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18 - Kathryn Allison: Beyond Broadway to Something Real

On this episode of Conversations with Changemakers, we speak with Kathryn Allison. Broadway performer, content creator, and recording artist, her debut solo album, Something Real, is now available on all platforms... Read More

59 mins



On this episode of Conversations with Changemakers, we speak with Kathryn Allison. Broadway performer, content creator, and recording artist, her debut solo album, Something Real, is now available on all platforms. Kathryn was named NYMF’s Next Broadway Sensation and one of Broadway.com’s Rising Stars. She’s already performed on many of New York’s biggest stages: including Broadway’s Aladdin, Wicked, and Company.

Click here to access bonus resources from this episode.

Connect with Kathryn Allison:

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If you enjoyed this episode, please visit RateThisPodcast.com/tonyhowell. Be sure to check out our past conversations and subscribe for next month’s special guest!


01:14 Tony:

Hello, it's Tony Howell and welcome to Conversations with Changemakers.

In this episode, we speak with Kathryn Allison, Broadway performer, content creator, recording artist. Her long awaited debut solo album Something Real is now available on all platforms, and it is something incredible. Kathryn was named as NYMF’s Next Broadway Sensation, and one of Broadway.com’s Rising Stars. She's already performed on many of New York's biggest stages, including Broadway’s Aladdin, Wicked, and Company, as well as solo concerts for Joe's Pub and 54 Below. She is a true changemaker, including two and a half years as a board member of CLOTH, (Community League of the Heights), which you'll soon hear about, and a vocal activist for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and body positivity. I love this woman and I am thrilled to share this conversation with you. Enjoy!

Kathryn Allison. Welcome to the podcast.

02:31 Kathryn:

Thank you so much. Yes, I'm so happy to be here.

02:35 Tony:

I'm honored that you're here. I adore you. I love you. And I am super proud of you. Everything that you've done, everything that you are. So my first question for you, Happy Pride my love.

02:49 Kathryn:

Thank you so much. Happy Pride.

02:53 Tony:

What are you most proud of right now, today?

02:59 Kathryn:

Wow, that is a big question. I mean today, I'm happy that I woke up. I had things to do and things to accomplish to achieve today, which is great. And then I guess, existentially what I'm proud of is trying to stay as present in the moment as I can during this chaotic Corona time and the unrest of America and just trying to look at each hour and minute as a gift. Whether that means I need to take a step back from the media and focus on myself and my family, or whether that means diving full speed ahead and trying to divulge important information to my friends and the people who follow me because I feel I owe a little bit of that to them, my perspective on it. So those are the things that I'm proud of today. I got up, I did what I had to do, and I took care of me, and then I took care of some other people too.

04:14 Tony:

I love you for that. You are a true changemaker and a leading lady and a brilliant voice. Can you tell me and the listener a little bit about CLOTH, what it is, how it came about, how you got involved.

04:27 Kathryn:

CLOTH stands for Community League of the Heights and they have been basically servicing the Washington Heights community for 68 years. It was started by a wonderful black woman named Lucille Bulger. They specifically service the Washington Heights and Inwood community in New York City. So she basically saw what was happening around her and she really wanted to start an education program for the kids in Washington Heights. Through that, she just wanted to empower the residents of Washington Heights with education, health, housing, and during this pandemic it's been especially essential for them to be in the community.

COVID affects black and brown people at higher rates than, I mean, at least in America, in the nation besides indigenous people. And we definitely saw that in the Washington Heights and Inwood communities, being that we have a food pantry which is this choice food pantry. People can make an appointment and go and shop like a grocery store there. They kind of had to forgo that because they had so many requests for food that they went from feeding about 1000 people a week to some weeks they had 5,000 or 10,000 families coming.

Just the increase in that knows how much the pandemic has affected. That's just infecting like a hundred city blocks? I can't imagine the effect that it's doing on the rest of the world. So that work has been really important to me. I got hooked up with them in high school because my mother was working for them for a period of time. So I started doing volunteer work. I would do temp work, filling out worksheets and spreadsheets.

