Theater faculty member co-authors book about Broadway swings

October 22, 2015

Penn State School of Theatre faculty member and Broadway veteran J. Austin Eyer and fellow Broadway veteran Lyndy Franklin Smith have written "Broadway Swings: Covering the Ensemble in Musical Theatre," released Oct. 22 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

"Broadway Swings" is a comprehensive guide on how to be a swing (understudy of the ensemble) in musical theater. This position is examined from every angle, showing just how vital swings are to the success of any musical theater production.

The authors draw on their own experiences as performers, and gather first-hand stories from other swings about the glories and hardships of their industry. The book features interviews with more than 100 Broadway pros -- swing veterans, stage managers, casting directors, choreographers and directors, including Rob Ashford, Susan Stroman, Jerry Mitchell, Larry Fuller, Tony Stevens, Beverley Randolph and Frank DiLella.

“Many times I have received panicked phone calls or emails from former students, saying, ‘Help! I start rehearsals as a swing on Monday, and I have no idea what to do!’ I am so proud that there is now a resource for young theatre artists pursuing a career in musical theater,” said Eyer, who has been seen on Broadway in "Evita," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "Billy Elliot" (u/s Tony), "The Little Mermaid" (u/s Prince Eric), "Curtains and The Secret Garden" (Colin).

“I am excited to continue training Penn State students for a career in the performing arts with lessons I learned during my years working on Broadway. This book is the first of many projects I hope to bring to the Penn State arts community over the next few years,” Eyer added.

Eyer choreographed the long-running Off-Broadway productions of My Big Gay Italian Wedding and Boys Just Wanna Have Fun. He has also choreographed for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Disney World and Universal Studios. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in theatre from New York University.  

Eyer and Franklin Smith are hosting two events in New York City in conjunction with the release of the book. A “How to Be a Swing” workshop will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at CAP21 Studios (18 West 18th Street, 6th floor, Room 606). Eyer and Franklin Smith will host a Q&A session and walk participants through the life of a swing and how to prepare for this monumental job. To attend, participants must make a reservation by emailing the title of the workshop (“How to Be a Swing”) and their name to There is a suggested donation of $20 to attend the event, sponsored by Broadway Donation.

In addition, a book launch celebration for swings, swings-to-be and anyone interested in the book will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at CAP21 Studios (18 West 18th Street, 6th Floor studio 606.)

The book can be purchased at Use the code SWINGS to receive a 20 percent discount for a limited time.  

For more information, contact J. Austin Eyer, co-author, at

  • J. Austin Eyer

    J. Austin Eyer, assistant professor of theatre

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 28, 2015