Amanda Pyfferoen was just a kid when she started hanging out at local theaters.
“My grandma started taking me with her to Rochester Civic Theatre, where she was a volunteer, when I was maybe 4 or 5,” Pyfferoen said. “I started going to theater camps at 8 and that’s when I got the bug.”
Now Pyfferoen, the kid who took her theater bug and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater, is back in Rochester and will direct “Enchanted April,” which opens Jan. 15 at theRochester Repertory Theatre.
“They’re giving me my first chance at directing, it’s my debut,” Pyfferoen said.
“Enchanted April,” about four British women who go to a sunny villa in Italy to revive their spirits, is a play Pyfferoen has had her eye on for a while.
“I always thought it would be a good play for the Rep,” she said. “It has a lot of good female roles. It offers people a chance to see the fact that everyone has problems that come up in their lives. Everyone goes through a change at the end.”
So she pitched it to the Rep board and was selected to direct the play in the January slot on the schedule.
That was step one. Step two was walking into the first rehearsal, where a cast of veteran Rochester actors awaited her.
“I will admit it was a little intimidating for me,” Pyfferoen said. “So far, I would say it’s going pretty well working with people who are seasoned volunteer actors. So far, so good.”
In the cast are Cheryl Frarck, Lisa Modry, Rebecca Sands, Annette Schuler, Doug Petty, Blake Hogue, Jesse Larson and Mary Pyfferoen (Amanda’s mom).
Pyfferoen graduated in 2005 from Lourdes High School, then studied under theater director Jerry Casper at Rochester Community & Technical College before she earned a master’s degree in 2013 from Minnesota State-Mankato.
She cites Casper as a major influence. “I learned a lot from him,” Pyfferoen said. “He definitely helped frame my theater future. He was a source of encouragement.”
Plus, Pyfferoen comes from a theatrical family: Her mother directs plays at Lourdes High School, and her brother, Joseph, recently moved to New York to launch an acting career.
She’s already heard countless times that a career in the theater in anything but stable.
But, she said, “I want to do what I love. It’s what I love.”
To increase her chances of remaining in the field, she has picked up experience as an actor, in stage management and design, has co-founded a summer theater camp for Rochester Catholic school students, and works in the box office at the Rep — and now she can add directing to her resume.
Of course, there’s the pressure of delivering in her hometown.
“What’s nice about it, is people know me from before,” Pyfferoen said. And now that she’s got a couple of degrees to her name, she’s no longer the kid hanging around backstage. “I’ve noticed I’m getting respect,” she said.