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Becoming a Broadway Baby

October 28, 2011

I was born into a family of creative people — My Mom is a retired-piano-teacher-turned-psychologist, my Dad played drums in a rock ‘n roll band for many years, and my Brother is a super talented musician who just graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. So I guess you could say that it’s no surprise that I turned out to be artistically inclined.

Theatre, however, was kind of an accident. At least to begin with.

My Mom and her piano teacher friend Kathy founded a music school in the mid-90’s called The Bell Center for Music & the Arts. I was around seven. The Bell Center started as a place to take music lessons (mostly piano), and eventually grew to become a place where over a thousand students were involved in a children’s chorus, art classes, summer camps, African drumming groups, drama classes, Kindermusik, orchestras, and lessons on just about any instrument you could think of. My Mom put very long hours in there, and it came to be a second home for me. It was a special place for an artistically inclined kid to grow up, that’s for sure. And I learned some of my more interesting “special skills” there, African drumming and Chinese calligraphy, to name a couple 🙂

When The Bell Center expanded to include theatrical productions, the very first show they produced was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” They were short a few Ooompa Loompas. I was always hanging around the place anyways. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I loved every second of my two-line solo and getting to dress up in a funny hat and mis-matched tights, and a love affair with theatre was born. The biggest tragedy of all this (besides the fact that I was now determined to succeed in a very challenging career), is that no photographic proof exists of just how ridiculous I’m sure my seven-year-old self looked in that costume. But for reference, I wasn’t too much older than this:

Yep. Check out that birthday hat. You know you’re jealous.

Shortly after my starring turn as Oompa Loompa #7, I was cast in a new musical with a staged reading being produced in New York, and my Mom accompanied me on a trip to the city for the reading. Thus began my love affair with this great city. Theatre and chorus became my life. And being a performer was never an accident again. Many of my greatest challenges and most thrilling successes have come from my involvement with theatre. And performing has shaped who I am throughout my life.

I grew up in the theatre. Literally.

My Mom homeschooled me up until sixth grade, so that left me free to take drama classes, be in the children’s chorus, and act in plays to my heart’s content. At twelve, I carried my first show as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (I also carried my very own dog, who played Toto, throughout most of the show, but that’s another story for another time!).

I don’t know what I’m pointing at. The Emerald City, perhaps? My Mom just said to point.

I drank my first cup of coffee because of the long hours we were keeping rehearsing and building the sets for The Wizard of Oz. I dyed my hair brown, learned how to shave my legs, and wore my first real bra for the role. I also first discovered the joy and the pain of walking in heels so that I could don those beautiful ruby slippers.

My greatest friends have come from my time spent in theatre. 

When I was thirteen, my parents divorced and we moved across the country. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I spent much of my freshman year of high school depressed. And despite the fact that I did have a few friends I’d made, I never really found my niche until sophomore year when I started hanging with the theatre kids.

I can’t even believe I’m posting a picture of my pre-mascara-and-hair-straightener days on the internet for all to see, but that awkward redhead is me and my best friend in the entire world, Clare, has her arm around me. Also: please note the brunette on the end in the cute skirt — that would be The Debutante Actor 😉

I hated my high school, so for me the saving graces of those four years were my amazingly wonderful chorus teacher, Ms. Davis; my dorky theatre kid friends; and the fact that I completely immersed myself in community theatre, often squeezing in three or four shows a semester! At sixteen, I was cast as Little Red in Into the Woods, and my lifelong, debilitating love of Sondheim was exacerbated:

I also got my first car — a little red ’87 Volkswagon Cabriolet on the same day as I got cast, so guess what my car was named? 🙂

I have built my life around theatre.

I only seriously applied to colleges in the New York area because I had known for SO LONG that New York was where I wanted to be. So at eighteen, I again moved cross-country to follow my dreams. Is it cliché? Yes. Is it true? Also yes.

In college, I learned a lot about myself and what it meant to be a real actor. It was a real journey of self-discovery for me (for all of us, I think), and except for a very short-lived crisis of faith sophomore year when I briefly contemplated law school, my commitment to theatre has never wavered.

Don’t mess with the ladies of Camille.

I developed my interest in fitness, and started running and spending time at the gym (my high school self was cringing inside) in order to be in fighting shape to take on this big, bad city. I also started perming my hair, rather than pincurling it before every freaking audition like I had been…I mean, what? These curls are totally natural.

Even my marriage started in acting class. I mean, let’s be real here. Were it not for theatre, I would definitely not be married to the same man. And I can say with relative certainty that we wouldn’t have gotten married in a theatre:

Rocking the theatre wedding. Yes, sir.

Unlike many adults who might measure their childhood by what street they lived on or what grade they were in, I remember mine based on what show I was in at the time. In fact, I still do that as a grown-up. And I like it that way. I have no idea where this crazy life of mine will lead, but I do know that theatre will always be a defining theme.

And I also know that the internet at large now has a lot more embarassing facts about me. C’est la vie.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2011 3:24 pm

    LOVE that you got married on stage! this is a lovely post

  2. November 14, 2011 6:30 pm

    Kate, thank you so much for this absolutely wonderful post!

    So many people who choose to follow a career path in acting/theater/TV/film can relate to the feelings of having found a place in the most wonderful community of misfits. I also love that you got your start as an Oompa Loompa… why oh why do you not have a photo?!? In any case, so glad you posted the beautiful birthday picture and, with much bravery, your awkward teen picture. Believe me, I have plenty of those!

    Thank you for sharing your passion and giving us a glimpse into the wonderful life of the lovely Ms. Kate!

  3. Sean McCain permalink
    March 22, 2012 1:09 pm

    I did a show on that stage!

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