Sunday, July 30, 2006

Interview with Kat

Kat Murello has joined me for a discussion about her most recent community theater project on Thursday July 27, 2006. She's playing Velma Kelly in Up in One Productions Chicago which opened Friday, July 21 at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. The show will continue to run Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sunday at 3:00 PM through August 13, 2006.

Erica: So tell me a little about your background as it pertains to theater ...

Kat: My first stage performance was in Kindergarten. I was definitely bitten by the acting bug, at that time as ridiculous as it sounds. Then I did theater in school, I did local theater, community theater, so I was always doing at least one show at all times. I finally got back into theater with Guys and Dolls.

Erica: So you discovered theater at an early age. Do you remember your first Broadway show?

Kat: Oh! I think it was Annie ... I can't really remember, to be honest with you, because we went a lot. My family was very involved with the arts, so that time period we went to so many different shows, I couldn't really tell you which one was first. But, I remember seeing Annie and being very affected by it, because the girls in it were my age. It was like, if they can do it, I can do it too. It was probably the most inspiring show I saw as a kid.

Erica: So do you have a favorite show?

Kat: My Favorite show of all time is Chicago, so I've been really lucky. My other favorite is Into the Woods, and we just did that over the winter. So this has been a big year for me, getting to do both of those shows in the same year has been a big dream for me.

Erica: Then I suppose there was no question you'd audition for Chicago. What made you decide to audition?

Kat: There was no question in my mind, at all, about auditioning. I don't know if you remember, but back when we did Guys and Dolls, I was obsessed with Chicago and I told Laurie and Diana, 'Please do Chicago' because with Laurie's choreography there was no question they could pull it off. So I didn't think they were going to do it, but then back in September I had heard, through the grapevine, that they were going to do it. From the minute I heard it, I knew that nobody was going to be getting the part of Velma but me, because I was going to fight tooth and nail for that part. So when I heard they were going to do it, I started rehearsing. I practiced the songs, worked on strengthening my voice, saw it on Broadway again, all so I could be really prepared for the audition when it came.

Erica: So you must have been thrilled when you heard you got the part.

Kat: It was pretty awesome – the following day, after auditions, I was working on a Catherine Zeta Jones movie, and you know she played Velma in the movie, so I have to leave for work at four in the morning, so I went on line and checked my email before leaving for work, and there was an email offering me the part. So it was four in the morning, and I was all by myself ... I got to really let it all soak in, and then go to a set where Catherine Zeta Jones was walking around all day. I was over the moon, definitely over the moon.

Erica: I was going to ask you about preparing for the role, but we already covered that, you started early and,worked hard.

Kat: I did, and I happened to have a copy of the script, so I looked through the script and tried to figure out what they would use for readings, and I tried to memorize those parts. I was pretty prepared. I had all the Velma lines committed before we started rehearsals. I was working in the Hamptons and I didn't really have anything better to do, so I completely submerged myself in the script. Every night in my hotel room I would go over the lines, go over the singing. So when I came back, our rehearsals had started – I was ready.

Erica: Do you think it's harder, more intimidating tperformrm in such a well known show? Do you think there's a high level of expectation that the audience comes in with?

Kat: I think the only problem with this one [this production] is that people know the show on Broadway or they know the movie, and they're both completely different from one another. There's songs in the Movie that aren't on Broadway, and vice versa. There are scenes that are different in the original script then the revival, which is the show that is currently on Broadway.
What we are doing is the Original Broadway script and incorporating a lot of the stuff that is in the movie as well as stuff that is in the revival on Broadway. So if people are going expecting the see the movie, they're going to be disappointed in some ways and if people are expecting to see just that vaudeville stuff that's on Broadway, it's going to be a combination of those things. I think we're mixing all of it very well.

Erica: I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it.

Kat: Yeah, I really can't wait for you to see it. It's such a great show, there's always so much going on. Wait till you see 'He had it coming' for me, that's the ultimate show stopper. It's very powerful, I think you'll really like it.

Erica: Getting away from the show for a moment, what do you think of the Community Theater experience in this area? Its strengths, weaknesses or just your feelings on the subject ...

Kat: I think more people should come out and audition, there's so many great shows going on here. People don't really understand how much work goes into putting on a show. We've got people in Chicago who have never done a show before, it's really eye opening for them. I think people enjoy theater more if they participate. There seems to be this resurgence of people going to see art on a regular basis. I think that is so important, it's such a great way to express yourself.

Erica: ... and it's so scary how many people don't realize how much we have, right here in the Hudson Valley. You don't have to go to New York City, certainly it's great to go, but you can find really good 'off off off' Broadway productions up here.

Kat: I think there is Broadway caliber talent up here, and Broadway caliber presentations put on, certainly at the [Rhinebeck] Center. I haven't see too many other local productions, but I know at our theater there are people who are incredible. In the staging, and the sets, and the costuming and the concepts going into these shows ... a lot of talent. When people go to see shows at the Center, and they haven't been there before, they are really blown away. They have no idea what goes on in that big Red Barn, and then when they see it, they are just shocked.

Erica: It certainly is professional grade in many respects. I usually recommend almost every show I go to see there, because the quality, for community theater, is very high. There's some very talented people involved ...

Kat: and inspired people, passionate people ... and that I think, is for me what makes it ... when I go to see shows I am often brought to tears, I know what it takes to make these shows happen, I really appreciate what these people are doing, what they are giving. I saw Oklahoma there last year, I cannot stand the show but at that performance, I was blown away ... I completely enjoyed it because the people were so into the show and they were so passionate, and the performances were so strong and the sets! It was just so good!

Erica: Are there any future plans you'd like to mention? Like to share ....

Kat: Let's see, I'm doing stand in on a new show that's coming out on NBC for a very well known actress, and I'm very proud of that ... I'm considering auditioning for a touring company maybe in the winter, after the show wraps for the season It's something I've always wanted to do. I have a few auditions for some independent films, I have some films that I've got some featured stuff in ... so I'm excited about that.

Erica: Getting back to Chicago ... What do you think sets this production apart?

Kat: Oh my gosh ... Passion. Every single person in this cast wants to be in this cast ... badly, and that passion that fire comes out in every performance. It was there in every rehearsal. The cast is just so into the show, believing in the dancing and the music and the style. I think from the very first second a person appears on stage you can feel it, as an audience member. You can feel it and it carries you through the whole thing. There is such passion from this cast, there are no dead moments, no parts that are slow, it goes by so quickly because everyone has so much energy and you become so completely engaged. You don't always get that with a cast.

Erica: What advice would you give to people who dream of becoming an actor?

Kat: I really only started focusing on becoming an actor two years ago, and it's really remembering your passion, remembering why you want to do it, and really focusing on a goal. Maybe it's a bunch of little goals, maybe it's a big goal, but you really need to stay focused ... be driven. Submerge yourself in the arts ... you should be constantly reading scripts and watching movies that are different that what you're used to, go to see shows ... and surrounding yourself with people who are passionate like you are. Try new things, pick up new hobbies and interests because you never know when those things might apply to you as an actor. Traveling is really important, meeting new people ... and honestly no acting job is too small. I know it's so cliche, but it's so true. The is no small part, it's all about what you put into it, and every part counts. So even if you get offered something small you should take it because you never know what's going to happen.

This interview has been edited for clarity. Thanks to Kat for generously making time in her busy schedule to talk to me. Thanks also to all those amazing, talented people that make community theater in the mid hudson valley happen. I'll be going to see Chicago August 6th and I will write a review of the show shortly after that.

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