It’s rare for a theater to have to hire a replacement actor for a “big, juicy role” so close to opening night as The Old Globe recently had to — for two plays. But the theater had a key cast member for “Rafta, Rafta,” withdraw from the show due to illness. And a cast member left “Groundswell” soon before it opened for reasons that haven’t been specified.

Local theater writer Anne Marie Welsh dove into the actors’ work behind the scenes to manage the last-minute scramble in a story in Sunday’s Union-Tribune.

Partly because both roles require actors of particular ethnicities, the Globe had hired no understudies to fall back on, Welsh says.

Actor Owise Odera came into the role in “Groundswell” only two days before the play’s first preview performances. And actor Kamal Marayati had just three days before audiences were supposed to show up for “Rafta, Rafta.”

I was glad to read the story because I was hoping to hear more about how this process works. I thought these were interesting bits about the allowances the theater — and the audience — made for the latecomers:

Both actors could use scripts or a prompter for the first few previews. Opening night for “Rafta, Rafta” was moved forward three nights. And preview audiences, informed of the late replacements in a preshow announcement, seemed to root for them.

“So here’s how I have been looking at it,” Marayati said, “as if the rehearsal process is just totally backwards. But I have the other actors. They’ve got my back.”

Have you seen either play? What’d you think of how Odera, who plays Thami in “Groundswell,” and Marayati, the father of the groom in “Rafta, Rafta,” did to blend in with the other actors who’ve been rehearsing for much longer? Did you find yourself rooting for them?

I’m the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett and at facebook.com/behind.the.scene.SD.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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