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Editor's Note: "Stage Write/Stage Wrong" is an occasional series by Madison Magazine theater reviewer Aaron R. Conklin about those occasions when live performances do not go entirely according to the stage directions. Most actors, directors and designers have the grace and style to appreciate and/or survive dropped lines, stumbles and misbehaving props, but it's the confident ones who are willing to relive and share those experiences with us.
Every summer in Spring Green, there’s an actor who draws the awesome slate of comic roles, setting up a summer of fun and madcappery. Last year, it was Marcus Truschinski, who played the fool Touchstone in “As You Like It” and a ridiculously foppish lieutenant in “The Recruiting Officer.”
This year, that actor is third-year APT vet Josh Krause.
Krause gets to play Tony Lumpkin, the layabout son who also functions as a sort of pirate folk-rock star heading a house band of servants in APT’s production of “She Stoops to Conquer.” And he also plays the buffoonish and sentimental Lieutenant in George Bernard Shaw’s “Man of Destiny.”
Interestingly, the latter has been trickier to manage for Krause. And the Lieutenant doesn’t even have to sing and dance.
“I’ve never worked with Shaw before,” Krause admits. “I’ve been trying to navigate Shaw’s language and couple it with what I know I can do to make him funny.”
Krause isn’t talking about physical comedy, like flouncing around the stage and stumbling into props. He’s searching for smaller, more cerebral moments to maximize the laughs. For instance, in the lieutenant’s first scene, he enters bemoaning the fact that his horse has been stolen.
“He’s talking about it in the past tense,” says Krause. “And I find myself wondering, what if the stakes are much higher? He believes he’s never going to see that horse again. But what if it’s a possibility? Is there a maybe here? It changes what I can do with his expressions. It deepens what I’m doing on stage.”
Krause’s APT season is obviously front-loaded — “The Book of Will” is the other show in which he’ll appear this summer — but he still found time to talk to tell us some of his stage stories. Several of which, coincidentally, involve his current employer.
Krause’s favorite stage experiences typically involve hearing an audience reaction he hasn’t heard before. And like the rest of APT Nation, he appreciates it when Mother Nature adds a special touch to a show up the hill.
Two summers ago, Krause was one of the French cadets in the cast of APT’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” (He even got to sing a little song, foreshadowing his increased musical role this season.) On one cloudy night, as James Ridge’s Cyrano delivered his dying, play-ending speech, Mother Nature nailed her cue.
“As he speaks his final line, there was this huge roll of thunder,” says Krause. “I just lost it. It was perfect. I love the way Mother Nature gets a say in these plays here.”
Krause’s most recent off-the-rails performance came during his current run as Lumpkin in “She Stoops to Conquer.” Audiences who’ve already seen the show know there’s a point late in the second act where Krause strides into the audience to sing a song — and then sits down in the space between two audience members for a moment or two. In this instance, Krause didn’t scout his situation carefully enough. He walked into a row with a patron in a wheelchair sitting next to a patron in a regular seat. So when Krause went to drop onto the nonexistent armrest, he butt-planted on the boards instead.
Luckily, Krause is great at recovery. He sprang up instantly, shouting to the crowd, “Well, there’s no chair there!” and laughing heartily at himself. The crowd was only too happy to join in to augment what seemed a completely planned and in-character moment.
Krause much prefers comic flubs like this to mistakes that happen in more serious stage situations. A few years ago, he was starring as Romeo in a production of “Romeo and Juliet” at Indiana University. During the pivotal fight scene between Romeo and Tybalt, his dagger flew out of his hand, landing several feet behind him. He had to break character for a moment to run across the stage and retrieve it.
“I remember being mortified and angry at myself,” Krause recalls. “It’s hard to stay Romeo in a situation like that. I can easily stay Tony.”
Aaron R. Conklin covers the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.
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