I mean, they're not going to do it this summer but usually every summer they do a health block party. So they'll have different clinics come in, they'll have a funhouse, and then they'll do a huge book drive and have food, and it's completely free for the entire neighborhood. So I used to hand out books and volunteer putting goody bags together. That's how I initially got involved with them. And now I'm a board member, which is wild.

07:06 Tony:

Broadway board member. Yes, queen. Thank you for all of that. And again, I'm proud of you. I love you. How can people get involved if they want to learn more or support that organization?

07:20 Kathryn:

Yeah! You can go to Cloth159.org. You can also go to @Cloth159 on Instagram or Twitter. We have a GoFundMe page, but you can also donate directly to CLOTH on their website and it gives you a rundown of everything that they do. I mean, I didn't even touch everything because they do so much. So you can do that. And if you are someone who lives in New York City and lives in the Washington Heights or Harlem or Inwood area, you can actually go and volunteer at the food pantry.

So they're open five days a week right now. They always need help with deliveries. They also have a van that's delivering to disabled and seniors in the area. So there are a lot of positions that you can apply for. You just have to call the number on the website. And I think you can email info@Cloth159.org and say, “I want to volunteer, tell me how to do it.”

08:23 Tony:

For those of you that are listening, I'll include all of this information in the resources that go along with this episode.

So let's brag on you for a moment. You just made your original Broadway company debut and your third Broadway credit in Sondheim’s Company.

08:46 Kathryn:

Yeah, I still can't believe it. I'm like, what, did that really happen? That happened. Yes, it did.

08:53 Tony:

“Did that really just happen?” So tell me, I mean I'm out of New York, so I don't really understand how Corona affected that show, but can you give us a rundown of that experience, lessons that you've learned from it and what's ahead for Company and Kathryn?

09:13 Kathryn:

Sure. Yeah. Well, honestly, it was all so fast. I was in Wicked for six months and I booked Company right after that. And I kind of went straight from doing that show into rehearsals for Company. And they had kind of brought the understudies in at a later point just to kind of get the first cast assembled and together and acquainted with themselves. Also a lot of us were in different projects, so we couldn't really all start at the same time. So we showed up and they were like, okay, here's your script. You're doing these three roles. You're covering these three roles and let's just get to it and learn the music.

So we were in, I mean our poor music director, he was just stuck in a room with us for a week and a half, us being like, “Company, company, company.” So that was that. And then we went into tech and our second week of tech, we were about a week and a half away from opening, they had to shut it down, which was wild because a lot of us thought, I think the entire community was like, it's going to be two weeks. It'll be two weeks. We'll shut it down for two weeks and then we'll be back. And two weeks went from three weeks to a month to two months. I think now we're at four months.

What I learned is that our producers, and our director Marianne Elliott was so kind during that whole time, because they wanted nothing more than to keep the show going, but to also have it done safely and in a way that would not only keep the cast and the crew safe, but audiences safe. And at that time we were selling out, we were having really great crowds and the audiences were responding so well. To be that close to opening and not quite there was kind of a burn for all of us, but it definitely brought us closer together and we've had, pretty much ever since we've closed, we've had a zoom meeting every Thursday, like a happy hour, just seeing how everyone is and how everyone's holding up and what we're doing, which has been really helpful.

I know the understudy crew that I was with, we talk with each other frequently and just see how we're doing, which has been really nice. I don't know when we're coming back officially. My guess would probably be next year.

12:20 Tony:

What are you doing in the meantime to take care of yourself and the artist within?

12:26 Kathryn:

Yeah, it’s a really great question. I think it's day to day for me. In the beginning, of course I got all this recording equipment, because I was like, yes, I'm going to be able to learn vocal production now, which I have been wanting to do for so long, but just had never had the time to really sit down and do it. And then once I did it, I was like, wow, this is why we pay people thousands of dollars to do this because it's a literal science. This is why people go to school and mentor with engineers for years and years because this is incredible, and really, really hard.

