3 – Kate Lumpkin: Shero Shaping Stories

In This Episode

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00:00 Kate:
You know, my mom always taught me if you're not going to make the world a better place, then what are you doing here? What I can do with my time and my life is try to make other people's lives better and try to make this industry a more equitable place.

00:21 Tony:
Hello and greetings from Bangkok, Thailand. It's Tony Howell, and I want to welcome you to my podcast. It's March, which is Women's History Month in the world, but it is #WomensFutureMonth. Again, #WomensFutureMonth in our community. It's my honor today to speak with Changemaker, Kate Lumpkin, a beloved New York City casting director, educator, and rising entrepreneur. She's a woman who's humbly and gracefully making big changes in the world — changing the stories that we share and see.

In this episode, you'll hear about Kate's journey from artist to agency and as a white cis man, you'll also hear her gracefully question a gender-based power dynamic, as well as share practical ways that we all as humans can work to sit at the same table.

Beyond gender, we'll discuss branding, business, social media, and more. So if you're like us, grab yourself an iced coffee and your favorite journal, because I'm telling you, there are a lot of gems in this episode.

You'll hear about how to best take care of yourself, others in our community and our audiences. Enjoy.

Hi, Kate Lumpkin.

01:40 Kate:
Hi, how are you?

01:42 Tony:
I am so great. Thank you for saying yes to this.

01:45 Kate:
Honey. Absolutely. I have wanted to chat with you for actual years. So this is very exciting.

01:53 Tony:
I love that. Thank you for that. It's amazing to meet you, and I'm really excited to dive into your story. What I gotta tell you from what I know from social media, is that truly you are a light in the industry, beloved woman, pioneer, and a true leader. And that's why you are a must have for Women's Future Month.

02:14 Kate:
Thank you. That's so kind of you. Wow. Thank you. Social media is not always a very kind place. So it's very nice that you found these things out through social media.

02:24 Tony:
No girl, you're doing a great job and it's not just online, but the reputation that you have, you're loved. So here we go. Let's dive in. For the person who doesn't know, like Tony Howell, your full story. Can you give us a little bit of the Kate Lumpkin true Hollywood story?

02:45 Kate:
Absolutely. But for me, it's going to be, “You think you know, but you have no idea.” Do you remember that? Do you remember the Britney Spear's intro?

02:55 Tony:
I do.

02:55 Kate:
“This is the Diary of Kate Lumpkin.” That just aged me. So there is where my story starts. So now I am a casting director in New York. I started my life,. I started kind of my journey in the arts as a young woman. I was an actor for a long time. I started when I was like six years old. And I worked professionally for a long time. And then I decided that I was going to go to school for musical theater. I went to Ithaca for their musical theater program. But I actually left that program and went and started working professionally, then went back to school and to IU where I studied sexual anthropology and folklore, which was unbelievable and literally serves every single thing that I do to this day.

I also trained at the William Esper Studio in Meisner. And then after school, I went and worked for National Geographic in their development office for a while. And really, really, really was like, what am I doing? And came back to New York. One day I was thinking, what am I going to do when I come back here? I was an actor for a long time, but it wasn't fueling my heart anymore. It just wasn't my story anymore. I realized, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I had been doing it my whole life and it was casting. I literally studied civilization and societies and how we put them together and what makes them thrive. And I also studied identity, gender identity, sexual identity all of these things.

And I realized I was kind of coming into the world at this really great moment of how do we talk about who we are? How do we show who we are? How do we show other people who we are? And more importantly, how can we create families and safe spaces and interesting places for art to take place and kind of push the narrative of who we are as a society. And so I was like, that's a casting director. So I sent an email to a hundred people asking them if I could be a helper. One person wrote me back and I started working as an assistant in that office. And then, I've been working ever since then. And I opened my own firm about two plus years ago. And just working and keep on working and working and working.

05:21 Tony:
So what are you working on right now? Or what did you just finish casting?

05:25 Kate:
Oh my goodness. Well, I literally just released a breakdown today for the First National Tour of Bandstand, which I start auditions soon. I know — it's so exciting. We start auditions for that in the next couple of weeks. So we're taking that on the road and that's going to be so exciting. It's kind of everything that I love from a casting perspective, because it's a real challenge. We have to find people who can play instruments really well, who can do Andy's choreography, which is so specific, such a specific type of dancer and who can also sing that kind of Gershwin style.

It's a challenge and I love it. And I'm so excited. So I just did that. I also just cast, We Are The Tigers Off-Broadway, which is a cast I'm really, really proud of. And I actually travel to Boston tomorrow for the opening night of Endlings, which is a new play that's opening at the A.R.T., directed by Sammi Connold, the youngest director in A.R.T.'s history. And that was a really challenging cast to put together. We have women in their seventies who are scuba diving on stage. It is really thrilling. So those are some projects that I'm really excited about right now.

06:32 Tony:
And what a mixture as well.

06:33 Kate:
Yeah. I don't really do boring, that's for sure.

06:37 Tony:
Speaking of, life not being boring, you also work with the Broadway Collective as their Head of Education.

