Plenty of roles to play

Jenna Gerling

Actress juggles ‘Rosencrantz’ parts, classes and one restless schedule

Kayce Cummings, senior theater major, performs a scene from the final dress rehearsal of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” as Queen Gertrude. Cummings is also slotted for the role of one of the lead characters, the Player, as an understudy. KATIE RO

Credit: John Proppe

Long nights and hectic schedules aren’t unusual for most student actors.

Between stage rehearsals, school, work and maintaining a social life, sometimes it’s hard even to find time to eat.

At least that’s how it is for actress Kayce Cummings.

Cummings, senior theater major, played the part of Queen Gertrude Friday on opening night of Tom Stoppard’s Hamlet-based play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”

But she is also slotted for the role of one of the lead characters, the Player, for the last two performances as an understudy – leaving her with two different roles to memorize: the mother of Hamlet and the leader of an acting troupe called the Tragedians.

“It’s been a little nuts,” Cummings said. “I have 19 (credit) hours, and I work at the Loft three or four nights a week from 11 p.m. to close, which is like 2:30 or 3 a.m.

“It’s a lot harder and is straining me a lot more, but I’ve kept my grade point average the way it should be.”

Cummings’ priorities have been schoolwork and then theater, which was six days a week for more than a month during rehearsal.

“This role will really be a test if I can really pull something off,” Cummings said. “It’s going to be a test for me if I can combine both the movement and the speaking.

“The Player is a bigger role. That’s a role that you can do a lot of things with; it’s thoroughly accepted as opposed to Gertrude, there’s only a select type of character interpretations that you can do with her.”

Cummings said other acting jobs have given her experience learning more than one role at once, which made it easier to memorize both Gertrude’s lines and the Player’s monologues.

Nicole Perrone, first-year master of fine arts student and the Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, said she had a prior commitment during the last two performances on Oct. 14 and 15. Cummings was cast as her understudy.

Terry Burgler, director of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, said he doesn’t normally go into a production expecting people to miss, so sometimes theater faculty will assign understudies.

“I knew (of the commitment) during auditions, so I cast someone as the Queen who I thought could take over quite readily, and was a good candidate for the role anyway,” Burgler said. “I was hopeful it wouldn’t just be extra work for her, but a chance to get her teeth into a very juicy role.”

“It’s a fantastic role to be able to perform,” Perrone said. “I was worried when I asked originally that I would not be able to be in the show; it’s a great opportunity to be able to do both, and especially to play the role as the Player.”

Whenever Perrone is called to rehearsal as the Player, Cummings is called as well; she has attended almost all the rehearsals Perrone has had to.

“One thing about knowing your craft better is watching and learning from people,” Cummings said. “Watching and learning because they’re doing things right or doing things wrong or differently than you would know how to do it.

“There were a couple of times I’ve watched Nicole, and she does things differently that I would never think – some actions or the way she carries herself, when I watch her, I learn from her.”

Perrone said she has worked with Cummings a few times over the blocking, where actors are positioned on the stage.

“Nicole has actually given me her blocking, and I’ve watched in rehearsals . but I have not been able to walk the stage at all or interact with any of the characters as the Player,” Cummings said. “Basically, I’m leading blind.”

Cummings said she is more nervous about throwing off her fellow cast members than about her own performance.

“I have to make sure I’m in the right spot. because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been rehearsing with Nicole for (weeks),” she said. “They’re not used to me, and I’m not going to deliver the lines just like Nicole does; there are some things that the two of them wouldn’t react to me the same as Nicole.

“But, that’s theater, and that’s the exercise of learning in theater; listening and understanding. Being ready to react to what’s going on.”

Contact performing arts reporter Jenna Gerling at [email protected].