A Typical American Couple

Holiday Interview: Autumn Ness and Reed Sigmund

MINNESOTA PLAYLIST: Tell me a little about the show you’re doing.

AUTUMN: After you, Grinch.

REED: We’re doing “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” This is my third production of the show. My first time playing the Grinch. The last couple times I was the role that I think you originated – Old Max?

MP: Gerry [Drake] was the first Old Max and I was the second.

REED: It’s fun, isn’t it?

MP: I went insane doing that. You’re not talking to any of the other characters.

REED: It’s LONELY, isn’t it?

MP: It is VERY lonely.

REED: You truly do feel like a ghost.

MP: Yeah, and eleven shows a week, feeling so alone, with all these people and all this stuff around…I went insane.

REED: It’s a bizarre experience.

AUTUMN: (to Reed) How old were you when you first did Old Max?

REED: Twenty-three?

AUTUMN: Ah, excellent life experience for Old Max.

REED: (Laughing) I loved it, though, because I always loved the cartoon and the book and to get to say these words, because Old Max gets some of the awesome, juicy…

AUTUMN: He gets the Boris Karloff…

REED: Yeah, so I adored it. But this time I’m playing the Grinch and it’s a completely different ride from Old Max, but I love every second of it.

AUTUMN: This is only my second time. I was the girl with orange braids the first time – and it was always Ann Kim [who played the role before], right? – so that was a big deal, that I got the best wig, and that was 2001. And then I understudied this role, Mama Who, a couple years ago. And now I’m doing it again as the mother.

MP: Cindy Lou Who’s mom. You know, that first year, I was your dad.

REED: Grandpa Seth?

MP: Yeah, Grandpa Seth Who.

AUTUMN: It’s great, isn’t it? And now, the costumes, they keep the tags inside just in a row, so you can go through and see who’s played the role before.

MP: Oh really? So you can know who’s been sweating inside there.

REED: I can smell [David] Cabot and Bradley Greenwald every time I put on my costume.

AUTUMN: I bet those two together are quite a parfúm…

REED: Oddly enough, individually, they’re nasty, but combined, it’s a heavenly, rich scent.

MP: And from now on, Christmas will always be associated with…

AUTUMN: With their musk.

MP: So you two are married.

REED and AUTUMN: Yes!

MP: You have a child.

AUTUMN: We are married and have a child.

(The child was a few feet away throughout the interview, having an animated conversation with or about his toy cars.)

MP: And did you meet here [at the Children’s Theatre Company]?

AUTUMN: We met at the University of Minnesota.

REED: 1998.

AUTUMN: We were twenty years old?

REED: Sophomores. Actually, I was nineteen when we met. I’d just turned twenty when we started dating.

AUTUMN: And we auditioned here…Kent Stevens said I’m going to have you audition for the PA apprenticeship, and I knew what that was because I was a kid here.

REED: I had no experience with it, but we knew some people. Noah Bremer had been an apprentice just the year before. And I talked with Noah about it and he said, “definitely, definitely do it. You’ll learn a ton!” So we said to Ken, yeah, we’d like to do it. And we called and they said,

AUTUMN: You missed the audition…

REED: By two weeks. So we went back to Ken and said thanks for the recommendation but we couldn’t get in, they were closed. And then, he was fantastic. He had just finished directing Pinocchio, it had just opened, and he said, “Well, I know Matthew Howe [who was in charge of the apprentice program at the time] I’ll give him a call and ask if they’ll take a look at you guys.” So…

AUTUMN: We blew it. We had a HORRIBLE audition.

REED: But we spent a lot of time talking with Matthew and…

AUTUMN: And it turned into an interview, which we were able to do a whole lot better than our “sing, dance, act.”

REED: And he offered us a couple of spots. And I don’t think he knew that we were dating. But we were hired and we didn’t know if we should tell them…

AUTUMN: Should we hide our love?

REED: Or what should we do. But I think word had gotten out from Noah or Kent, because on our first day they said “and you’re dating, right?”

AUTUMN: “By the way, you’re PA’s, no one cares if you’re dating.”

REED: That first year was great. I watched Dean [Holt] and Gerry [Drake] and [David] Cabot every single day and they’re all brilliant. And I learned so much just by watching them – watching the way they rehearse and the way they approach performance. It was awesome.

MP: When was that?

REED: That was the 2000/2001season.

MP: And now it’s your, what?

AUTUMN: Our lucky thirteenth season! We got married during “Piggle Wiggle.”

REED: 2004.

AUTUMN: I remember the show. I don’t remember the year, And he (the child) was born during “Bert and Ernie.” Because I wasn’t in that – Bert and Ernie don’t have chicks over – so I said, okay, I’m going to go have a baby.

MP: How is it doing a holiday show?

REED: It’s my favorite show of the year to do.

AUTUMN: It’s the best!

REED: Especially this week leading up to Christmas. There’s just a different energy.

AUTUMN: It’s a kiddie-drug. “We’re almost there!”

REED: But it’s one of the trickiest times to stay healthy. And unfortunately, right now I’m a little under the weather which frustrates me because it’s my favorite week of the year, it’s my favorite week to perform and I’m under the weather – how can this be? But the weather’s changing so much and you’re doing ten, eleven shows a week…

MP: And there are children…

AUTUMN: The carrier monkeys from “Outbreak.”

REED: So, yeah, it happens. But they always talk to athletes and in sports, and it’s not how good you are, it’s how well you can play while hurt. And it’s kind of that way with theater.

AUTUMN: And what we understand, you know, we have our two days, our Christmas Eve and our Christmas Day, and we go to the family house, and we need to sort of mind our recuperative time. So we each understand. I don’t have to go up to you and say, “Are you not having a good time? You’re sitting so quietly.”

REED: “I’m having the time of my life. And I’m just enjoying it, sitting down.” And there’s something beautiful – just parking a couple blocks away and you walk and you’re walking through the snow and you see kids holding hands with their parents and they’re going to see the Grinch…

AUTUMN: They’re in their Christmas dresses…

REED: And they’re taking pictures in front of the sign that says Children’s Theatre Company, and you kind of can’t wait to get in there and start performing for them.

MP: Well, thank you and merry Christmas.

AUTUMN: YOU’RE WELCOME!