06:43 Kate:
Yeah. So for those who don't know what the Broadway Collective is, Robert Hartwell, our founder who's a tremendous human being. He decided he wanted to come up with a way to not just go train people for one day, but to create some sort of opportunity to do ongoing education. So we have three kind of branches of the Broadway Collective. We do a national tour every year, where we do master classes all over the city, which is kind of like a taste of what we do, then in the summer, we do our summer intensive, which is called Gathered, which is five-day workshop. We do three of them a year: five days, really intense. It's crazy. I look at it and I'm like, what are we doing? Really intense workshops for our students. And then my main priority at the Broadway Collective is our online academy, which is called Hello, Broadway which is 12 months of ongoing education every week.

Something new for our students to work on, a new dance combination, a new vocal cut, a new monologue. And then an artistic mentorship for the fourth week of every month. We are doing really cool, interactive learning. And as the Head of Education, I kind of am in charge, not in charge, but really go in gungho to the academy. I help create our curriculum and I work one-on-one with all of our students and their parents to try to kind of create specifically what their educational needs are and how they specifically want to use our online program and how we can tailor our coaches’ feedback towards their needs. I also teach a lot.

08:21 Tony:
That's something that came up. So I surveyed people on social media, what they wanted to know from you. And one of the questions was you teach a lot, which is great, and it's such valuable wisdom from someone who's in the room casting the show. Someone wanted to know how you separate or how they inform each other? So, how do you separate a classroom setting from an audition and how do they inform each other?

08:45 Kate:
Yeah, so I've really worked really hard to try to separate my teaching from my casting. I don't do any teaching at any of the places that are pay-for-play institutions. I know that they have value and I'm not knocking them. There are a lot of people who get a lot of work out of those and learn about a lot of cool people. But for me, that becomes really difficult for me to kind of not blur the line between my job and then also my teaching. So I work specifically with the Broadway Collective. I also teach at a whole lot of universities and colleges across the country, which is a huge passion of mine, working with B.A. and B.F.A. programs. And then I do a lot of one-on-one coaching because if someone comes to me, I want to sit down with them for over an hour one-on-one and really figure out what their journey is, what they're trying to achieve, and then try to help them navigate what this is.

And then everything I do is free online. I do my office hours, I have my social media. So I really try to keep the kind of money piece of my teaching as separate as possible, unless it's through a university and that kind of stuff. I think that they really inform each other in a huge way, because I am in a room almost everyday watching people audition. Sometimes I'll see 200 auditions in a day and a huge part of my craft is being able to navigate what people are showing pretty instantaneously, to be able to read how people are presenting themselves in a space. And unless you're watching that over and over and over and over again, you don't really know how to verbalize and communicate what you're seeing in that space.

So I think, A, I always try to say, I can only speak from my opinion and from my experience. There are no rules in this industry. There's no correct way to do this. There's no 100% full proof way to get a job or be noticed, none of that exists. And anything that I say might be right for my room one day and then tomorrow all the rules change. So I try to be as honest and upfront about that as I can. But I think people are so scared to ask questions. They're so scared that they're going to look silly or stupid, or that someone is going to hold it against them and not bring them in for an audition. And I totally value and get where they're coming from, but I'm trying to break down that idea of the table being a wall between actors and creative team members and trying to make it a table that we all sit at rather than a table that sits between us.

And so I think the only way we can really help each other out and inform each other is just by sharing knowledge. Sharing knowledge that is the key. Asking questions and getting the best answer that we can in that moment, that's all we can do. And I think it would be selfish of me not to share that knowledge when I know there are so many people who want jobs and who want to create and who just want to know how best to share themselves.

11:47 Tony:
One person responded that they watched you at an appointment come out and ask someone how they were doing, and then ask if they were ready? And their question for you is how do you bring being a human being into the process, because that's what you do well, as opposed to some potential colleagues, how do you approach your position? And I guess answer this question through the lens of what you'd like to see change from people who don't approach it the same way as you.

12:14 Kate:
I mean, first and foremost, I'm not here to tell anybody how to do their job. Everyone in this world does their job in a different way. We see that in every industry across the board, and we've all gotta protect ourselves and protect our art in the best way we know possible. So I'm not here to tear anybody's version of this job down. For me, I only know how to approach this job as I approach my life, which is we care about people first and we create a safe space to do dangerous work. So for me, I try to be as present as I possibly can in the room. I try not to be looking at technology as most as I can. I try to really be a listener, be an active listener, be an active participant in the work. And I really try to ensure that everyone in my room is also doing the same thing and trying to navigate the needs of the creative team.

And I mean, I just think we’ve got to be human. So the more I know the person who's coming in, the best I can create a relationship with them. The more I can look at them in the eye and say, how are you doing? Are you ready to do this? Do you need more time? It's going to create a better performance, I find in the room. If someone feels safe, if someone feels seen before they walk into the space, they're going to feel safe and seen when they get in there. And it's a really, really, really hard thing to do, to walk into a room full of strangers or worse people that you know and you know their reputation and it's intimidating. And then you're going to stand there and bear your soul in front of people for around 30 seconds and then walk out and think, oh God, I don't know what just happened.

I mean, this is an impossible task, especially for people whose hearts and minds are so connected to what they do. So I just try to make sure that everybody on my team, everybody that I hire leads with their heart. I try to make sure everyone is set up to win with the knowledge that there is no winning, but I want everyone to feel seen. So I just try to ask basic human questions like, Hey, how are you? Are you doing okay? Are you ready to do this? It doesn't take that much time for me. But I think it makes a difference.

