In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Jacque Troy and C. Michael Wright are the only two actors in "Duet for One."

Actress gets her wish in Chamber Theatre show

When Jacque Troy got her first taste of acting in prime time in Milwaukee, she used a cast mate to whom she did not speak onstage as her touchstone. The year was 2001, and the show was the Milwaukee Rep's production of the old newspaper comedy "The Front Page."

Troy had taught high school at Janesville Parker and Racine St. Catherine's before getting a foothold in the Milwaukee theater community. Along the way, she, like so many other local performers, had studied acting with C. Michael Wright.

Although her role was small, Troy was understandably nervous in her Rep debut. But as she walked onstage every night, she would see Wright had preceded her there, and she was reassured.

"As an actor, you can feel Michael's energy onstage, and he was my touchstone," Troy recently said.

Fast forward five years. Troy was hired by the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to be its literary manager and education director. It's her day job while she continues to act.

Wright is the company's artistic director. "When I went to work for the Chamber Theatre I requested that sometime in the future I have one scene onstage where I would talk to Michael," Troy said.

The Chamber is doing much better than that for the actress. She spends the entire play talking with Wright in the company's next production, "Duet for One," which opens Feb. 18 in the Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center. The drama contains only two characters.

Troy portrays a concert violinist whose advancing multiple sclerosis is dooming her career and threatening her marriage. Her character and the play are loosely based on the life of the late British cellist Jacqueline du Pre. A film version of the play shares the same title, and du Pre's tragic life also served as the material for the movie "Hilary and Jackie."

Wright is the violinist's psychiatrist in "Duet for One." The play is structured as six therapy sessions.

Troy spends the show in a motorized wheelchair, and that is proving to be slightly daunting. "I'm a very physical actor," she said. "Being confined to a wheelchair has been a very interesting challenge for me."

"Duet for One" contains another challenge. Memorizing lines is a basic skill required of all professional actors, but this play really puts the memory muscle to a test. There are only two characters, and they spend most of 2 hours and 15 minutes talking to each other.

"We have a lot of language to learn," Troy said. "Normally in a show, you have one big monolog to memorize. I think I have 12. And both characters have a quirky way of talking."

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