Jennifer Kuckuk plays the grieving Mrs. Phagan in this weekend’s production of Parade. Read on to find out more about Jennifer, what she does when she’s not on stage, and why she thinks her character is a cautionary tale for all of us.
Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?
I’m originally from a fairly small town in the California East Bay but moved to Madison to attend UW Madison for my B.S. in Biology 2012. I loved Madison so much that I stuck around! It’s a great city for science and theater, I’ve had so many opportunities here that I would not have in other places.
Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which ones?
This is my third show with Middleton Players, and each show has had a very different feel. I was in Sweeney Todd last September and Beauty and the Beast this August. That’s one of the things I have been drawn to about Middleton Players — they choose varied content and certainly don’t shy away from challenging material.
What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?
My favorite part of the rehearsal process is adding in costumes, sets, and lighting during tech rehearsals. As grueling as those rehearsals can be, it’s so rewarding to finally watch as everything starts falling into place.
What do you do when you’re not performing? Do you have a daytime job?
I do have a day job in biopharmaceutical drug development that keeps me in my theater habit and my cat in her wet-food habit.
What would you like audiences to know about your character?
Mrs. Phagan is a cautionary tale in grief. We commonly hear that “there is no wrong way to grieve”, but Mrs. Phagan might make you rethink that. She mourns the murder of her daughter by withdrawing into a narrow and prejudiced worldview that is reinforced and nurtured by opportunistic lawyers, bigoted journalists, and a community so entrenched in their beliefs that they are willing to maim or murder those who challenge them. In her grief, she becomes a pawn of a political message of hatred and violence. While we may not all be hounded by lawyers and politicians in our own personal losses, we can be mindful of keeping an open heart to others who are suffering, instead of putting up walls to the world.
What are people going to think about as they drive home from the show?
I hope that audiences will be introspective after the show. The music is gorgeous but the plot is heavy and the ending poignant. The message of the show is murky and difficult to unpack, by virtue of this being a true story. There is good and evil and a lot of in-between — in every character. The bad guys don’t get their comeuppance and the good guys don’t get to sing songs of their victories at the end. It’s frustrating and beautiful and thought-provoking and very important.
Come see Jennifer on stage in Parade this weekend only! Tickets are on sale now at www.middletonplayers.com/tickets.