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Arsenic and Old Lace

Driven to work in theater, Gustafson embraces role in Nicolet Players’ Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace - Josh Gustafson

Finding your way in life isn’t always easy.

But for Northwoods native Josh Gustafson, the direction he would take became clear in the spring of 2011 when he first stepped on stage to perform in a play at Lakeland Union High School.

“It was my junior year, and I remember walking on to the stage and thinking ‘This is what I want to do.’ I’ve been completely hooked on theater ever since,” said Gustafson, who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls with a bachelor’s degree in Stage and Screen Arts.

In early May, the former Nicolet student will bring his considerable talents back to the Nicolet College Theatre where he will take on the role of Mortimer, one of the main characters in Nicolet Players’ upcoming production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

“It’s a great role but also very challenging,” Gustafson said.

The classic comedy tells the tale of two sweet, old sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, who are known for their virtues and charitable acts.

“Some would call them quirky, but I think that would be an understatement,” Gustafson explained. “As nice as they are, they think it’s perfectly OK to lure in lonely old men, give them elderberry wine laced with arsenic, and watch them drop dead.”

When their buttoned-down, straight-laced nephew Mortimer shows up at their house one day, shocked after discovering their nefarious ways, comedy and chaos erupt.

Toss in nearly a dozen other off-the-wall characters – including Mortimer’s delusional brother who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt – and all the makings are there for a classic comedy that has stood the test of time.

“All the twists and turns the storyline takes make this a hilarious and highly entertaining play,” Gustafson added. “For Mortimer, his world gets turned upside down. He’s known for always being composed and in control, and as the story unfolds, he becomes anything but that.”

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6, and the following week Thursday through Saturday, May 11 to 13. Sunday performances will take place at 2 p.m. May 7 and 14.

Tickets are $9 and $7 and can be ordered online or by calling (715) 365-4646.

To date Gustafson said he’s been in about a dozen plays. Arsenic and Old Lace will mark his fourth Nicolet Players production, previously being a part of the cast for Harvey, Almost Maine, and Noises Off. After Arsenic and Old Lace he’ll continue his quest for a professional job in theater, but not necessarily as an on-stage actor.

“I really like sound design and building sets. I’d also like to be a voice actor for animated films and videos. It’s all about finding the opportunity.”
Photo above: Preparing for his role as Mortimer, Josh Gustafson, left, rehearses a scene with Tony Jones, who plays Teddy.

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