But it's been really fun because I've been able to work remotely with some of my best friends and create music and videos. One of my friends wants to hopefully produce an EP with me. So maybe there'll be a quarantine EP, which will be really cool. And hopefully this one will actually be original music, which will be a whole new territory for me. Actually across the entertainment industry, people are really figuring out how to be creative at home, which is really exciting.

I've seen some incredible acting pieces of work, some incredible film production. I've already heard albums come out already from quarantine that I'm like, that's mind blowing that you did that all yourself. That's what's keeping me excited and going. I mean, there are days that, obviously I get down and I'm thinking wow, I can't believe that I chose a career that's so dependent on people looking at me for two and a half hours. Why did I choose that? If I was doing anything else right now, I wouldn't be on unemployment or trying to find things to do.

But again, I'm trying to look at it as a gift. What are the things that I've just been putting off for so long, creative endeavors that I just really wanted to do that I just didn't have the time to do or I was giving myself an excuse, I don't have time to do that because I'm too tired or whatever. So that's why I'm trying to keep my heart full and talking to other artists about what they're going through as well and that's helping too.

14:50 Tony:

Speaking of talking to other artists, you have worked with some of the best in the business, not to mention Sondheim, Patti [LuPone], Jen Simard, James Monroe Iglehart, Telly Leung. So looking at your life, your career, looking back, is there any particular person or moment that you were like, wow, this is a really solid life or business lesson that you can pass on to our listener? Maybe it came from someone else. Maybe it came from watching them, but one story that you were like, I'm going to take that with me.

15:26 Kathryn:

Wow. That's a really great question. I mean the one thing that always plays in the back of my mind is just a hundred no’s means a hundred connections, which I know I say all the time, but it's just so true. Half of the stuff I got in the last three years was really just through recommendations. People just recommending me for things. Especially in areas that I really wanted to try and work in. I mean mostly recording, like doing recordings and background vocals. A lot of that came from recommendations from people which I'm so grateful for.

Which means, every time you show up to an audition or a rehearsal room or a networking event, you want to make sure that you're on your game and you know what you're doing and you know what you're talking about and that you're prepared essentially. That always plays in the back of my mind. I think also just from observing others, I think as a young person, it's hard to speak up for yourself in situations that maybe you're like, “Mm, I don't think that's exactly right.” Or “I don't feel comfortable doing this.”

To be in a rehearsal situation with someone who is just an advocate for themselves is so amazing to watch. I mean, Patti LuPone is such an advocate for the craft and for actors and for having a safe rehearsal space and having the show be a sanctuary for performance and to be able to excel at what you've been hired to do. That's been really inspiring to sit in rehearsal and watch that. And with the other actors, too. Jen Simard is so incredible and so smart with her acting choices, and always has a myriad of choices to make in a scene, which is just like juices, I mean, she's just so incredible. And to also hear her talk about the part and how she feels about the character and what they think they're saying in this moment… It's things that sometimes you forget when you're being plugged into shows, being able to watch a show come to life in front of your eyes and to see actors' minds work, I missed that so much. I'm such an observer. I love being a voyeur in rehearsal situations and to hear Sondheim sing along to his own lyrics and laugh and watch something that has been done over and over, see new life being breathed into it and having the original creator be so overjoyed, it can't get better than that for me. It's like my absolute nerd Broadway dream just to watch my favorite actors do their thing, and just try and soak it all up.

19:30 Tony:

I want to take a moment here to reflect back to you that you are that person for many people, so congrats to you. So before Company, you were at that smash hit Broadway musical Wicked and prior to that at Aladdin. But I want to hear how, we talked a little bit about, that there were connections and referrals and things, but how did you first, for those that make their Broadway debut, you did Aladdin for a while. When did the change come to say, like, I'm going to move on and you got your second show?

20:11 Kathryn:

It happened so wildly. I had done Aladdin for about three and a half to four years, which is a long time.

20:28 Tony:

Rather tasty long time.

