Mary MacDonald Kerr goes solo in MCT’s “The Detective’s Wife”

The veteran Milwaukee actress faces a new challenge in playwright Keith Huff's "ghost story" about a woman whose police officer husband is killed.

By - Sep 17th, 2013 12:00 am
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Actress Mary MacDonald Kerr will command the stage in Huff's one-woman play

Actress Mary MacDonald Kerr will command the stage in Huff’s ghost story “The Detective’s Wife”

After acting in 20 productions at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, actress Mary MacDonald Kerr is doing something she’s never done, something quite impressive: she’s acting alone.

The Detective’s Wife, a one-woman play written by Wisconsin native Keith Huff, stars MacDonald Kerr as recently widowed murder mystery lover Alice Conroy. UWM instructor Jim Tasse directs as part of a collaboration with the Peck School of the Arts Theatre Department.

MacDonald Kerr spoke on the challenges of starring in a solo show.

“…the biggest challenge is stuffing all that language into your brain,” said MacDonald Kerr, “and then delivering it in such a way that is true and motivated, but also keeps the “music” of it varied enough to keep the audience hooked in.  The other truly tricky part is that the other cast member is really the audience, but you don’t get to rehearse with them!”

Acclaimed playwright Keith Huff, who has written for Mad Men and the original Netflix Series House of Cards, dropped by MCT for the first read-through. Huff’s work appeared in Milwaukee last season, when A Steady Rain came to Next Act Theatre, produced by the Chicago Commercial Collective.

“He was lovely and generous with praise, said MacDonald Kerr, “…I find the writing in The Detective’s Wife to be very smart, literate, beautiful and challenging. He loves to write long descriptive sentences that cover a whole lot of ground before arriving at the subject, so it has been challenging to memorize, but so fun when you finally have it. It’s an interesting cocktail of poetry and grit, imagery and stark reality.”

This production coincides with a special honor for MacDonald Kerr, the first “Ruth Schudson Leading Lady” award. The award honors MCT co-founder Ruth Schudson, with funding providing a season’s salary to one actress. MacDonald Kerr and Schudson have worked nine times together on the MCT stage.

“…it’s the things the audience doesn’t see that make me love her dearly,” said MacDonald Kerr. “She is terrifically generous as a person and as an actor, always ready to give what is asked, always there to encourage and nurture. She is also a consummate professional. In all the years I have known her, I have never seen her be anything but calm, kind and rock- solid. When I heard that Ruth had asked Michael to pick me to be the first “Ruth Schudson Leading Lady” I was thrilled and grateful, struck by the fact that even now, nineteen years after meeting her, Ruth is still reaching out to me, still guiding me along.”

MacDonald Kerr found herself preparing for the role of Alice Conroy much earlier than other roles, simply because of the mass memorization required. With Tasse’s guidance, MacDonald Kerr applied her own ideas to the protagonist’s story.

“I love Alice’s sense of humor about herself and her situation. It is a fairly dark tale, but she finds irony and humor everywhere. She is also stronger than she knows, and I love finding her strength along the way.”

The Detective’s Wife opens at 8 p.m., Friday Sept. 20 and runs through Oct. 13 at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. See the schedule and purchase tickets online, $39.50.

Categories: Theater

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