14:17 Tony:
It really does. And so I want to recognize you for that and say, thank you for that. Speaking of people who are connected and doing so much and sharing themselves so beautifully. Can we talk about, I think something I've noticed in my work with clients is the journey of the artist. A lot of people get to a point in their career, they question if they're making the right choices, if they're doing the right thing. So both of us have made a career change and find great happiness in that. So can you talk about the journey that you took to change from being an actor, to being an entrepreneur?

14:55 Kate:
Yeah. I think this all kind of stems from a different route, which is society tells us from a very young age to pick something and it's going to define your worth. It's going to define your sense of self. It's going to define everything. And if you veer from that, you are a failure. We see this time and time again in the media, we're taught this over and over again. If you don't succeed at the thing that you set out to do when you were six, you are a failure. And I'm just here to bust the myth. That's actually not true. And everything that you do in your life serves whatever you're doing the next day in your life. I'm a really good casting director because I was a really good actor. And I was a nerd about this industry. I read every book and I spent every waking moment reading Playbill and going online.

All of that nerdalicious stuff that I did is what makes me good at my job now and will serve whatever I end up doing in 10 years. Who knows if I'll be doing this? And I'm okay with that. I am 100% okay with understanding that we are blessed express to live in a time where you're allowed to do what you want on that day and to make a life for yourself and to choose what you want. Lord, if we had been born 100 years ago we would be doing something that our parents did and had no choice in the matter. What a gift that you get to change your mind and explore other pieces of yourself. So for my journey, I'm saying all this stuff, I'm spouting it out. It's a gift, but it's also hard work to let go of something that has been so integral to the foundation of your sense of self.

So my husband will attest, when I moved to Indiana to go back to school, I met him and when we started dating. I would fall on the floor and just cry and cry. I remember I was there when the Tony's were happening and I've been really lucky. I've gone to the Tony's for a long time. I literally was crumbled up on the floor, just like heave sobbing at my life. It's very dramatic, but it was really painful to know I wasn't there. I had made a choice to try something different and it was really, really, really hard and really painful. And if you're going to continue in the arts and you're going to try something different, try something new, I really recommend making sure that you're really done with the thing that you have been doing in the past.

Because especially for me, if I were sitting at a table every day looking at actors being like, I could do that better, or I want that thing, that is not healthy. It's not productive. And it's certainly not serving the people that you're trying to work with. I really don't want that. I really have no desire to be on Broadway. I have no desire to be performing all the time. I certainly have no desire to want to be auditioning, but I think when I realized that about myself, I realized what I do have a desire to do, which is make it a lot better for the people who want to do this. And I think I have found when you choose a life of service, at least for me, in my experience, it has been super fulfilling. And I have found a lot more success in my sense of self-worth by doing that, but it's hard.

It's a hard transition because you feel like you're letting people down. People who've invested in you, not just financially, but definitely financially, but also just in your story, in your journey. I remember it took my dad two years. Even after I worked in casting to not call me an actor. You have to unteach a lot of people about your dreams. And that's hard. That's really hard.

People at my wedding were toasting me about performance and I wasn't doing it then. It's tricky to unlearn, but you gotta do it. If you're unhappy, if you are not fulfilling your ultimate potential, try something different, do it, leap, test it, figure it out because fighting for a dream that you had when you were 12, unless it's really serving in your soul, it is okay. It's okay to do something different. Even if it's not in this industry, if you think I want to go be a floral designer and plan beautiful weddings. Oh my gosh, I'm so here for it. And all of these skills will totally serve that. So I'm here for, we use the words it's like quitting, and transition, and all these things. I think it's just growing.

19:35 Tony:

19:36 Kate:
Yeah. If you're ready to evolve, if you're ready to grow, just do it. And don't worry about letting other people down, your parents will not care. They just want you to pay your bills and be happy. They really just want that.

19:48 Tony:
Well, one of the things I love about you is that you are so humble and full of grace and generosity and light. So one of the things I'm curious to ask is how you take care of yourself, because I know running a business is no small feat, growing a business. So I would love to hear, and this also goes to the freelancers that come in and do their 16 bars and full songs for you. What are some self-care tactics that you practice?

20:17 Kate:
Okay. I have to be really honest with you. I really, really, really don't take very good care of myself. And it's something that I'm trying to work on. I wish I could look at you and be like, oh, well, I practice Ziva meditation and all these things that I wish I did, but I don't. And I'm really trying to get better. I made a vow to myself and to my husband and to my friends this past year that I was going to make more time for the people in my life. I was going to take fewer projects and really actually make sure I'm spending time with people that I love. Because when I started my firm a little over two years ago, I had to say yes to pretty much everything, because you have to, to get your name out there, to get people to trust you. You have to build those relationships. Now, I'm very fortunate that I get to be a little more picky about the projects that I can take. And that allows me to spend a little more time with the people I love. I'm also trying to eat better because I've been eating like crap because when you are working your butt off, there are only certain options that are available that late at night. And you order Domino's Pizza at midnight and you think that's a healthy choice. It's not. So I'm trying to be better about that.