20:37 Kathryn:

I loved that show. I loved working with that company. They're like family to me, they taught me so much about continuing to be a learner in this business and to never stop working and achieving what you want in all facets. I mean, it's such a renaissance cast and the people who have left, have gone on to do such mind blowing things. To be a part of that alumni is very near and dear to me. But I kind of was at the end... I did my Joe's Pub concert, which maybe we'll talk about, and after that I was like, I think I'm ready to move on, but I didn't know how to articulate that.

I was kind of in limbo. I feel like people reach a point where they're like, okay, do I leave this amazing job and risk everything and just jump out on a limb, with leaving a job that's very good paying and it's not going to go anywhere or do I just hang on. And I kind of hung on and it really came out of nowhere. Honestly, I never thought that I would be considered for Wicked if I'm being honest with you. I hadn't really seen many people that looked like me in the show and in particular the track that I was going in for. Even though my mentor in college said, “That track needs to be on your list. You need to study that track.”

And I said yeah, yeah, yeah, which is so crazy. So it just kind of fell in my lap. Someone was leaving the show and they needed a replacement for Shenshen. I went in and originally I was so nervous. I got coached on it before I went in because I thought I don't know what I'm doing because this track understudies Madame Morrible, and I'm super young. I was like, I don't know how I'm going to do this. But after the coaching I felt a little bit more confident and I'm just going to go in and do the best that I can.

For me, for some reason, things happen in threes. My Aladdin audition was in threes, Wicked was in threes, Company was in threes. So it was three auditions within a week and a half, and they said you got the job. And I was like, I'm sorry, what? I'm going to be in Wicked? I just loved that show as a kid. I remember seeing it as a kid. Nothing beats walking down the stairs and seeing Glinda come down from the bubble on stage. Nothing beats that. I was like, wow, I've done it. I've reached the pinnacle. If everything goes down from here, that's okay.

24:01 Tony:

You're in Oz.

24:02 Kathryn:

I'm in Oz. So that's kind of how that came about. It was something that I really, at the time, needed. I wanted a shift and I was coming out of a depression that was really bad and that kind of changed my trajectory for me.

24:28 Tony:

I love that. Thank you for sharing all of that. I do want to just tap in deeper because I think of some friends that are in long running shows. What advice would you have? What should someone who's feeling that sadness, like no longer grateful to be in some Broadway show, how should they go about seeking to make change?

24:56 Kathryn:

I mean, I really called to the universe. I will say that one. And it wasn't necessarily that I was unhappy or ungrateful. I was so grateful to be in that job, but I felt there was something in my chemistry that I felt like I learned what I could learn in this experience and I wanted to grow. I felt like I was keeping myself in a box that I couldn't remove. And so yeah I was really lucky. I reached out to my agents about it and they were very supportive about what I was going through and also I see a therapist every week and she really, really guided me through that process.

I mean, I'm not saying it wasn't hard, it was hard. Talking to people who are close to you about it definitely helps to release the burden because I felt really guilty. I was like, these people that I look up to and that have celebrated me in every moment, I feel like I'm not giving them my all. And they're working just as hard as me on either side of me on stage. I don't want to give any less than that. That was hard to grapple with. So those are the things I would say. Therapy really helped me immensely and I wrote a lot during that time.

Just talking to those in your inner circle and getting perspective from them because more often than not, there are other people that are going through the same thing with you and you can help each other through it. So yeah, that's what I would say. That's the first time I've actually really talked about this.

27:17 Tony:

It's great. And if it's too much, that's what editing is for. Speaking of keeping Kathryn or putting Kathryn in a box and collaborating with other people, let's talk about Something Real, your amazing debut EP. We did a whole hour conversation about it, which I will also include in the resources. For those that don't want to sit and listen to that, I also know there are many people that want to put out their own album. So in a nutshell, what would you say to someone who's wanting to put out music?

27:59 Kathryn:

Do it, do it, do it, do it, if you're someone who has all the chops and can just do it yourself, definitely do it. What a way to show off your skills to everyone and to showcase yourself in the best light. If you can find an amazing producer like I did, I would implore you to do it. I would definitely say budget, budget, budget. I worked with someone who we set out a clear budget ahead of time. And he was like, these are the places where I can save you money and these are the places that I can't, and I said I can work with that. And I'm not going to lie, I'm still facing some money things from that, but it was so worth it.

