Metro-East Living

Rookie actress has‘Proof’: It pays to try

Top left, clockwise: Sean Thomas, Mike Huelsmann, Cayce Jondro, Jennifer Klostermann.
Top left, clockwise: Sean Thomas, Mike Huelsmann, Cayce Jondro, Jennifer Klostermann. Charlie Huelsmann

Cayce Jondro will make her stage debut tonight — as the lead actress in the Clinton County Showcase production of “Proof.”

“Butterflies? Oh my gosh, there are buffalo in my tummy,” said Cayce (KAY-see), 35 of Carlyle. “It’s very scary. People say you should start out with small roles.

“I didn’t even know the lingo at rehearsals — things like when the lights go out, you leave the stage. But I got a lot of advice from the veterans. And once on stage and in costume, you fall right into being someone different than who you are.”

“Proof” is the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It focuses on Cayce’s character, Catherine, who has spent years caring for her father, Robert (Mike Huelsmann, of Breese), a brilliant mathematician in his youth, who later lost his mind and was unable to function without Catherine’s help. His death has brought her sister, Claire (Jennifer Klostermann, of Breese), who wants to take Catherine back to New York with her, and Hal (Sean Thomas, of Sandoval), a former student of Robert who hopes to find a hint of Robert’s genius among his incoherent scribblings.

“Catherine has some of her father’s math genius,” said director Charlie Huelsmann. “She is afraid she is following in her father’s footsteps and going crazy, too.”

Hal’s passion for math moves and angers Catherine, who is torn between missing her father and resenting the sacrifices she made for him. As she and Hal become attracted to each other, they push the edges of each other’s knowledge and emotions.

Charlie Huelsmann saw the play in 2001 and is excited about bringing it the Breese stage. There were challenges, too, including flashbacks to Robert “going crazy” and staging.

“The action is set in the backyard of a house, so I built a house on stage,” the director said. “Or at least the back of a house with a big porch that stretches almost all the way across.”

He was hesitant about using a rookie in the lead role, but when Cayce came in for an audition because “it was on her bucket list,” he knew she was the one.

Cayce wasn’t so sure.

“I’m a lab technician, so I sit in a lab all day with the radio on,” Cayce said. “I heard about auditions on the radio, and the play is about science and math. I love science and math. ...

“I always had it on my list to audition for something. I kept talking myself into it and out of it for weeks. It kept me up at night. I didn’t tell anybody I was going. I thought, ‘If I get a small role no one will notice me.’”

Charlie did notice her, “and the next thing you know, I’m an actress. I crossed it off my list and it’s been incredible,” she said. “It’s fun, but I can’t believe how stressful it is (with) the long hours of rehearsal. It takes over your life.”

She sees a lot of herself in her character.

“I really like Catherine because she is smart and she has this fear that she will be just like her dad. It’s exhausting emotionally. I get worn out by her ups and downs, going from funny to sad to panic.” She though a moment. “It’s a lot like life.

“I think people will really enjoy the show, and I hope they like me. I will come away from this with the fact that I learned about a subject that I knew nothing about. I can’t watch movies the same way anymore. Now I look at each scene and think, ‘How did they make that believable?’”

What’s next for Cayce, who is the mother of a 6-year-old named Kit?

“Well, I quit my job and I’m going to start teaching yoga.”

At a glance

  • What: “Proof”
  • Who: Clinton County Showcase
  • When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 16-17; 2 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 18
  • Where: Avon Theater, 525 N. Second St., Breese
  • Tickets: $12 general admission; $10 students, seniors and active military; call 618-526-2866. General admission tickets will be sold at the box office before the performance.
  • Note: Director Charlie Huelsmann warns that “‘Proof’ is PG-13. There are some cuss words. It’s probably not for younger kids.”