First time in Spokane onstage?
At the age of 4, my cousin's dance teacher saw me bouncing around as I watched my cousin’s classes. She decided to put me in the recital — put me in a bunny costume (not the Playboy type, the Easter type), and had me sing and dance to “Here Comes Peter Cottontail." I still remember the dance (hop, 2, 3, 4 – wiggle 2,3,4) and I still have the costume!
First show at Civic?
The Civic’s first production of *Grease,* directed by Jean Hardie – my mentor! I played Patty the cheerleader. I was in my 30s with a bunch of college kids. They had great swimming parties during the day — I sold insurance to feed the kids!! I hadn’t done any theater in high school or college — I was a dancer and gymnast. I took adult dance classes from Carol Woodbury and she talked me into auditioning. Been hooked ever since!!
Your first tap dance class?
Actual lessons began in first grade, at a theater that doesn’t exist anymore called Peggy Rene’s Studio of Dance. Peggy taught tap, ballet and jazz; her husband, Rene (from the Basque region of Spain) had danced with Jose Greco and taught Flamenco.
What are your next couple of local theater projects?
There is the encore performance of *Steam Heat* the end of this month. Then *Stepping Out* at InterPlayers. There's talk of directing something at Civic next year, but I haven’t committed to that yet. This spring and summer ... I have to stay away from any commitments until I see how my daughter is doing.
So much for preliminaries ... on to the 20 Questions ...
1. What's the longest (or most difficult) book you've ever read? What are you currently reading?
Either Stephen King's *The Stand* or “Gone With the Wind” — I’m not sure which one is longer. I am currently reading *A Million Little Pieces* — had borrowed it from my daughter and forgotten about it, but the Oprah incident reignited my interest.
2. Describe the first time you realized that not everybody is crazy about theater.
Probably during my second show at Civic. *Grease* was great fun — it was during the summer. We had great promotions — a Pepsi truck around most nights, dancing outside and mostly full houses. I was so excited and wrapped up in it all, it was like a whirlwind. I thought the whole community was there. The second show had rather poor attendance — the theater seemed dead. When I’d talk to people about it, they had the audacity to ask – “You’re doing what? The Civic? What’s the Civic?” It was an eye-opener.
3. Who deserves to be on a new U.S. postage stamp?
Harry Connick Jr. I always liked him before — but he was/is incredibly compassionate about the disaster brought about by Hurricane Katrina.
4. What's your best idea for getting more people to attend theater?
That’s tough. I don’t remember seeing theater as a kid — maybe one children’s theater production my brother was in. I do remember seeing a short play with my kids that they (the now defunct Heritage Family Theatre) brought to their grade school. People seemed interested, and many of us took information about upcoming performances. I have performed outside of theatres — at parks, wineries, and events like First Night. It often seems to be the first time some people have seen “live” theater, and many of them act like it won’t be the last. Bringing the theater to the people might help, but it is obvious in our own theater community right now that we are all trying to solve that problem.
5. How has being in theater helped you in the insurance business and vice versa?
It has helped my clientele grow. Many of them, even non-theatergoers, seem to like seeing my name or picture in the paper. It started with theatre friends buying insurance from me — then came the theater employees, and now I get a few people a year who come to me just because they’ve seen something I’ve done and know I sell insurance. It’s kinda cool!!
6. What color clothing do you never wear?
Pale yellow — actually pretty much any shade of yellow. So why I have bright yellow heels in my shoe closet is beyond me!! Maybe for some costume?
7. What's a bad habit you're trying to break?
Socially, I am working on becoming a better listener. I often have so much going on in my head, I feel like I’m hearing what they are saying, but processing what I’m worried about — especially in the arts, as in when I’m directing. Health-wise, I am an off-again, on-again smoker, depending on my stress level and whether or not I’m doing a musical. That’s gotta go — I have grandkids!!!
8. How often do theatergoers approach you on the street?
Probably a couple times a month — they sometimes drop by my office to say “hi." The most memorable was during *Chorus Line* (at Civic). I was with my manager (for insurance) in an elevator, heading to a meeting. This guy got on and said, “I know you — I’m sure of it.” We all stood silent for a moment, the elevator stopped and the gentleman stepped out. As the door began to close so we could continue up, the guy yelled out, – “Oh, wow – you’re tits and ass!" My manager wasn’t amused, and I was terribly embarrassed.