Because now I have something to present to people. The original concept for it was I wanted to try something new. It was in my five-year plan from college that I wanted to make an album or an EP. And, I was really interested in showcasing my work to concert halls and orchestras, and I thought, how can I do that without just sending a video of me? I wanted something that was more all encompassing and wanted to show layers of my voice and the types of things that I can do.

So that's how the concept of it came about and I'm really happy with it. And the fact that people have reached out to me during quarantine and been like, wow, your album really helped me and this song really touched me and I heard it in a new way. That just makes my heart swell. I'm like, oh, it was all worth it.

30:00 Tony:

Amen. Amen. And also go buy that album y'all, let's pay off those bills, honey. Let's zoom in there. So you self-produced this album and you're also an amazing content creator and collaborator. So now that we are in quarantine in the digital age with Rona and looking ahead at Company coming back, what do you think the future of the arts look like now?

30:31 Kathryn:

It's kind of interesting because now I feel like we have no excuse not to be able to make art anywhere. The way that the internet and these technological goddesses in the world have ramped up production of all of these apps and websites that enable you to livestream on multiple platforms at the same time and all of these different things. I think at times it can be overwhelming, but it's also really exciting because you're like, wow, I can literally do anything from my living room, from my bedroom. That's very exciting.

I recently did a whole play read-through over Zoom. One that was insular, just to try it out. It was so fun. Anything is possible because I'm thinking about so many artists that maybe can't afford to rent out a huge theater space to debut their play. That takes so much money, whereas they could just assemble a cast online and premier their new play online. That is huge. And we'll see, I think it's bright. I think for new artists up and coming, it's really exciting because they don't have to spend a lot of money for people to see their work.

32:02 Tony:

The internet is your stage.

32:06 Kathryn:

Yeah. People don't have to go broke making art the way they used to.

32:12 Tony:

You can say that again.

32:17 Kathryn:

I think that's cool.

32:22 Tony:

You're talking about making the album as a marketing piece, as a product for you that's a long term investment. What was the real ‘why’ for you, the purpose to say, I'm going to be an artist? What is your intention? What is your calling? What's the reason?

32:38 Kathryn:

Yeah. You're just nailing it right now. Well I mean, as you know I wanted to be a politician. That was my original dream. I wanted to be the State Senator for New Jersey, baby. That was the dream. Well, one, I went to a bunch of political camps and I was like, oh, this is not for me. I just didn't like the way that my life would be on blast. And as a public servant, your actions in your everyday life are significant to the public, as they should be, because you've been hired, you're being paid by your constituents to do the job that you're supposed to do.

So when you fall out of line that reflects badly on everybody. I completely stand by that. As an artist, it's not as severe. I think that's why my mom loved that I decided to choose theatre because she was like, well, your life is not too much in the face of the public, which has kind of changed now with the internet and Instagram and all of these things. But it's not as severe as being in the public eye and people recognizing you everywhere you go and stuff like that and being held accountable for your actions in the past and in the future so strongly.

But there are also so many different kinds of theatre that impact millions of people that really spoke to me, that maybe if being a Senator isn't my calling, I can make change within the communities that I perform in. That was really cool to me. I was like, wow, I feel like that's a bigger draw and it's more fun. And the community is so accepting, whereas politics is not. It's a different type of game that you're playing and you're also playing with people's livelihoods. I thought, that's a lot for me. That's high anxiety for me. I mean, this might be a strong statement, but I feel like myself on stage in some ways is a political statement. The fact that in the New Am[sterdam], my ancestors that were performing there in the Follies were performing in blackface.

The fact that I am able to be on the stage as myself, that's a huge deal. To have little girls and boys and folks in the audience seeing that, that's a big thing for me and I take that really seriously. It's a similar purpose, it's just a different way of doing it.

36:00 Tony:

My next question for you is to take a moment and think if you could whisper in the ear of that high school kid who wants to make change and/or the current artist who might be afraid to be too political or too much of an activist, what would you say to them about their role?