And things that I do though, that I know I am really proud of. I find great people to work with who are super supportive of me and of our company's dreams and what we stand for, our standards of practice. And just being surrounded by good people who believe in the same things I believe in and fight for them is really helpful. Also social media has been pretty great. It's also really crappy sometimes, but I find that I get a lot of support. I get to meet a lot of really cool people through social. That's been a real blessing. Iced coffee is always.

22:00 Tony:
Amen. I got my venti right here.

22:02 Kate:
Me too honey, yes, cheers. Gets me through. I haven't been working out as much as I wish I was, but I do always find when I am engaging my body consistently, my work is better. And also, I mean, two other things. I have a really great partner. My husband is the most supportive and pushes me to the umpteenth degree, but also is like, you should sleep. That's something you should do. And I also have people like Robert in my life, who I am constantly working with and I see what he's done with his business in three years and it blows my mind. And so it pushes me to dig deeper, work harder and realize that we hustle now so we can relax later.

22:48 Tony:
Amen. I want to zoom in because it's Women's Future Month. Women! Ladies! All my girlfriends! Your interview with Matt Rodin. And this is the second time I'm saying this, what a lovely soul. I can't wait to meet him and talk to him.

23:06 Kate:
I love him so much. He's such an incredible human.

23:10 Tony:
Yeah, agreed. I only feel it digitally, so I can't wait to meet him in real life.

23:18 Kate:
When you get close to him as a person you're going to lose your mind.

23:23 Tony:
So you guys spoke a little bit about how you had a wedding, but you are not legally married. You are domestic partners. Can we talk about those decisions and potentially just what the partnership brings to you?

23:39 Kate:
Can I ask you a question? Would you ask that to a man that you were interviewing?

23:54 Tony:
That's a good question. I think that I would, I'll sit on that for a moment.

23:58 Kate:
I'm totally excited to talk about it, but I'm always interested. People bring this up all the time with me. And I think like, wow, if they were interviewing like a cis white male, would they even ask that question? But I think because I am a woman and because I've made a choice that's non-traditional, people talk to me about it all the time. So the only reason I bring that up is because it's women's month. And so I just wanted to like… ask the question.

But yes, we are domestic partners. That was definitely a choice that I decided to make and we made it together. But I love the crap out of my partner. He is the most supportive, most incredible human, but I think we are, I always say blessed express, so sorry, if you hear this 19 times, I think we are blessed express to live in a time where my worth as a partner is not based solely in my dowry and how much land I own.

For me, I don't have to take my partner's name to be his partner. And so that was just kind of our choice, how we wanted to create our marriage. I have so many friends who are legally married, who have taken partner’s names, and I celebrate and honor them. But for me, we just wanted to create our own idea of what partnership looked like in, when did we get married, 2017? See, I even call it marriage… that's the weirdest part of the whole thing. I call him my husband, I call it our marriage, but the government for all intents and purposes, isn't involved. The bank isn't involved. Property isn't involved. It's just about our support network, our personalized support network.

25:33 Tony:
Yeah. I think it interests me A, because I want a partner and B I like the fact that it's not tied up in traditional things that are really about status and probably beyond… like you're much more smarter than I am.

25:51 Kate:
Lies. No, I'm totally with you. A, you are so deserving of a partner and I can't wait for that magic for you when it happens. But totally, I suck at commitment. I'll be perfectly frank. Really, it's been the challenge of my life. And I'm not sure what that deep seated truth is as to why, but it's hard. And so to have a partner who is willing to look at me every day and I'm willing to look at him and say I actively choose to love you today was what I was looking for. Not “I'm in a relationship with you because the government told me we're supposed to be doing this. And if we want to get out, it's impossible without horrific consequences.”

I want to be in a partnership where we say, “We're doing this because we're doing this. And because we want to fight for it.” And we're domestic partners because I really needed health insurance. Being an artist is hard. And you get health insurance when you're domestic partners. And that's why we did that piece of the puzzle. And we had a wedding because our families really wanted to celebrate. So we had a party to celebrate our nine-year relationship. And that was important to our parents. So that's why we did that and it was fun. It was on a boat. It was nice.

27:10 Tony:
That sounds delightful. It looks gorgeous as well on your Facebook.

27:14 Kate:
Broadway.com! Emilio from Broadway.com shot our wedding. They're gorgeous. I will forever be grateful and indebted to him.

27:21 Tony:
So I want to bring up your background in identity and gender roles. Let's talk and sit in this moment for a second, as a female business owner, what would you like to see change about this patriarchy that we're in, this crazy time in our world, not just our country.

27:50 Kate:
I've been very outspoken about this. I think we need to see not just women, but I think we need to see more GNC, non-binary, female identifying, male identifying, trans — people who are not just white cis men in positions of power. I think we're already seeing, I don't know if you watched any of the news yesterday, we're seeing what can happen when those people, when people of color, when women of color, trans people are in positions of power, what incredible fearlessness there is. And it's powerful, potent stuff. I think it's really interesting casting.
There are a lot of female-identifying casting directors. There are a lot of us, but there are still mostly producers that are cis white men and the producers are the people who actually make final decisions, not the casting directors.

