Our featured facilitator this week is ABLE's founder and programming director. Katie has been with the program since the beginning and has guided it through its many transitions through the years. She wears many hats for ABLE including director, teaching artist, administrator, and more. She is also the author of all of our blog posts and feels very awkward writing about herself in the third person...so let's just go ahead and introduce you to:
Birthday: October 28, 1984
Tell us a bit about your performing and/or teaching background: I performed all through childhood in various choirs and school productions. In 2006, I graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with a BFA in Drama. As an actor, I have performed in everything from musicals to completely original shows in the U.S., London (most notably at Shakespeare's Globe), and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
While at Syracuse, I was a member of the All Star C.A.S.T., which paired undergraduate theatre students with members of the community with special needs, and that’s where I started to realize that teaching is where my heart lies. Much of the work we do with ABLE is based on my time with this program, and other Syracuse grads have gone on to found similar groups in their own cities (shoutout to Co/Lab Theater Group in NYC!)
I also teach movement in my “day job.” I am a fully certified STOTT Pilates and GYROTONIC instructor, with over 8 years experience working with a diverse range of clients to find healing and strength through movement. I instruct private, semi-private, and group sessions for everyone from elite athletes, to students, stay-at-home moms, and those with injuries and illnesses. I'm based out of Harmony Mind Body Fitness is in Lincoln Park if you want to come work out! I teach a class called Cardiolates where you get to jump on a trampoline!
Between acting, singing, and dancing, what’s your favorite way to perform?: Toss up between acting and singing. Singing generally wins. Especially showtunes. Especially Hamilton.
Do you have a hidden talent?: I excel at making spreadsheets (and puns!)
I also make the absolute best brownies (and they’re vegan and even people who turn their noses up at vegan food think they are the bomb).
Who is your favorite actor/performer? What do you like about them?: Gilda Radner is one of my all-time favorites. She was absolutely fearless (I love watching her as the little girl Judy Miller body-slamming herself into a door), but she was also always vulnerable and honest (read her autobiography “It’s Always Something!”). I watch Gilda whenever I need a pick me up.
How Long Have You Been With ABLE?: ABLE is my baby. I’ve been there since the beginning!
Why did you start working with ABLE?: In 2010, my friend Mallory’s husband (then boyfriend) signed her up to volunteer for GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago. They saw “drama experience” on her application and asked if she wanted to work with their drama troupe. She said “Of course” to which they replied “Great! We don’t have one yet!” Mallory put out a plea for help on Facebook and I responded right away. At that point, I realized I wasn’t really satisfied pursuing a performing career, so this seemed like a fun way to stay involved in theatre without dealing with agents and resumes and auditions and networking and all the stuff I hated. We started on a Friday night just after my birthday with 6 kids in a little room, and I am continually astonished by how much we’ve grown, and how many incredible opportunities have come our way. This program is such a huge piece of my heart .
Favorite ABLE memory from class or performance?: I have so many it’s really hard to pick. On a personal level, the entire process of making The Curse of the Tempest Jewel was incredibly challenging and humbling and stressful and fun and inspiring all at the same time. The day we filmed in The Field Museum was completely surreal, and I will never forget that.
Overall, though, the best moments for me are when we get to see how much someone has grown. Like after a semester of not saying anything at all in class, Ben volunteered to lead “I Take from the Heavens” for the first time and surprised all of us when he TALKED and said EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. I have a story like that for each of our actors. Those are the best moments for and the ones that fill my heart and remind me what this is all for.
I also get really emotional thinking about Alena’s journey in the past 4 years. During Alena’s first production (Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2012) she barely raised her head up. I held her hand and shepherded her around the stage from place to place. Sometimes she said her line. Sometimes she didn’t. When she did, it was not much beyond a whisper. Fast-forward to Such Stuff As Dreams are Made On, and that same girl was running around backstage (in a wig and heels and bright red lipstick, mind you) chanting “Beyonce! Beyonce! Beyonce!” so proud of herself and what she did with the scene she wrote. Every single show, she speaks a little more clearly, she stands just a little taller, and I am so proud of her!
What’s your go-to dance party song? Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” is responsible for my favorite dance party ever.