Actor deals deftly with onstage beer bottle, buckets of blood

Stage Right/Stage Wrong with Anna Pfefferkorn
Actor deals deftly with onstage beer bottle, buckets of blood
Photo courtesy of Music Theatre of Madison
The entire cast of "Held: A Musical Fantasy " is three dancers (back row, left to right: Drew Benish, Abbi Topper and Louisa Brody) and three actors/singers (front row, left to right: Adam Qutaishat, Anna Pfefferkorn and Kate Mann).

Anna Pfeffekorn’s not used to playing roles in small casts.

Over the past several years, the Madison-based actor has been building her resume both here and in Milwaukee with parts in big-ensemble shows put on by Middleton Players Theatre, Capital City Theatre and Four Seasons Theatre. That changes next month when she’s part of the six actor and dancer cast of Music Theatre of Madison’s production of “Held: A Musical Fantasy.”​​​​​​

Pfefferkorn plays Korin, a dreamer with magical powers, one of three friends imprisoned by a wizard. It’s a role she’s especially excited to play.

“I really love the music in the show,” says Pfefferkorn, a Monona Grove High School alum. “I actually remember where I was the first time I head the first song from the show. The whole soundtrack is filled with haunting, gorgeous harmonies.”

That’s fortuitous for Pfefferkorn, whose alto singing voice is conducive to harmonizing.

“Held:

STAGE RIGHT

It could just as easily have been a Stage Wrong, if not for Pfefferkorn’s subtle and clever intervention. A few years ago, she was playing Columbia in a production of “The Rocky Horror Show” staged at the Alchemist Theater in Milwaukee. The compact Alchemist space features a bar and a stage that’s level with — and very close to — the audience.

During one of the shows, an inebriated patron sitting in the front row thought it would be a great idea to use the edge of the stage as a spot to place his half-empty beer bottle. Pfefferkorn spotted the potential problem immediately.

“All I could think was, ‘That’s really dangerous — and really rude,” she recalls.

Rather than stop the show or make a huge scene of it, Pfefferkorn sat down near the bottle, and, without looking at the patron or breaking character, picked it up, downed the contents in a few gulps and — again without making eye contact — handed the empty bottle back to its owner.

“It just fit the whole aesthetic of the show,” Pfefferkorn says of her sly move. We’re not going to disagree. We just hope the rest of the people sitting in the rude guy’s row caught her sick burn.

STAGE WRONG

Speaking of aesthetics and deft moves, Pfefferkorn had to navigate both when she starred in Theatre Unchained’s Milwaukee production of “Carrie the Musical.”

In the show’s signature prom scene, Pfefferkorn as Carrie — barefoot and covered in fake pig’s blood — had to exit the stage through the corpses of her dead classmates. The actual degree of difficulty was even greater than it sounds.

“The fake blood mixture we used was super slippery,” she says. “And as I’m trying hard not to step on anybody, I started to slide. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my god. The whole point of this show is going to be negated by me falling on stage.'”

Walking that razor-thin line between horror and comedy without falling required some serious mental fortitude.

“I have never been so focused in my entire life on being totally still,” she says.

Pfefferkorn managed to recover her equilibrium and make her exit without a full-on butt-plant, but not without notice.

“It was obvious to everyone that I had almost fallen,” she says.

Aaron R. Conklin writes cover the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.

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