36:23 Kathryn:

I think it's always about following your gut. Human rights is not a political issue, even though people want to make it that. There is a difference between right and wrong. And there's a difference between human decency, basic human decency and treating people with the respect that they deserve is paramount. I mean, that is everything to me. That doesn't matter if we're talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, if we're talking about trans rights, I mean, everything under the sun. Human rights is a basic necessity.

Everyone needs to be treated fairly. Everyone deserves the right to healthcare and everyone deserves to walk down the street and not feel, is my mere existence a threat, that's insane. And I've certainly felt that I know my family has felt that. There are many times that we've been together and have felt that, which is horrifying and shouldn't happen in today's age, but yet it still does because we all know the reasons why.

I think we're entering a really unique time in America and in the theatre community where it used to and can still feel that maybe you're a singular voice in the situation. But we know with groups of people coming together, it makes it a lot easier for a united voice to be heard, and that's really exciting. It's okay to speak up, but follow your gut. I mean, if you feel like you're in danger, yourself is paramount first. Taking care of yourself is always paramount first. And then handle the situation in the way that is best.

38:40 Tony:

I love that answer and I just want to also reflect that, if someone's not comfortable being the leader, they can also be a supporter. They can lift other people who have taken the leadership role, like your gorgeous voice, all over social media.

So then with that, that's a little bit for artists. Now let's go to the people in power, the writers, the producers, the creative teams. You have a lot of intersectionality in your identities, but what would you tell these creators, the people putting the money into the work that's being seen that they need to know about, I'll just go ahead and read the list by POC, LGBTQIA+, body positive, all of the intersectionality, what do we need to see in our storytelling?

39:38 Kathryn:

It's so important that we reflect the world that we live in. The world that we live in is not one thing. Not everybody looks the same. And that can be frustrating when you're entering a situation. You're like a wealth of perspectives gets lost. And I think that's doing such a disservice to the art. The entertainment industry is one of collaboration. Not one person can do the whole thing by themselves without including multiple people along the way.

I'm not exactly sure where the fear comes from… I guess I have some idea. But I think every art form will be elevated by it. I think that's the exciting part. There's nothing bad that can come from including Black, Indigenous, People of Color, the LGBTQ+ community and having all shapes and sizes on stage. That just sounds like a beautiful group of people making some incredible art. I think the frustration that comes for me is, I can't find people and I'm like, they're everywhere. The wealth that the community has to create programs that are in marginalized communities is, I mean, I don't want to say infinite but-

41:30 Tony:


41:31 Kathryn:

It's present, it's certainly present. I think that's really important. Investing in those in the younger generation is key. I don't think it takes very much, when you open a new show or a long running show to invite a group of kids backstage and have them really learn about what a crew does, what a hair and makeup person does. It's not just about acting. Having them come to a producing office and see what they do, coming to a marketing office and see what they do. I don't think it takes that much. Or to have someone shadow you for an entire week about what a director's process is like. It's about broadening the horizons for people.

We've seen how art saves people's lives and how amazing would that be to be a part of that journey for someone? That's where the frustration lies for me, where people are like, I can't find one. I'm like, okay, well go out there and find them, create programs. I think also we always look outside the community sometimes and there are people in the community that are maybe looking to transition to a different position.

Maybe sometimes we need to look insular and be like, hmm. I think The Actors Fund has a great program for dancers who want to transition into maybe another field, and I think that could be totally expanded. I know that throughout this entire journey, my ultimate goal in life is to be able to make enough money that I can just send people off and say yeah, do whatever you want. Take my money, produce that play. But I don't know how to do that yet, but I would love to learn from somebody how to do that whenever I want to make that transition.

I think that's really important too, that there are so many people in our community that maybe are ready. They're thinking I want to expand and direct. I want to be a casting director. How do I market a Broadway show? And those are the people who know how to do it best because they've been doing the show eight times a week. They know what it's like to be in press shoots and what works and what doesn’t. That perspective, there's a whole wealth of information there.