So I think we have seen a lot of, especially female-identifying casting directors who are making bold moves and a lot of casting directors who are trying to create different stage pictures, something that I really, really, really set out — to make the world on stage look like the world we live in. Why is that such a revolutionary thing? I don't get it, but I've been really fortunate to work with a lot of young producers, a lot of young GM teams, a lot of new writers, a lot of people of color, a lot of people of just varying identities, backgrounds, experiences of life. And because of that, I think the pictures that we see on stage in a lot of the shows that I've cast are a lot more reflective of the world that we live in.

I've been really fortunate to work with people who just aren't scared. I think that lack of fear does come from, we're just kind of throwing it against the wall. We're trying to make it happen and let's take creative risks and do interesting stuff. So I mean, my hope is not just that we see more inclusivity and diversity, whatever kind of buzz word you want to use, more real people who live in this world in real people jobs. But also, I hope we see more vocal allies of our white cis men, who are willing to stand up for people, who are willing to allow other people to work with them and above them and all these things. I've also had great experiences in that reality too, which is awesome. Now we just need to see more of that.

I hope, especially in our political world, that we really, really, really start, I think for better or for worse, what's currently happening in our government is at least getting people to wake up and to go vote and to show up and march and do things and we can't stop that. My only hope for the future is no matter what happens in our next elections, or any of that, that we don't stop staying awake and we don't stop voting that this continues. And the cycle only increases, that we keep getting new faces in politics. I think we need a younger generation of people, no matter what they look like, no matter what their experience is, to show up for positions of power across the board, in the arts, in politics. And when we do that, especially in the arts, we will see a reflection in our politics. Entertainment is what shifts the world. We know this.

31:20 Tony:
The stories that we tell, whether it's to ourselves or to the person watching the work.

31:27 Kate:
Yeah. I say this to all the kids that I teach across the country. We've been doing three things since the dawn of time, we've been eating food, making babies and telling stories and that's it. So the stories that we tell are what shape our societies, they're what inform our politicians. And they're what more importantly inform the voters, which is what informs the politicians. So I think it's our responsibility to keep creating art with people who look like the people in our world, keep creating opportunities for artists to tell their stories. And most importantly, we need to train the next generation of producers and we need to widen the scope of what that looks like. And we need to make sure that people in those positions can make final decisions and have had different experiences of life.

32:14 Tony:
Most of the people listening are going to be the artists that are auditioning. Some are writing the work, but for the most part they're not people who would consider themselves in positions of power. Do you have, as an ally to this artist, do you have any practical ideas for ways that they can help shift the stories that they're being asked to tell, anything beyond creating it them themselves?

32:38 Kate:
Sure. I mean, first of all, I totally honor why people feel like they're not in positions of power. That makes 100% sense on paper. But I will say like we're talking about here, the stories we tell ourselves are the most potent stories, not the ones we tell other people. So if we walk into every room saying we are not in power, we are not in power. And I think that artists, I would hope, especially artists coming into my room realize they have agency and that they are being seen. And even if it's not this project, there are other projects and we show up in the most position of power that we can.

I think the other thing that people are so scared to do, and I'm totally hijacking this from Robert Harwell, sorry, friend, I'm stealing your line, but people are so afraid to say hello. People are so afraid. And he always said that's the number one thing holding people back in this world, I'm going to paraphrase it a little. I think we're super scared to ask for what we want in this life. And when we're told we're not in a position of power by whomever, whatever antiquated rules that don't really exist, we stop ourselves from asking for what we want and asking for the things that would be meaningful to us. So I think other than like you said, writing stuff for yourself, trying to self-produce, trying to do all these other things. Just put yourself out there. We talk about social media a lot. I spend a lot of time on Instagram, on Facebook, looking for artists, looking for people I don't know, trying to engage with a community.

Instagram is a free digital platform to share your life and your art and your story. If you're not asking for what you want by sharing who you are, both in person and on social, and in any way that you can, you're not really doing your job as an artist. And I don't mean like everybody needs to go on social and like make a beautifully curated, perfect thing. No, if that's your bliss, if that's your jam, it's my jam. I love it. So if it's your bliss, do it. If not, find a way to make sure you're meeting people in real life, that you are creating the spreadsheets of who's working at what regional theaters that you're passionate about. Find a way to meet these people. Everybody's just a nerd. Everybody's just a human. Find a way to connect, say hello. Don't allow some sort of mythological barrier to keep you from what you really want in this life.

35:08 Tony:
Well, let's dive into social media for a moment. You said that it can be used in a variety of ways and you go out there actively to connect with people. What do you love seeing and what do you wish would change about social media?

35:22 Kate:
I think I can always tell when someone is posting something that doesn't feel truthful to like who they really are, especially when they're posting music or posting video content. When someone is a comedian and they're posting humor that is real and truthful to who they are, it's funny and it's undeniable. When someone is a pop singer and sings with their guitar and creates just like beautiful music, you can't not watch it. But when someone is playing at that thing, it's hard to watch sometimes. And we all know this. We've all seen it. That's not new news. So I think the thing that I love seeing the most is when people are just sharing the art, they really actually truthfully honest to God like to make. And if that means you want to be singing what you consider the most overdone song in the world, do it as long as it feels truthful to who you are. Have a point of view.

I love fashion. It is a huge part of my existence. I love photography and editing and layout and design. It's how my brain works. So my Instagram is a blending of fashion and photography. And then my thoughts and casting. But most importantly, just my thoughts about life and how I am living it and my experiences. It makes sense for me, it works for me. And it's that thing of either you're on board or you're not. I don't care, enjoy or don't, but I want to see that kind of thing from people as well. So if you are a jazz musician share your music and most importantly, find a way to make it so that other people can find it, too.

