In this show, family matters

University acting instructor Barbara Kingsley has passion – and DNA – in common with show’s cast

Tatum Fjerstad

While preparing for rehearsal, Barbara Kingsley glanced over to see her husband and daughter giggling together on stage and gave them a look only a mother could.

While they have acted together in other combinations, this is the first time Kingsley, an acting instructor in the Unversity’s theatre department, her husband, Stephen D’Ambrose, and daughter Maggie D’Ambrose are all acting together on one stage in “Do You Want to Know a Secret?.”

While it’s not uncommon for an entire family to be performing artists, it’s always a treat to see them act together on the same stage. In this case, Dad has acted with daughter. Daughter and mom and mom and son have worked together. But the mom-dad-daughter combination is new.

This play’s family adds an unrelated member. Local playwright Daniel Pinkerton wrote the show’s script. Kingsley and D’Ambrose have worked with Pinkerton and his play on several different occasions in workshop atmospheres. Kingsley even uses the script in the acting class she teaches at the University.

This is the world premiere of Pinkerton’s award-winning multimedia play. It tells the story of Karin Berger, a former political prisoner in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall and her search for the identities of her informants. What she discovers isn’t what she hopes, and her relationships with her family are fractured.

This play’s emotional pull has added to Kingsley’s already full plate. She’s a mother of two. Maggie graduates from high school this spring and her son, Cooper, graduates from college at the same time. She teaches at the University and at the Guthrie Theater, where she is known to her students as “BK.” As she prepares to go on stage for “Do You Want to know a Secret?,” she is packing her bags to leave town with Theatre de la Jeune Lune.

She said it’s very important to her to be a working actor and instructor at the same time.

“This isn’t a factual area of study; it’s always changing,” Kingsley said. “It is vital for the theatre department to have so many artists who are still professionally working so we can tell our students about the here and now.”

But it’s stressful. Rehearsals sometimes go until midnight, and she has to be at Rarig Center at 9 the next morning to teach.

“I have to be here and be on top of my game and not make excuses,” Kingsley said. “It challenges me to do my best work in both places.”

While she said working with a family on stage can be daunting, Leah Cooper, who is also executive director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, it’s been a smooth and fun ride.

“It’s almost like cheating,” Cooper said. “Barbara and

Stephen have very different acting styles. And Maggie has the best of both. I’ve never seen an actor do a 17-year-old glare at a mother like Maggie did.”

The work within the family is also a blessing. The foundation of the family is built so strong that the challenges in rehearsal are limited.

“It’s cool; I get to see them as professionals. We don’t treat each other as parents to a daughter,” Maggie said. “I can trust them with what I’m doing so much that it can almost be too easy.”

Stephen agreed and appreciates the opportunity to work with his daughter.

“The only challenge is to hold up your end,” he said. “I already know them, and there won’t be any surprises, really. It’s easy to work together because we do live together.”