Investing in new works and new artists is essential for the business to keep going. Of course I love my huge musical theatre icons who have written incredible things. I'm not saying that we shouldn't produce their stuff. That's not what I'm saying. I want to keep seeing that stuff. But I want to know who the next Sondheim is. I want to know who the next Tom Kitt, I want to know who the next Pasek and Paul are. It's important that we're fostering those people and we're mentoring them and giving them a platform, too.

45:16 Tony:

I'm going to ask you then who is on fire right now? Whether it's a theatre artist or a music artist, someone that you want to say everyone needs to go check this person out.

45:25 Kathryn:

Okay. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is Heath Saunders. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I mean, everytime I walk into a room with him, I feel like he just gives me a wealth of knowledge about theatre that my mind is blown. And he's not only an incredible musician, actor, and singer. He's an incredible musical theatre writer, insane. And he's written one of my favorite musicals that hopefully will be everywhere. And so, yeah, he's great. He just wrote a brilliant article that everyone should check out.

46:13 Tony:

We’ll include it in the resources.

46:16 Kathryn:

Yes. And then performers, I could just list a bunch. I think Nasia Thomas is amazing. She's in Caroline, Or Change. She was just in Ain’t Too Proud. I think Ari Groover is amazing. She was in Little Shop of Horrors and she was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award. Khouri Petinaud.

46:42 Tony:

We love her! What a star.

46:45 Kathryn:

Let's talk about someone who I watch her on stage and I think one time I said to her, I had just seen her in Moulin Rouge and I said, you know that people are going to be talking about you the way they talk about Donna McKechnie. That is your future. Like Ann Reinking. That is going to be you. People are going to come to a show and be like, “Oh my God, I just saw Khouri Petinaud slay.” And her spirit is unlike anything out of this world, and it just jumps out on stage. It's amazing. Amazing. There are just so many amazing people that it's hard to pin down just a couple.

47:37 Tony:

Well, I'm going to reflect back. Thank you for being the amazing human that you are. I think we're coming down on the descent, so I want to get this closer, because we could talk for hours. I want to go to college. We kind of reference the decision, but for someone who's graduating in 2020 and looking at the world, what advice do you have- give a commencement speech in two seconds. What would you say to the 2020 graduates?

48:13 Kathryn:

2020 grads, you were handed a lot to deal with. I know personally just looking at CLOTH, they had to get through a school year and find out how to get internet and a computer and learn how to learn online, which I know was a very difficult task for so many people. But specifically to my theatre grads, y'all grew up with the internet, y'all know how it works. I'm still trying to understand all the ins and outs, but what's so amazing is that you all have such a clear voice and you know what you want. And I think that is going to get you so far. During this time finding ways to continue your learning, there are so many resources and classes online to hone your craft during this time, while you're getting ready to go back in the world and audition for the first time.

I think that is essential. And then also just curating your own content during this time and learning how to really utilize the camera. Because I think there are going to be some incredible TV film actors that come out of this and casting directors will be waiting. They'll be waiting for you. And I know a lot of people are taking submissions. So work on that, work on how to perfect your submissions and be creative. I mean, the entire industry is being a little bit more lenient about self-tapes, which means you can get really creative and think outside the box because you might be, well, that's a really wild idea. Should I make a video in my car? Singing the song, in my backyard doing this thing. Try it, see if it works.

This is a good time for trial and error. Practice makes permanent. Try everything and see what sticks and if it doesn't, move on to something else. But you guys know what you want and I think hone in on that. Hone in on your voice, hone in on what makes you great and just run with it as far as you can during this time.

51:03 Tony:

And I think I heard a challenge in the middle of that, y'all know the tools, get to work.

51:10 Kathryn:

100%. Y'all know how to do it.

51:15 Tony:

There's a segment of the audience that I know that is not our generation that is above us that is probably intimidated by the tools. So for the artist right now in the midst of coronavirus and everything that's happening, that's feeling stuck, can you whisper in their ear of what they need to hear to move forward?

