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K.T. Vogt has done it all, but cross-gender acting was a challenge happily welcomed

Photo by Jenny Graham K.T. Vogt as Falstaff in the OSF 2017 production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" played the cross-gender role to the hilt. She was with OSF for 13 seasons and is known for her deft comic touch.

When she was very young, before the idea of acting as a profession was in her realm of possibilities, K.T. Vogt wanted to be a veterinarian or a nun.

“And now,” she said, “I have played them both. Many nuns.”

Vogt came with her family from Los Angeles in 2008 to work for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“I was blessed to be asked back 12 more times,” she said.

Her daughter, Audrey Cirzan, attended schools in Ashland and attended many of the shows at OSF.

“And now she wants to be an actor, too,” Vogt said. “She is going to the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and we got to do ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ together.” It was performed by The Rogue Theater Company at Grizzly Peak Winery in May.

OSF kept her very busy for those many seasons. She performed in Shakespeare plays, musicals, comedies and new works at the festival. She is known for her deft comic touch.

“There is humor in everything, especially tragedy,” she said. “They exist together.”

She believes the use of humor and conflict together heightens the dramatic experience of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

Even before the play started, Vogt’s character came onto the stage to sweep the floor. As she worked her way around the set, there was a moment when she briskly brushed the broom toward an audience member in a sort of “Are you lookin’ at me?” move. It got a good laugh.

“It was my idea to sweep the stage before the show,” she said. “It let people know it was starting soon.”

Her favorite roles at OSF were Falstaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” the Duchess of York in “Richard II,” Launce in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and Toinette in “The Imaginary Invalid.”

“I also liked playing the fancy lady in the Marx Brothers shows,” she said, “because I like physical comedy.”

In “Animal Crackers,” she encouraged Mark Bedard (Groucho) to push her around a little. At first he demurred.

“I told him I thought it would be funny, so he started doing it. At one point, he was dragging me around the floor calling me a ShamWow. That is as close as I’ll get to heaven on this earth.”

The cross-gender acting was a challenge she happily welcomed.

“I love playing with gender,” she said. “It’s liberating and sets my imagination ablaze. For Falstaff, I felt like I was channeling my dad.”

She described her father as a larger-than-life character, a big personality who would walk to work singing at the top of his lungs.

“He was a bit narcissistic and maybe borderline bipolar,” Vogt said, “so he was all fun or all scary. And I was crazy about him.”

Her father died in 2011, so it was fun for her to try to embody him in the Falstaff role.

“My mother came to see the show,” Vogt said. “And although she enjoyed it, I could tell she was kind of disturbed because she recognized her husband in the portrayal.”

Her resume also lists performances at many regional theaters and work in film and television, with roles in “Doc Hollywood,” “Puppet Master,” “Conspiracy Theory” and “Lonesome Dove 2” among others.

She grew up in a family of creatives with both parents and her brothers and sisters all artistic in some way, enjoying music, art, poetry, acting and singing.

“My parents would take me to Chicago to go to plays and museums,” she said. “And Kankakee (Illinois) has a wonderful community theater that some of us were involved in.”

She was born in Kankakee, the eldest of eight children. She attended a Catholic school whose teachers, on their own time, put on plays to involve kids who were hungry for the experience.

The first professional play she saw was when she was in high school. She joined other students on a bus trip to Deerfield, Illinois, to see “Tartuffe,” presented by John Houseman’s touring company.

“I was blown away,” she said. “At the time, I thought I might never see anything that wonderful again in my life.”

The performance was so good, she said, that she was conflicted. It made her want to be an actor and, at the same time, afraid to be one.

After that experience, nothing else appealed to her but the theater. There was no revelation. She just realized that was who she was.

She earned a B.A. in theater at Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois, and then attended the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California.

She’s not sure what’s next for her.

“As an actor, I’m used to that,” she said. “The many seasons I’ve had here have been a gift, and I’m grateful for it. I love it here.”

Right back at you, her fans would say.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.