Friday, August 26, 2011

Coffee Talk with Katherine Gauthier

We first introduced Kat in our posting about the Cast of Tough! a couple of weeks ago. She plays “Jill”, bringing a huge heart and loads of hilarity to the role. Here she shares some of her experiences with the wonderful world of theatre.

Tell me about a really memorable performance or show you saw that really stands out for you.

One of my most memorable experiences was stumbling upon a one-man memoir type show at the Fringe in Ottawa in 2007. This remarkable piece of theatre entitled The Tricky Part, by Martin Moran essentially exposed a man’s struggle to come to terms with his past. Or was it about learning to grow up? Or was it about a loss of innocence? Truth be told, the plot did not even really matter. The play was about redemption. About trespassing. About being human, But most of all, It was about grace. Ah, grace. That irrevocably human theme that always seems to punch me in the gut (No surprise then that the other “memorable performance” that came to mind was Pacific Theatre’s Grace).

As an avid theatre lover, I have given many standing ovations to very deserving casts in my day. But I had never understood how much an audience sometimes needs to clap just to express; "Thank you". That is how I felt after Peter Hayes (who played Martin) so stunningly brought Moran’s story to life. Hayes generously gave himself to us in a truly cathartic and slightly dangerous way. He let us into Moran's remarkably human story and allowed us to breathe, cry, laugh, sigh, hurt with his character. It was a breathtaking and tour de force performance and one that will stick with me all of my life.

What was your, “Aha! I want to be an actor” moment?

I am not sure if I have ever experienced said moment and yet, at the same time, I also feel like I experience it 77 times a day every day. I have always possessed an invested and real inner life. I also have significant escapist tendencies. As a child, this combination often led me to create worlds or find solace in different identities. I lived out the fantasies and stories in my room and found great refuge in them. I always wanted to live a thousand disparate lives and share in a thousand people’s different stories. Theatre allows me to do that. Theatre allows me to truly step in the other’s shoes and live, eat, breathe, think, act as they do. I guess that is why I have decided to pursue it professionally (amongst many other reasons). You know, to share communally in the experience of being human. Although I may not have had the “Aha!” moment, I have always felt that there was something stunning and powerful about this art form. Something that makes me feel alive pries me off dead centre (in a good way).

Kat in one of her first shows, dressed up as a "firechild" - photo courtesy of Katherine Gauthier

What do you think of the theatre scene in Vancouver? The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this theatre scene; its people are stunning and the work is lovely. I do think our major challenge is that we can’t seem to consistently get people into seats. In my opinion, the hardest part of doing theatre in Vancouver (and certainly is not unique to Vancouver) is that we live in a society of individualistic, comfortable people who each cater to their own lives. Thus, it does not appeal to the masses to pay (often too much) to sit in a dark room and turn off their cellphones, Twitters, minds, etc, enough to really immerse themselves in somebody else’s story. We no longer appear to long for those moments in which we, as human beings can sit in wonder, awe and admiration of something outside the self. Not to mention, that we, as a society, have seemingly lost the ability to be present. Because of the tragedy of needing money to produce theatre and needing people to give us money, I feel as if this city often is often forced to play it safe artistically. I wish that we had a platform to take more risks, move boldly, expand the medium, do more collaboration-pieces and really blow out of the water what we have been doing.

Do you have any funny or embarrassing actor stories that have happened onstage?

I was in a two-hander at the Havana called Matt and Ben. We had some pretty crazy costume changes that were not really called for in the script. So, while my cast-member was changing from Matt Damon to J.D. Salinger backstage (a pretty extensive costume change as you can imagine), I was left alone onstage to improvise in order to waste the time. Well, the Havana is a unique space all on its own. To start with, to get from one entrance to another, you have to go through the restaurant kitchen washroom, through the kitchen itself, down some stairs, into the lobby and then through two doors. Needless to say, these “improvisations” could felt like hours.

One particular run, my partner got locked out in the lobby. So, I was improvising away as per usual noticing that it was taking a lot longer than the norm. I end up doing the most ridiculous things (that seem normal at the time due to my adrenaline-charged mind). I don’t remember quite what I did but I do remember grabbing a blanket, turning it into a cape, running around screaming, wrestling a papier-mache rooster down and hitting myself in the head in the interim. Minutes later (and unscripted minutes on stage can seem like hours), my cast-member ends up coming in through the bedroom (which in terms of the story, makes no sense at all) and we continued. Oh, Live Theatre!

Photo courtesy of Katherine Gauthier

How has the rehearsal process been for Tough!?

I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this rehearsal process. Delving into the likes of Jill has been riveting, a terrifying challenge and wholly satisfying. Truly a revelation of the flaws, messiness and beauty of humankind, Tough! presents three characters who are all endearing due to their honesty, vulnerability and in their weird way, hope. Thus, rehearsals have provided me with the compelling journey to discover, plummet and expose Jill’s humanity. She wears her heart on her sleeve which is a trait that in this day and age is more of a rare find than a commonality.

Not to mention, working with these talented people. Annie (our magical SM) is unreal; so patient, thorough, and totally hilarious. Tamara (the director) is stunningly gracious and a joy to work with. Being an actor herself, she seems to truly understand when she needs to let us discover and when she needs to come in and “save us”. She also has a gift of verbal affirmation (which is always a good trait in a director). Marlene (who plays Tina) is a stunning human being and a wonderful Tina. I consider it an honour to play her best friend. There is so much that one can fall in love with when it comes to who Marlene/Tina is that it makes my characters’ job (as her best friend, protector, biggest fan) so easy. Tim (Bobby) is one of those rare finds – such a charming and wonderful individual and someone who brings so much heart, humour and chutzpah to the rehearsal process. It has been a pure joy seeing him explore this character and plummet into the vulnerability and depths of who Bobby is. So yeah, it’s been good.

How do you feel you relate, or don’t relate to your character?

I feel deeply connected to Jill. Jill is incredibly loyal and will fight to the end for what she believes. Jill wants to better herself and those around her. She loves fiercely, she believes strongly, she feels passionately and acts extremely. Although Jill is significantly damaged, her decision to not feel sorry for herself is compelling. Jill does not accept mediocrity in herself or anybody around her. In this manner, I feel that we have similar cores but she just has more guts, less self-imposed boundaries and significantly more courage than I do. Although I may not have the follow-through that Jill has, I do feel like we both are passionate fighters, protectors and lovers.

On the contrary, I am significantly more diplomatic and, for lack of a better term, kind than she is. I also, unfortunately, have a strong people-pleasing tendency which does not seem to course at all through Jill’s veins. Jill is not afraid to stand out and in fact, most of the time, is not even aware that she is doing so.

So why should people come and see Tough!?

It’s raw. It’s real. I don’t know. Just come. Let me know what you think.

What advice would you have for any young actors starting out or thinking about becoming an actor?

Man, I hate this question. I really believe that everyone must forge their own path and any advice I could give is either not heard or should not be heard. People come to this powerful art form for so many disparate reasons and I don’t feel equipped or frankly, even desire to spout out advice. That being said, if I were to talk to my sixteen year old self, I would say: “Risk more, fail boldly, tell the truth, and always remember to breathe.”

Thanks Kat! You can catch her, and the rest of the cast, tonight at the Opening Night of Tough! which runs until September 3rd at Studio 1398 on Granville Island. Tickets can be purchased from Tickets Tonight, by calling 604.684.2787, or at the door.

~ Sarah MacKay
Associate Producer

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