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Gender Bender

First time actor tackles 'Prelude to a Kiss'

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'I'm a strong believer in challenging yourself, in testing your limits," says Peyton Victoria, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College. "I've learned that to grow, you have to get comfortable stepping outside your own 'comfort zone.'"

To prove that point, Victoria is stepping way outside her comfort zone. Having never appeared on stage, except for a brief appearance in a student directing project some years ago, she's taken on the maddeningly challenging part of Rita in Craig Lucas' supernatural gender-swap play Prelude to a Kiss, running for two weeks at SRJC under the direction of Leslie McCauley.

First produced in 1988, the play follows a young couple, Rita and Peter (Kot Takahashi), as they meet, fall in love and get married, their union instantly complicated when Rita's soul is magically swapped with that of a depressed old man (Ron Smith) as he wanders past the wedding.

"The first time I ever heard of this play was last year in my theater history class," says Victoria, who was intrigued enough by the play's mysterious premise that she ordered the script online. "As soon as I started reading it," she says, "I literally fell in love with it. I was reading it at Aroma's in Santa Rosa, and I was so drawn into the play my coffee went cold before I remembered it again."

It was the themes of unconditional love and the importance of taking chances in life that drew Victoria to the story, and gave her the courage to tackle so complex a role

"In this play, all hell breaks loose, and Peter doesn't know what's wrong—but he stays," she says. "He commits himself to finding Rita. And he keeps on loving her—even when he finds her soul trapped inside the body of an old man."

In playing the part, of course, Victoria not only plays Rita. She also has to play Rita as inhabited by the old man.

"And sometimes," she laughs, "I have to play Rita's body with the old man's soul inside her, with him acting the way he thinks Rita would act—so it gets a little tricky."

With her first play about to open, Victoria has set her sights on yet another way to step outside her comfort zone.

"I think I want to try a musical next," she laughs. "Why not, right? So . . . I've already started taking singing lessons."

'Prelude to a Kiss' runs Thursday–Sunday, Oct. 3-12 at Newman Auditorium on the Santa Rosa Junior College campus. 1501 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa. Wed.-Sat. at 8:00pm. 2pm matinees on Sat. Oct. 11 and both Sundays. $12-$18. 707.527.4343.

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