9. Biggest snafu (dropped lines, costume screw-up, malfunctioning prop) that you personally were involved in or witnessed?
Well ... until the broken bone last fall (no pun intended) it would be during “Angry Housewives” in the Firth Chew Studio. I was playing Jetta, and there is a scene where the girls are discussing how to handle children. Jetta’s little joke was pretending to draw a gun and say “OK, baby, drop ‘em," meaning the baby' diapers. Anyway, I had on a one-piece jump suit, with pockets that were quite tight. So as not to have “panty lines,” I was dressed fairly scantily underneath. I went to “draw my gun," caught my finger in my pocket and ripped the side seam of the jumpsuit from my waist to my knees. Thank God for Martha Lou Wheatley-Billiter’s (sp.?) quick thinking. Without missing a beat, she took off her jacket and tied it around my waist. I love you, Martha Lou!!!
10. What great tragic role for a woman would you like to have played or still hope to perform someday?
We all know that “tragic” women are not typically what I play. I have tried for a few, but this type-casting thing is hard to break (but I do LOVE comedy!) I am probably too old now, but the role of Bella in *Lost in Yonkers* is one that touches me, and one of the most coveted roles in theater for women. And the professor, Dr. Vivian Dearing, in *Wit.* Well, I can dream, can’t I? Shakespeare? No way — it scares me to death!!
11. Puppies or kittens?
Puppies: We currently have a chocolate chow, Coco and a fawn pug, Lucy.
12. What does the typical non-theatergoer not understand about theater?
The natural “high” one gets from doing theater and how and why we talk about the show for hours on end: what happened at that night’s performance, the audience reaction, the line you finally got right, the timing you’re still searching to find. My husband, Terry, God bless him, goes nuts at theater parties (understandably) and is always relieved if he finds another “non-theater” spouse to talk to.
13. When guests drop by on short notice, which room in your house do you designate as out-of-bounds?
That would be which rooms are “guest ready?” Usually my kitchen is in good shape (if you can get past the wall where we tore down the yellow, lime green, and orange flowered wallpaper). Then there is a dining room that’s never touched (but who wants to visit there?) and a living room that is generally quite nice. Our family room often has laundry to be folded, Terry’s work stuff (boxes and boxes), and a couch that has certainly seen better days. My bedroom has clothes all over — unless it’s the weekend — and our office looks like a bomb exploded in it.
14. If you could relive just one moment in your theatrical experience (whether as performer, director or audience member), what would you choose?
The reaction to the crowd, judges and crew from the host theater when they saw the production of Spokane Children’s Theatre’s production of *Pinocchio* at the national competition in Harrisburg, Pa. As the director, I was so proud of the impression the cast (mostly children) made — not only with their performance, but their professionalism throughout the rather high-stress situation. Few children’s shows have competed on the national level, and they were all very apprehensive with having to deal with such a young cast. They were all singing a different tune by the end of competition. That cast and crew of *Pinocchio* were amazing. It was a magical experience!!
15. Before I die, the place I want to revisit (or visit for the first time) is ...
... London – I’ve never been to Europe, plus they have awesome theatre and speak English!
16. Before I die, what I want to do in theater is ....
... a “serious” role. The thought of it scares me a bit, but I do believe I could pull it off.
17. Actor or actress, stage or screen, whose work you are amazed by?
Lucille Ball was incredible — she’s my mentor, but I have always thought Meryl Streep was amazing.
18. It's not theater unless ...
... as an audience member, you are transported to their world; as a director, you get teary on opening night; as a performer, you keep learning and growing from each and every show.
19. Name the Ten Commandments.
(In fairness to Kathie, readers are hereby instructed to cover the screen and see how well THEY do in naming all 10 before popping off ... oops, I think I just committed the sin of pride or being an insufferable jerk or something ...)
Oh, wow. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ... something. Thy neighbor's wife! [pause] Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not put gods before me. [pause]
(That's five of them.)
Wow, I’m half Christian! (laughs) Something about jealousy ...
(That's covet thy neighbor's wife.)
Are there two covets? Oh, honor thy father and mother ...
(And there's covet thy neighbor's goods, name in vain, honor the Sabbath, don't bear false witness or lie ... )
20. Let's do some word associations, Kathie!
the DMV tickets
the SAT hard
Mel Gibson oh my … Passion of Christ
Anne Bancroft wicked
ice hockey rough
chocolate fudge delicious
broccoli good for me
New York City overwhelming
Ritzville Podunk (laughs)