51:37 Kathryn:

Sure. I think, I mean, definitely at the beginning of all of this, I was very overwhelmed by the content that was being put out. I was like, man, if I put out something, it has to be perfect and really good, and at the highest level that I can do it at. And I thought, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Let's just take a breath. Be present in that feeling and then narrow down what is one thing you really want to accomplish. For me, I wanted to be able to put out my own music video and record it and edit it myself. It came out really janky the first time. But anything with practice, it gets better. So I think, hone in, focus on something that maybe you really want to learn and just every time you do it, you're going to get better.

Whether that means you're going to start off with once a month, I'm going to try and put something out. Also it doesn't have to be for the entire world to see. This just can be something that you want to show to a friend or to a colleague; it doesn't have to be for filming. It could be for where you want to start writing a play. Start with short scenes. I think this is just such an incredible time to learn and to really dive into things that are a little scary.

53:16 Tony:

Kathryn, thank you so much for being here. I do want to ask you a future focused question. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? So fast forward a decade, where do you see yourself?

53:32 Kathryn:

I mean, hopefully I'm holding a Tony Award. I didn't mean that to come off as cocky or anything. That has always been a huge dream of mine. Honestly, I just want it to be a part of a project that is so influential to so many people. It's making me a little emotional thinking about it because it's something I visualize a lot. I want it to be surrounded by a group of people who are making something for the betterment of the planet and for humanity. That would just be incredible.

So that would be really cool. And I would love to be producing on a larger level, in 10 years or at least have the ability to be producing on a larger level. It's something that I've been thinking about. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to to do this, but I would love to somehow create a queer theatre community thing. I'm not really sure how that's going to come about. The queer cabaret scene, that's edgier, is not really a thing and I want to make that a thing.

55:32 Tony:

That's amazing. So I'm looking for the right question to ask to button this up for us. What change, then, would you like to see or if you are going to invite collaborators, I hope that people connect with you after listening to this. How can people help you make this art happen?

55:52 Kathryn:

Wow. I guess initially I just want people involved in conversation. I feel like originally my idea was just an open mic night of celebrating queer musical theatre artists who are gender non-conforming, trans, gay, lesbian, whatever. And really seeing how they interpret our modern songbook into something of their own, which I feel like I haven't seen much of. So, anybody who wants to just have a conversation about that, or who wants to fund something like that or who wants to help direct or stage manage or market, reach out to me, I think that would be fun to do.

56:49 Tony:

I am so excited for that. It sounds like you have something to produce. So with that Kathryn, is there anything else that you wish to leave the listener with before they go get in touch with you to make magic.

57:06 Kathryn:

I would just say you are amazing and beautiful and just incredible and impactful the way you are and don't let anybody tell you that you're not. You got this.

57:28 Tony:

Thank you, Kathryn. And thank you for listening. I want to highlight just a few things that Kathryn brought up.

First, you can make change. That might just be as simple as showing up as your true, full and authentic self. That can be a form of activism, but it especially means speaking up and speaking out when we are collaborating and what we see in our daily lives in the world. Don't be afraid to make changes, such as significant job changes, content creation and learning new creative skills, but change is how we grow. So don't be afraid of it.

Finally, be the change. I think, especially as artists, this is imperative. So I encourage you to look within and look around. It can be as simple as donating or volunteering at Cloth159.org, creating something real, a work of art that you can call your own, or looking within your community or your industry for ways to elevate Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+ people and other communities that are traditionally marginalized.

Kathryn and I would love to hear from you. So please take a screenshot of this episode and share your favorite moment or biggest takeaway. Make sure that you tag Kathryn and myself so that we both see it.

Now, if you're up for an edgy cabaret or theatre piece for the queer community, get in touch with Kathryn. I've included her contact information as well as all of the resources mentioned in the link alongside this episode.

While you're there, make sure that you join our Changemaker Community. You're going to get my brand boot camp alongside the latest and greatest free training. Other things like this podcast that I create just for you.

Happy Pride! And thank you for listening to Conversations with Changemakers. Now, listen, please go out there and use your work to change the world.

Maybe you and I can have a conversation about it very soon.

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