Faces of the Grinch

Backstage with Stillwater’s Autumn Ness and Reed Sigmund.

Where are you from, originally?

Reed Sigmund: Autumn is from St. Paul and I’m from Fargo, N.D. I came to the University of Minnesota as a child psych major.

How long have you been acting?

Autumn Ness: The first play I ever did was with the Children’s Theatre Co. (CTC), Hansel and Gretl in 1987, and I did shows there until high school … I toured with them, did main stage shows and loved it.

RS: I had done theater in high school and was pretty terrible at it. Then at the end of my sophomore year in college, because I missed theater, I auditioned for a play on a whim and, shockingly, I got in. We met during that show, and surprisingly I got a little bit better in my two years of not acting, so I switched to a theater major and we started dating.

How many times have you performed Grinch?

RS: This is my fifth time acting in the play, but my third time as Grinch. It’s told as a memory piece, from the perspective of a very old dog, Max, the Grinch’s dog come back years later. The first couple of times, I was Old Max at the ripe old age of 23.

AN: And I’ve been Mama Who (Cindy Lou Who’s mother).

RS: It’s about as rich a show as you'll find, and complex, and delicious …

AN: … and hot and hairy …

RS: ... [laughing] I swallow about a pound of green fake-hair a night. Then you’re sweating, and the green makeup gets in your pores, and tattoos and stains your skin.

AN: It looks like he has a liver problem!

How often does CTC do the Grinch?

AN: It’s a random cycling; The Grinch pops up every three or so years.

What are the most difficult aspects of your profession? What are some of the highlights?

AN: Challenges: It’s a six-day work week, and you’re rehearsing the new show at the same time you’re performing another. We’re working most nights and weekends, times when there’s no proper daycare, so it’s like any parent, hashing together care for the boys. (Sawyer is 8, and Sullivan is 4.) What’s great? They are often at the theater with us.

RS: I grew up with attention issues and self-confidence and finding where I fit in … Theater really helps with a lot of those things—it helped me find friends and define my social structure at school.  

When (and why) did you choose to make Stillwater home?

RS: I wanted to retreat somewhere that feels more to our speed and personality. Stillwater has that lovely rivertown feel to it, a sense of community that we felt was missing in other suburbs.

AN: We had lived in Eagan, and needed more space when we got pregnant with our second son. We’ve had a love affair with Stillwater since we’ve been a couple—we’d often say, “Let’s go to the orchard. Let’s go downtown.” It felt away. It felt like a vacation. It is quiet and yet there is so much to do at the same time … we found an 1880 folk Victorian. We have no homeowner skills whatsoever, but we said, “We can do this,” and [the decision to move here] is 100 percent worth it.

Do you ever get sick of working together?

AN: It’s funny, but sometimes we don’t even have time to do more than high-five between scenes.

RS: The hours are really unpredictable, so it would be hard to be in a relationship with someone who isn’t familiar with the schedule. I can’t imagine any other way.

AN: Acting at all sort of relies on trust, so to go into a scene with your partner in life gives you that advantage. Whatever happens after this, we are going to have to do it together.

The Grinch runs through January 7. Tickets are $15–$60. Call 612.874.0400 to reserve your seats or visit the website for more information.