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The plays (and the films) the thing
Former actor in Shakespeare Festival in film showing at Avalon
Deborah Staples IMG 0298
Deborah Staples

An actor who once performed at UW–Platteville’s Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival is featured in a film that will play at the Avalon Cinema in Platteville March 6–12.

“Pilot Error” is inspired by the true story of a French airliner missing in the Atlantic.

The film costars Deborah Staples, who performs at the American Players Theater in Spring Green and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Staples plays the best friend of the lead character, a reporter who investigates the plane’s disappearance.

The Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival was a summer event at UW–Platteville from 1976 to 1999, putting on three Shakespeare plays most seasons.

Staples had acted in the Chicago Shakespeare Festival before coming to Platteville. But the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival not only gave her acting experience, it gave her a husband — David Cecsarini, who played Macbeth while Staples played Lady Macbeth in the 1996 production of “Macbeth,” two roles Staples described as “the couple that murders together stays together.”

“It was not my start in acting, but it was my return to Wisconsin,” said Staples, a California native who now lives in Whitefish Bay. “Platteville was an incredibly memorable time in our lives.”

Set in Wisconsin, “Pilot Error” was filmed extensively in the Milwaukee area as well as Appleton, Michigan and Paris. The movie also includes a talkback with veteran airline training pilot Robert Hesselbein of Madison. Richard Riehle, a native of Menomonee Falls, also appears in the film.

The film’s trailer is at

“Pilot Error” explores questions similar to those asked following the loss of another jet, Malaysia Air flight 370 in March and the recent Air Asia crash in the Java Sea.

“Pilot Error” stars stage actress Kate Thomsen as investigative reporter Nicola Wilson, who is determined to find out why a jet headed from South America to Paris with 211 passengers disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean.

The film’s promotional materials say that “As Wilson digs deeper and deeper into this mystery she puts her job, friends and very livelihood on the line. Even though she knows nothing about aviation, refuses to fly and doesn’t speak French, Wilson quickly uncovers unexpected details about the missing flight.”

Staples filmed her scenes in Michigan. “We packed a lot of stuff and chased the weather and ran around a lot,” she said. “We had a great time.”

“Pilot Error” is Staples’ third film. The way director Joe Anderson filmed the movie took Staples out of her comfort zone.

“I’m primarily a theater actor, and we rehearse for weeks before we perform,” she said. “This director believed in doing it all in one take. That will put the fear of anything in a theater actor. We’d basically do everything in one take with the camera setup.”

The film, which will appear on more than 200 screens nationwide this year, is based on Roger Rapoport’s novel Pilot Error. Rapoport produced and cowrote the feature with Anderson.

“Our goal is to encourage more hands-on flying and simulator training for airline pilots at a time when the industry is increasingly focused on automation,” said Rapoport.

Rapoport produced “Waterwalk,” which has shown at more than 200 theaters nationwide, about a father and son who went on a 1,000-mile canoe journey tracing the Marquette/Joliet discovery route of the Mississippi River.

“He just doesn’t hear the word ‘no,’” said Staples.

Robert Cicchini (“Godfather III” and “Waterwalk”), and Larry Herron (“Modern Family”) also are in “Pilot Error.”
Staples is currently playing all seven characters of “The Amish Project” at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. “The Amish Project” is based on a shooting at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania in 2006, and the community’s forgiveness of the man who shot 10 Amish girls, killing five.

She will return to American Players Theatre in Spring Green this summer for her ninth season where she’s cast in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” and Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

Staples previously was in another film set in Wisconsin, “Baraboo,” which starred Brenda DeVita, who now is the artistic director for American Players Theatre.

“I love the craft — you do learn what somebody else’s shoes feel like,” said Staples. “I feel it fascinating and fun to become some other person.”

“Pilot Error” is based on five years of research and interviews with more than 200 pilots, airline executive, plane manufacturers, regulatory agencies and the team that found missing Air France 447 in the Atlantic. The film offer audiences an inside look at the fate of pilots kept in the dark about failed automation.

“Top airline training pilots speaking at our preview events have been warmly received by audiences trying to understand how, in the most interconnected moment in human history, it’s never been easier to hide the truth,” said Rapoport.