By Susan T. Hessel —
Ammie Jergenson is a backstage hero of theatre, someone who makes it possible for the show to go on. And there’s no place she’d rather be than the theatre. “Being backstage with a headset is something that I love. It is one of my favorite places to be.”
The incredibly upbeat Jergenson, now a Viterbo University senior, has a lifelong passion for theatre. “There’s the ability to tell stories and give audiences different perspectives in ways that are entertaining but still educational,” she said.
Jergenson has worked as stage manager or assistant stage manager for nearly 15 productions at La Crescent’s Appleseed Community Theatre, La Crescent High School and Viterbo. She runs the show in that role, making sure actors, props and scenery are where they are supposed to be.
“I’ve always wanted to be on stage, but it was a matter of I don’t look like other actors,” she said.
That not looking like other actors refers to a physical disability in her walk and balance, a result of cerebral palsy. “If I am very nervous, my hands shake. I call it involuntary jazz hands,” she said with a smile.
Practically from birth, Jergenson has pushed herself to do more, to not let her challenges stop her from doing what she loves. She knows that someone who sees her move may think, “That poor girl,” but she needs no pity.
“I’m pretty stubborn and determined, something the faculty has pointed out to me,” she said of Viterbo. “I may do things differently, but there is not much I cannot do. If I love it, I’m going to do it.”
Jergenson, the daughter of Sue Jergenson, is one of three kids in her family, including her twin sister Annie and big brother Dusty. All are supportive as she meets her goals.
“She has a kind heart and a wonderful soul, and really believes in what she is doing,” said Jonathan Lamb, the director of Appleseed’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which was the first play in which Jergenson was stage manager and not an assistant.
“She’s a very creative young woman who has inspired a lot of people. I have enjoyed watching her grow to be a young lady who immerses herself in theatre because it helps her and allows her to help others,” Lamb added.
Jergenson’s dream is to be a playwright, writing plays that reflect her own experiences. “I am disabled,” she said. “One of my pet peeves is nondisabled actors playing disabled roles. As a playwright, a lot of my work is focused through the disabled lens. I always want to give disabled actors roles of disabled characters. I refuse to let those roles go to able-bodied actors.”
Casting a nondisabled person for a character who has disabilities is whitewashing casting, she said, just like having non-Latino actors play Latino roles or white people cast as Native Americans.
Wherever she is, Jergenson is determined to make the world better for others beyond herself. “I can’t speak for all people with disabilities because each person is different,” she said, “even people who have cerebral palsy.”
As far as her own challenges go regarding her physical condition, she describes herself as “gravity-challenged.” When she falls or has some other difficulty, her response is to call it a learning experience. “I try to be positive. I try to do as much as possible.”
As for advice to others interested in theatre, she said, “You have to love it and want to not do anything else.”