I have saved on my notes, a little hashtag cloud of things that are meaningful phrases and words to me that are the communities that I want to be engaging with. So after I post anything, that little hashtag cloud, copy and paste right into the thing. So if you're a jazz musician, you better have #Jazz #JazzMusician, because when I'm looking for new talent, I will look for a #SingerSongwriter, #NewYorkSingerSongwriter, #Trombone, whatever I'm looking for, I'll search for it. And the people who are able to be found are the ones who are found. I mean, it just makes sense.

37:45 Tony:
Can you give me your definition of the word brand and the word type and how they're different or not?

37:57 Kate:
So I super don't believe in the word type. I never use it. I hate it. I think it's an antiquated term. I think that for me personally, it feels kind of lazy. I think type is what's gotten us into routine, which is what's gotten us into seeing the same thing. So for me, I use the term throughline. I think all of us as individuals have a throughline, the way the world has opened itself to us is very specific on an individual level based on what we look like, based on who we were born to, based on where we were born, all of these things affect the throughline of our lives. And that throughline affects how we tell a story in the space.

So I encourage people to spend time understanding what that throughline is, what their point of view is, what their worldview is, and then how that affects what stories they tell best and what stories they tell truthfully. When someone can look at me and tells me their throughline, how their lives affect the text that they're working on, that's really attractive and really cool and useful.

I think, brand… ugh!

39:01 Tony:
What a buzzword.

39:02 Kate:
I love that word, it's also such a dirty word. I feel like people are like, “I don't know what my brand is” or they're like “my brand” and there's no in between. But if we have to define brand, I think brand is the packaging of your throughline. So it's how do we take what we know to be true about ourselves and make it palatable for other people to understand in a very quick way. And I don't think that's dirty. I think it's important that we know how to talk about how we walk through this world and what we like, what we don't like, what worlds we live best in, what kind of art we're willing to make or make best.

So I think people get in their heads so much about brand when really I think we could also change that word to your elevator pitch or your wrapping paper, or your book cover, whatever you need to transition that thought into so it doesn't become super overwhelming is fine. But what it comes down to me is, know who you are, know what your worldview is, know what your point of view is and know how to talk about it. And don't be ashamed or scared to talk about your truths.

40:14 Tony:
I want to say yes to all of that and then flip it and say they also need to be found. So can you talk to me about how you use tools to discover new talent, what tools you're using?

40:26 Kate:
I always am going to be using the standard tools, like Actors Access, Breakdown Services, Playbill, and all of those kinds of tools that we are very fortunate to have and to use. Thank you technology.

I'm always using things, especially Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to find talent as well. When I'm on Instagram, it'll depend on the project. Like I said, right now I'm working on Bandstand. Bandstand, we have people who have to be a trombone, trumpet, drums, all of these things. So I'm going to be looking at hashtags for like #Trumpet, #NewYorkTrumpet. So anything I can that might show me video footage of someone doing those things, I'm going to be searching for them. I'll do the same on YouTube. I'll do the same on Facebook, any of the platforms where I can, I will be as specific and as general as possible.

I also have members of my team who are constantly doing things like that as well. I go to showcases. I'll go to, if I have time, to as many shows as I can around the city. And also the other thing I will always say is real interpersonal social networking, not on the internet, but like person to person. So I know a lot of MDs. If I'm looking for musicians, I'm going to go to my MD friends and say, hey, who are your favorite trumpet players in the city? Are any of them also singers? Are they union? Are they non-union? And I'll ask the questions and people who show up, people who are good people. I don't need everybody to be kind, Sondheim taught us nice is different than good, that's fine. As long as you are a good person who has work ethic and will show up and do your job, people will stand up for you and they will fight for you. So I also use good old fashioned interpersonal social networking to find them.

42:19 Tony:

42:21 Kate:
I use that as well when I'm trying to find things.

Things like Instagram, I always say either be really good at social media or don't do it at all. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Don't post a picture of brunch unless you're getting paid for it. If you're getting paid for it, honey post all the pictures of eggs, you do you. But if you're an artist, I think either use social media to really help your career or if it's a way to express something inside of yourself that you really want to, use it as your art project. But if not, like put it down, go to a dance class, get out of this city, invest more time in your other projects, invest more time in your money making project. If you're a babysitter, invest more time in babysitting. We lose hours and hours and hours on this platform. So unless you're using it to help your wallet, your future, or your heart, then let it go Elsa, let it go. But you also have to have a website. Everybody has to have a website. Number one.

43:26 Tony:
I'm so happy you said that because I was about to talk about yours, but let me hear your take on this, like dive into that. What does the website do for the actor or the artist?

43:35 Kate:
So a website now is like a business card. We used to have business cards because that was how we could find people. Now, if you think I don't Google your name and need to find a website, you're wrong. It is your digital portfolio. So have your headshots and your resume, your updated resume in a downloadable PDF format so that I can use that. Don't spend hours slaving away over a bio. It's not that deep. If you have something you want to write, do it. If not, it's really not that deep. I need to see real footage of you doing what you do. I want to find connections to your social media so I can easily click through that. And most importantly, I need that contact information of your agents or yourself and not one of those little boxes that's a contact me moment.

