Herwig thought Schnider was joking. When she continued speaking to the cast and crew about the modified plan for that night, with Jack as Henry Mills, he asked her if she actually needed him to fill in the role. “And she looked at me and [said], ‘Yeah, we do,’” Herwig said. “So, at that point everything came crashing in. And that moment was scary.” 

For the next two hours, he prepared for his impromptu debut. Without time to memorize lines, Herwig was sent on stage with a script hidden behind a clipboard. 

I did better than I expected myself to do, it was definitely a crazy experience.”

— Jack Herwig

“[At first I was stressed] but after that, I was working with Schnider to work certain trouble scenes and it just kinda melted away,” Herwig said. “I was like ‘How can I do this well?’ and I just came to her with all my questions and she answered them and that was really helpful. It was about blocking, where to stand, how to stand, what to do. I think Schnider was a really big help with relieving me of stress.”

Herwig recalled the memory fondly, feeling satisfied with his performance. When the time came for cast and crew pictures to be taken the following night, Herwig found himself in both. 

 “I did better than I expected myself to do,” Herwig said. “It was definitely a crazy experience. People went to Sonic afterwards, [and] I just went home. I needed to decompress.”