Throwback Photos – Part 2

I promised photos of me as Thespian and Style Icon, and when I started this post, I thought I’d capture both in a single post, but it turns out that my Style Icon collection was much weaker than I originally thought, so I’ll have to check the archives and see if I can add a few image to bolter this one. Possibly it will become Style Icon and Trend Setter. But meanwhile, this post is already so long and I was a bit discouraged at the notion of skipping the chance to hit “Publish” entirely, so here’s Part 2 of 3.

I come from Theater Stock. I am named Katherine because my dad was acting in a community theater production of The Taming of the Shrew when my mother was pregnant. My oldest sister was a talented, actual champion actress, because apparently in Texas in the 1970s, there were acting competitions (is this still a thing that happens?). My youngest sister actually went to LA to act for a bit, where she played roles like the nerdy tutor who you’re supposed to pretend isn’t beautiful because she’s wearing glasses and a cardigan, and she acted in movies with Claire Danes and Chris Penn.

My career was not particularly illustrious, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t warrant documentation!

Here I am starring (get it? starring?) in our school’s Christmas pageant as the Star of Bethlehem in kindergarten. Why, yes, it was a public school, why do you ask? It was in Texas, and that’s how the Texans rolled. My drama career was most likely based on my reputation as a responsible memorizer and all-around teacher’s pet. I could be relied upon to do my homework. For this pageant, one student from each grade formed a constellation of stars who acted as narrators, while all the other kids did big group acts. We stars wore matching bedsheet-and-tinsel creations sewn by our mothers and held our arms straight out for as long as we could to assume the proper star posture.

After what must have been an hour, all of the older kids had sagged their star points down to their side, but in a potent combination of amateur-gymnast strength and such an ardent desire not to fail anyone that it would have clearly warranted consultation with a therapist here in the 21st century, I kept my points sticking straight out until a sympathetic teacher whisper-urged me to relax and let my arms hang.

I had a ridiculous number of lines for someone that young: I don’t know why they picked the kindergartener instead of the 5th grader to be the actual Star of Bethlehem. I distinctly remember running lines in our living room with an older sister. “Yes, I was there. . . .” and then on the next page of the script there was a big ol’ paragraph that made the sister gasp a little. My lines continued with a full and fervent description of witnessing the birth of Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ in front of an audience of people who were either Christians or were wise enough to keep their mouth shut to get them through evangelical 1970s Ft. Worth, Texas.

Years later, when I had moved to Katonah, NY, and was in a 4th grade classroom, I remember my teacher, Mrs. Schwartz, decorating her room with a Christmas tree and a menorah and a snowflake, explaining, “Some people celebrate Christmas, and some people celebrate Chanukah, and some people celebrate winter.” As limited (who are we kidding: my 2024 kids might even call it problematic) as this explanation was, my mind was completely blown by this cultural shift.

But I digress. While I was still in the Lone Star State, I had another star turn in 3rd grade. Sean, the boy playing the titular character in our dental health awareness play The Foolish Molar, had an unfortunate incident while making his breakfast oatmeal. At the eleventh hour, with the most important actor in our play suffering burns down his torso, the teachers came up with a plan to divide the starring role between three other students called up from the tooth bench based on the likelihood that we’d be responsible enough to learn a bunch of lines in a very short time. Here I am in the center, in a camel-colored skirt and knee highs.

Luckily, the sophisticated plot of The Foolish Molar involved the molar having a nightmare about the consequences of poor dental hygiene, so our clever ruse was that the character periodically fell into despair and spun themselves off the stage, then spun themselves back on again, so that those of us playing The Foolish Molar only had to memorize roughly one-third of his lines. Just thinking back on it makes me really wish there were more video recordings back then. I’m just imagining the play director going home that night and having a stiff drink. Followed by a swish of fluoride mouthwash, of course.

There were other elementary school plays in Texas for which I have not yet located documentation. In one play, I gave a very long speech and was quite proud of myself until my classmates and I left the stage to join our families in the audience. When I climbed onto my father’s lap to watch the rest of the show I realized, to my mortification, that I had posted a giant number on the December calendar backwards. “That was why they were laughing!” I said. “They were laughing because you were so !” he insisted. The liar. Was it traumatizing? Well, I did write about the incident for my college application essay.

In New York, I won my first role that I think was based primarily on merit, playing Tom Sawyer. Here I am with Becky Thacher and the fence.

My dad was inordinately proud of this particularly star turn, and for the rest of his life, if my elementary school years came up in conversation, he would immediately burst into my opening song, which began with “Early in the morning, on the Mississippi. . . .”

I was extremely proud of myself, as well, although one of my most vivid memories from this play is that an elderly couple congratulated me on my performance and then asked me whether I was a boy or a girl, because they just couldn’t tell. You would think that the name “Katie” on the program would give them a hint, but apparently it did not. This was in 6th grade, which just enhances the general mortification of the episode.

In high school I had a couple of bit roles in a boys’ school not too far away where a friend’s mother taught and the drama department was in dire need of girls. It was primarily an opportunity to flirt while adding another line to my college applications. Although, fun fact: one of the boys a couple of years ahead of become a pretty famous actor, and I did get a chance to see him in a high school drama. He was quite compelling.

Okay, Style Icon and Trend Setter coming soon, but meanwhile, I’ve checked out some new local places in Schenectady, so that’s coming up as well.

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