I need an email address because if I'm trying to send you an appointment and there are sides, I can't do that through that little box. So you might miss an opportunity. And if you don't want to put your email address on the internet, make sure it's on your resume in that PDF so that I can find it. I'll always look there, but it has to be there so that I can send you an appointment if I'm interested. That box just doesn't always cut it.

44:46 Tony:
I'm like… noted. My clients, you can email me. We'll fix that right away.

44:51 Kate:
If I'm looking at three in the morning for people and I'm trying to fill a schedule and I find someone amazing and it's one of those boxes, I'm like, I can't send you the sides. What is your email, and that's frustrating for me?

45:07 Tony:
Thank you for that generous wisdom. Let's talk about your gorgeous website. One of the things that I loved finding were your standards of practice. So I want to read a few of my favorite phrases and just hear you riff on why you crafted the language that way. The final one, let's start at the glorious end. I shall direct my efforts in such a manner that when I leave the industry, it will stand as a greater, more equitable, inclusive, and more truthful institution for my having labored there. You're leaving the industry?

45:41 Kate:
No, I mean maybe, who knows honey, we might grow. That one is my favorite and it's the most important to me because my mom always taught me, if you're not going to make the world a better place, then what are you doing here? I know I'm not everybody's cup of tea. Some people are going to listen to this and be like, she's all talk, that's fine. News flash you're never going to be everyone's cup of tea and I get it. But what I can do with my time and my life is try to make other people's lives better and try to make this industry a more equitable place. And that comes from fighting for new talent, that comes from fighting for new creatives. And that comes from looking people in the eye and saying, I see you, that's the best I can do. So my only hope is that when I do decide to walk away, if that's like into the grave, or if that's into another career, people will be able to say she did some good here. And that's all I think we can ask for in this life.

46:47 Tony:
I think we touched on this, but one of the beautiful things, this podcast is all about conversations with Changemakers. And your third point is that you will make any changes necessary to ensure people feel safe. So I think one of the ways that you're doing that is just bringing humanity into that experience and bringing people to the table as equal contributors. Anything else, because I wish I was auditioning for you. I would be like… I missed Kate. I didn't get that experience.

47:17 Kate:
Oh, I mean, absolutely. When I started this career in casting, we weren't asking things like, what are your pronouns? We weren't taking the time to understand, or at least I wasn't. I wasn't in any rooms where that was happening or I wasn't personally thinking about things like that, which is just proof of how fast we can grow and how fast we should be growing. I try to make sure anybody who's coming in who's non-binary, GNC, or trans, will — before they even show up to sign in for my auditions — that I'm aware of what their pronouns are and that I can make sure that everyone in the room is aware of what their pronouns are, so that anyone walking into that space feels entirely seen. And they don't have to apologize or even talk about what makes them themselves, we just know who they are and how they identify and how to address people in a truthful and humanistic way.

So things like that I think are changes that I've made that I know other people are making, too. And just trying to be as aware as possible of the fact that I don't have all the answers and that other people do. And when someone is talking loud enough for me to listen, I should listen and take it in and make a change. A couple weeks ago, I go live on Facebook all the time and I talk to people directly. I try to put my face where my mouth is and stand up for what I believe in. I went live a couple weeks ago when it was really cold. And I was like, hey, friends, get out of your house. If you feel safe, go to your auditions. And I tried to be really upfront about it.

If you feel safe, if you feel safe, if you don't need a self-care day. And I didn't think about when I did that about people standing in line for open calls and it caused a lot of people to start talking about it on the internet. And they were right. I was right in that I think people should get up and go audition and take care of themselves and make sure they're doing their job. But they were right to say, hey friend, some of us took that to mean, go wait in line in four-degree weather for four hours outside. And so the best that I can do. And I think what I mean by that standard of practice, is when someone can teach me something that I wasn't thinking about or that I wasn't aware of, I can put my face on it. And with humility and grace say you were right, now we grow and now we make it better in the future.

Put your face where your mouth is. If people are going to call you out and help you be better at your job, then listen to it, take it in, make a change. And that's all we can do. So was it hard to hear some of the things that people were saying? Yeah, it sucks. The internet is the most beautiful tool. And the worst. People were saying things, I was like, oh God, it was like a “Kill the beast!” Beauty and the Beast moment.

50:06 Tony:
The mob came for you.

50:07 Kate:
And that’s fine though, because at the end of the day, if I can learn something from it, then great. And like I said, then now we grow and I firmly believe in that. People have to stand up for what they believe in and help educate people who don't even sometimes realize they need to be educated. And we’ve got to make each other stronger and safer. But at the same time we’ve got to push the art forward and sometimes it's uncomfortable and dangerous. And so as long as I can try to make a safe space for that uncomfortable, dangerous work to happen, we're going to keep trying.

50:43 Tony:
I applaud it. And also the humility and the grace that you handled that situation.

50:50 Kate:
Thank you.

50:51 Tony:
You're very welcome. So wrapping up Women's Future Month, and that being just celebrating the female-identifying part of our human race, are there any particular women who mean a lot to you that you want to throw a shout out to and just say like, “Hey, thank you for your work.”

51:16 Kate:
Oh my gosh. Yes.

