American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
When Core Company Actor Kelsey Brennan was an apprentice in 2008, she experienced what may have been a visit from beyond during a late night rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet. Join her as she revisits that dark night on the Hill stage. PS If you visited us for "If These Trees Could Talk," this story may sound eerily familiar.
So it was my first year and I was an apprentice, and our apprentice show was going to be Romeo and Juliet. And I was cast as Juliet. And my Romeo was Andy Truschinski. It was directed by Matt Schwader and Tracy Arnold. And the thing about the balcony scene is, it's in the dark. And we were never going to perform it in the dark, or rehearse it in the dark. We tried to go into a rehearsal hall and turn off all the lights and we just weren't quite getting that magic of, you know, these two people who can't see each other's faces. So I don't remember who it was, but somebody said, why don't you go up the Hill at night and rehearse the scene? And I was like, sounds great. So we went up the Hill.
And the thing about the Hill when there's no show is there are no path lights, there are no work lights, there are no houselights. It's just the moon, and it's super dark. So Andy and I get up there and it's completely pitch black. We can barely see each other. Let's hammer out the balcony scene. Like, let's do this. So I get up on my perch and we start doing the balcony scene in the middle of the night. And as we're doing it, I'm up high enough that I have a full view of the house. And I see someone walked down the center aisle right onto the hanamichi, right before the hanamichi and sit in about the fifth row, right on the aisle. And I'm like, Oh cool. Matt's here. He must have just finished rehearsal and decided to watch us. So we keep doing the balcony scene and I'm performing for my director a little bit. And trying to take that note that it's in the dark and it's really romantic and special and mysterious.
And then the scene is done and I look to Matt and he doesn't say anything. I'm like, okay, maybe he doesn't think we can see him. Fine. And then kind of at the same time, Andy and I are like, do you want to get out of here? I'm like, yeah. So we go up the center aisle and I look at this person and it is the shadow of a person. And the seat that they were sitting in is down. So I know someone's sitting there, but they don't say anything. And as we get close enough to it, I realized that it's kind of just a shadow. So we get up to the top of the Hill and Andy grabs my hand, and I go, did you see?
And he says, the person who walked down the center aisle and sat in the fifth row? Yes. And I'm like, okay. So we run down the Hill and we call Matt Schwader and we call Tracy Arnold, and we call everyone we know. And we're like, were you up the Hill? Were you up the Hill with us just now? And I remember Tracy being like, hmm, somebody had little bit too much fun up the Hill. And we were like, no, no, Tracy, this is for real, like, were you guys there? And then the next day I remember I came in and I asked some people, like, was there someone, was there a groundskeeper? Was there somebody up there working on something? Nobody. And every time I've told this story to someone who has a history with APT, it's amazing. They all say that was Stephen.
That was Stephen Hemming. And I didn’t know Stephen Hemming, he passed before I was an actor here. But I do understand that his ashes are spread up the Hill, and he was deeply, deeply loved by many actors here. And what I found out later is that Stephen played the Friar before he passed; it was one of the last things he did at APT. And I kind of guessed the Friar, came to watch Romeo and Juliet rehearse that night.