“Being able to find yourself in someone so different than you is just a feeling that is unmatched, and I think that’s what acting is about,” Payton said.
Not every actor can have a starring role. Payton is an apprentice at American Players Theatre in Spring Green. She says it’s like a full time job.
“A normal day as an apprentice is classes from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m. We get a small break, and then a rehearsal block from noon to five, and then a dinner break, and then you have a show,” Payton said.
It’s a chance for aspiring actors like Payton to be part of a professional theater troupe. American Players Theatre performs nine plays a summer at their indoor and outdoor amphitheaters. Shows are held on an almost nightly basis. It provides ample opportunity for actors to flex their performance muscles.
Payton spent years earning her master’s degree, honing her craft for this opportunity. Hundreds apply to the APT apprenticeship program every year. Only five or six applicants are selected. Payton was one of the chosen few. Her reward? Being thrust into the background. Apprentices at APT often start in background roles with no speaking parts. APT Artistic Director Brenda DeVita says that can be tough on an eager young actor.
“It’s really hard,” Devita said, “Especially an actor that’s spent four years or three years or two years in a graduate program or an undergraduate program, where all they’ve been doing is dying to get out and act and then you say ‘Wait, stand here and hold this stick.’”
“It takes a real emotional toll to be actively involved in these stories and not be able to speak your mind,” Payton said.
DeVita says it provides apprentices with real world experience.
“They come and watch these older actors and they really, really understand that what they’re doing is special,” DeVita said, “We ask them to figure out if that’s what they want to do.”
Payton says she learned that reading her lines was less important than reading between them.
“Listening I think is ten times more important than speaking on stage,” Payton said, “If someone looks at you, you should look like you are a part of this play even though you’re not talking.”
Payton’s hard work was rewarded with a large speaking part in APT’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband.”
“She’s playing a really large part for an apprentice. We don’t usually have parts that great for apprentices, and she was just perfect for it,” DeVita said.
One day Payton may be the star of the show, but for now, she says the apprenticeship provided a great opportunity to pursue her passion.
“I don’t know what I’d be if I wasn’t in the theater,” Payton said. “I hope I really get to do this forever in any sort of capacity.”
Go Behind The Scenes to the Wig, Paint and Carpenter Shops
Wisconsin Life host Angela Fitzgerald talks with the folks working in the wig, paint and carpentry shops at APT.