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Meet Katharine Means

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katharine Means.

Katharine, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Theater has been a vital part of my life for as long as I can remember. When my uncle brought me to my first professional show at four years old, my mom was worried my wiggley self would not be able to sit through the evening. But indeed, I sat, still and rapt, beholding the majesty of Starlight Express(yes, the musical on roller skates). I knew from that moment I wanted to be on the stage(perhaps without the roller skates). I performed in plays and musicals throughout elementary school, including a gender defying performance as Mark Twain in the 5th grade play. After watching Bring It On one too many times, I briefly abandoned the stage to participate in competitive cheerleading, but quickly realized my lack of coordination was not conducive to cheering. Being cast in the role of Island Girl- with line! – in a middle school production of South Pacific, I was forced to come to terms with the reality that I did not have the singing ability for musical theater.

I still madly loved the theater but was not sure where I fit in. I worked with Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles as a student ambassador developing programs to draw young people to the theater and training them to advocate for arts education in schools. Then, my freshman year of high school, I snuck into the back of the auditorium to watch the seniors rehearse an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet. Clad in black leather and clashing swords, this was not dusty, delicate Shakespeare- this was potent, provocative and punk. I became obsessed with reigniting Shakespeare for contemporary audiences. This ethos of reinterpretation drew me to study Shakespeare in Stratford, England and Stratford, Connecticut, to train with Anne Bogart and SITI Company, and ultimately to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) where I am graduating with my BFA in Acting this May.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome? Growing up on the outskirts of Los Angeles, many of my friends were child actors. At the time, I was jealous that my mom- a single parent who worked full time- was not able to be my “momager” shuffling me to and from auditions. But now that I’ve witnessed the burnout that experience caused for my friends, I am so grateful that my mom encouraged me to pursue the endlessly nourishing path of theater.

A highlight of my time in high school was competing in theater competitions throughout Southern California. Yet, while winning felt excastic, these competitions instilled in me a fierce sense of competition and comparison that I am constantly working to unlearn. I suffer from “good student” syndrome, an insistent desire to please those I feel are above me. Granting myself permission to trust that I am enough has been a major growth in my process.

Please tell us about your work.
With graduation quickly approaching, my focus has been on making the transition from the educational environment of CalArts to the professional world. At times this can make me feel like a commodity rather than an artist, but I have found moments of creative fulfillment during this time of isolation through taking online classes, revisiting old monologues and streaming plays and films.

I recently unearthed a deep passion for comedy, especially told through an absurd and distinctly feminine lenses and am excited to continue developing work in that vein on stage and screen. I was set to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to premier two new darkly comedic plays, YOU OWE ME YOUR BONES. written by Emily Breeze and directed by Genevieve Fowler and Three written and directed by Nic Prior and produced by Flesh Market Co., however this year’s festival has had to be canceled due to Covid-19.

Graduating from college in the midst of a global pandemic was certainly unexpected. I am a consummate planner, so this upended the carefully crafted trajectory I had thought my post-college life would take. While it is easy to get down about what has been canceled or postponed during this season, I am also very grateful for the opportunities this time has allowed. People have been so giving of their time to guide those of us suddenly unmoored. Although the pressure to be productive has weighed on me, this pause has allowed me to reflect and process all I have learned throughout my training and ready myself to begin this new chapter of my life curious and hungry.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a child I absolutely loved The Wizard of Oz. My best friend Blake and I were the proprietors of a converted playhouse in his backyard filled with movie memorabilia we dubbed the Oz Museum. This spring, I was supposed to perform in an immersive play at CalArts that unfortunately had to be canceled due the campus shutdown. I had thought it would have been my first immersive theater performance, but recently I remembered a production of The Wizard of Oz I staged in my house as a child. I played all the roles and my babysitter was the sole audience member and the stage manager who I communicated the cues to via a walkie talkie. It seems my desire to experiment with the theatrical form has been brewing inside of me for longer than I was even aware.

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Image Credit:
Hao Feng, Kial Hocker, Joanna Degeneres, Beccs Lee

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