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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.
Jennifer Vosters never expected to be spending her summer teaching Laura Rook how to speak peasant.
But there she is, playing Pimple, one of the bawdy house servants in American Players Theatre's production of "She Stoops to Conquer," helping Rook's plucky Kate Hardcastle befuddle the young noble Marlow with a little gutterspeak.
"This really is a place where dreams come true," Vosters jokes.
Vosters is part of APT's Apprentice Program, a long-running effort that gives aspiring actors the chance to spend time on and backstage, learning from members of APT's Core Company and technical staff. They also get to stage their own project at a special performance the end of the summer.
"I'm getting my butt kicked in the best possible way," Vosters says of the experience. "I'm really starting to feel the community aspect of this place."
Vosters, who hails from Brookfield, is also swinging swords as part of Macduff's retinue in APT's production of "Macbeth." She took a break to share some of her best stage stories.
Believe it or not, APT's production is the third time Vosters has appeared in a production of "Macbeth" in the last year alone. Nothing against Jim DeVita's current, gritty Spring Green staging, but the educational touring production Vosters appeared in with the Utah Shakespeare Festival may have it beat.
Vosters played Malcolm, the plucky child of the (eventually) murdered Scottish King Duncan. She also played AC/DC on the viola.
Yes, you read that right. The show included Vosters playing AC/DC. On a viola.
For instance, when Malcolm makes her rousing speech as she returns to Scotland with an army in tow, Vosters strode on stage playing "Thunderstruck." At other points in the show, she played "Hells Bells," "Nightcrawler" and "Back in Black," as well as "I Need a Doctor" by Dr. Dre.
It was all part of director Michael Barr's leather and classic-rock vision for the Scottish play — a vision that, incidentally, resonated with the middle and high school age audience members, despite few having ever heard of AC/DC.
"The second I started playing, the kids immediately started clapping," Vosters recalls. "They would totally light up. I felt like part of something really special."
Given that APT is already making great use of music in "She Stoops to Conquer," maybe it's not too late to work in Vosters' rockin' viola to her role in Macduff's army.
In the meantime, that rock-fueled "Macbeth" remains one of Vosters' faves.
"If I ever get sick of my job as an actor, I'm going to remember that show and those moments," she says. "We all felt really punk rock."
What is it with this summer's APT cast and ankles? Vosters' tale of woe also involves a nasty sprain, this one suffered during a production of Shakespeare's rarely-performed "Coriolanus" at a small upstart theater in Milwaukee.
This show strung its second-act battle scenes together with stage blackouts, theoretically allowing actors to dash offstage for weapons and costume changes. Which would have been fine, except that Vosters' first scamper sailed her off the edge of the stage, resulting in a badly rolled ankle and a gouged finger.
"So there's blood dripping down my finger, and all I'm thinking is, ‘I've gotta get back on stage,'" Vosters says. "I did my first fight sequence on one foot. I had a quarterstaff, and I was using it as a cane. I was hopping into battle and the only thing going through my head is, ‘I can't go offstage again.'"
Fortunately, Vosters' character eventually gets killed, sparing her the ignominy of continued hop-fighting. Better yet, Vosters' dad is a physician, and he had crutches at the ready for his daughter at the end of the show. An ankle brace — and some serious choreography changes — made it possible for Vosters to complete the show's run.
"They definitely changed how many times I had to run offstage," she says.
Aaron R. Conklin writes his award-winning coverage of the Madison-area theater scene for madisonmagazine.com.
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