51:19 Tony:
The list drops.

51:21 Kate:
Let's get into it. There are people in my life who are artists who have been with me for 15+ years. People like Marisa Rosen, who is someone who is an artist and who just is such a tremendous asset to this community and has been a great friend of mine. Women like Sammi Connold who is an incredible director, an incredible person, and is just changing, changing, changing the game. Oh my gosh, wait, I wish I had prepared this list. My brain, there are so many incredible people. Oh my gosh. Laura Brandel is another director that I work with a lot who I really, really respect and honor. Gwen Richmond, who is a GM who is a young incredible female-identifying person, who I just think is going to do great things. Kelly Mackenzie Glenn (she got married, she changed her name), who is a young producer. Who's not scared to do interesting, cool work. Oh my gosh. There are so many people I wish I could just make a list of a thousand human beings.

52:29 Tony:
Maybe it can be a blog post for you.

52:31 Kate:
Yes. Oh my goodness. Yes. I mean women like Lynn Ahrens, who've been writing music that has touched my soul for decades. Performers like Marin Mazzie, who is just someone who sang to the depths of her being, who challenged me as a human. Other performers. Oh my goodness. People like Audra McDonald, Cynthia Erivo, these people who sing from their bits, from the deepest, darkest depths of their soul and challenge us. Oh my gosh, Tina Landau, director. These incredible, incredible women. Kate Shindle, who's like doing the work at Actors’ Equity, who is just 100%. Is everything perfect? Absolutely not. Is she standing up for people? 100%.

A shout out to other people who I barely know, but who work in my industry, people like Rachel Hoffman, people like Tara Rubin. Women who are game changers as well in casting who I barely know, but know that their work has allowed me to do the work that I do, which I'm really, really, really grateful for. I could truly make a list for like 18 hours. And I'm sure I have forgotten people that I am obsessed with.

53:49 Tony:
Well, I want you to know that I had a moment, a vision perhaps of as you were doing that, the sort of urgency that was flowing out of you. I see a Tony speech in your future.

53:59 Kate:
Wouldn't that be tremendous. At last, there's no Tony for casting.

54:04 Tony:
We'll work on it. We'll work on it. Changemakers… let's do this.

54:09 Kate:
You know what though, maybe I'll grow into a different position and we'll get it that way.

54:13 Tony:
There you go. Alright, Kate, this has been lovely. Thank you for sharing your love and your light here on the podcast and in rooms all around the country. As we wrap up, talk to me. It's Women's Future Month. What is the vision for the future? And it can be female oriented or just all gender inclusive.

54:38 Kate:
The future in general?

54:40 Tony:
Yeah. What would you like to see? So if we're making change today, you, me and the listener, what is the vision, the shared vision that we're working towards?

54:50 Kate:
I think the shared vision that I am working towards and that I hope we see in this world, is a future of compassion. I think the art of compassion is dying. And I really, really, really want to see a world where we can look at each other and see ourselves in the other and embrace the differences in the other and still explore the world on our own journey. I am ready for a selfless society, more than a selfish society. And I think that there is a way that we can work with our own beliefs and our own strengths and our own journeys, but still seeing the beauty in other and I really hope that we can get there sooner rather than later. The world needs it. The world needs a heavy, heavy dose of compassion and vision.

55:36 Tony:
She is calling it like she sees it. So true. Okay, Kate. So if we want to connect with you more, where is the best place to go?

55:43 Kate:
You can find me online everywhere. You can find me at Kate-Lumpkin.com. You can find me on Instagram @KateLumpkin. You can find me on Twitter at @KatherineLumpkin and you can find me on Facebook. I am very, very, very accessible.

55:59 Tony:
She's all over the place. So thank you for being here today, Kate, and thank you for bringing it to Women's Future Month.

56:06 Kate:
Thank you so much for having me. This was so beautiful. You are incredible at interviewing.

56:10 Tony:
Well, thank you. I am working on it. It's a new skill.

56:14 Kate:
You asked really beautiful questions and I'm really grateful to have been someone to be on the receding end of your interview. Thank you for having me.

56:26 Tony:
Thank you so much for listening and thank you to Kate Lumpkin for sharing these truth bombs with us.

As always, if you enjoyed this episode, please share your gratitude with Kate. I'd love it if you'd snap a screenshot and tag her in a post on social media, maybe share your favorite quote or takeaway.

Remember that this is #WomensFutureMonth, so be sure to use #WomensFutureMonth at some point. You can honor your favorite heroines of the past, present some of your favorite femme trailblazers, or share your vision for the future. We'll feature the best of on our social channels and in next month's talk show.

Now, if you want more interviews and free content, be sure to check out TonyHowell.me. Once there, you can join the FREE Artist Community and get my Brand Bootcamp mini-course.

Thank you so much for listening. Thank you for sharing. And most importantly, I want to thank you for doing your part to make our world a better place. Have an awesome month.

Casting Director and Educator, Kate Lumpkin shares the roles gender and inclusion need to play in modern culture. You’ll hear Kate’s personal story from actor to agency—and ways we can all sit at the table, rather than only a select few.

Beyond equality, we discuss business, branding, social media, and more. Grab a notebook for Kate’s practical ways to change the world through the stories we share and see!

Click here to access bonus resources from this episode.

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