Just because stages and galleries are closed doesn’t mean there aren’t stories to tell about local artists, many of who are out-of-work and uncertain of how they will pay the bills during this current public health crisis. Arts-Louisville will be talking with them.
Interview by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
- You were a member of the 2018-19 Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Most of the apprentices move on to other cities but you have stayed on in Louisville. What prompted you to make that choice?
In a lot of ways, I feel as though that choice became very clear and almost undeniable as my nine months with the apprenticeship came to a close. Looking back I unintentionally made Louisville a second home for myself in those nine months by investing in the relationships that were investing in me, getting to know the city of Louisville more than just downtown and plugging myself into the community beyond the people at Actors Theatre. In those nine months, I had plugged into a church that I attended regularly and created some deep relationships at, volunteered at different organizations in town (La Casita Center, Refugee Ministries), explored different areas of Louisville (learned all about the differences between the East, West and South End), spoke to locals, picked up a side personal assistant job, fell in love with Actors Theatre and was fortunate enough to have a job with The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival the summer after my apprenticeship. I was able to be a professional actor and live somewhere where I had people who cared for me and I cared for them. The choice seemed clear and two years later of being a Louisville local I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
- Besides Louisville, what other places have you worked?
I am originally from New Jersey and had graduated Montclair State University in 2017 with my BFA in acting which left me one year in the New Jersey/New York area to do some black-box theatre gigs between the two but once I made the jump to Louisville much of my work has been here and just recently in Cincinnati, Ohio with the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
- What, if anything, is different about working in Louisville?
I think this would prove to be true about any place you are lucky enough to form relationships in but working in Louisville feels like home. I know when I walk into Actors Theatre or the Kentucky Shakespeare offices there will be many smiles and warm welcomes to be had. Although I was not in NYC for as long as some of my other counterparts out there I still remember the constant questioning of auditioning and trying to get work. “Did they even watch my self tape?” “Do you think they will think of me for that part?” In Louisville, I am so incredibly honored to say those aren’t questions that haunt me at night. I also have to mention the fact that the cost of living over here is a pretty sweet bonus. I remember moving here and in conversation finding out how much some of my friends in town were paying for rent, almost fainting at the pennies it was compared to home.
- Were you working on a show when the theatres were closed?
I was! Dominique Morriseau’s Pipeline at The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. What a punch to the gut that was. I had wanted to work on that piece since I saw a production of it myself at Actors Theatre during my apprenticeship. The opportunity actually came, we had amazing opening night, we were excited to share our work with the community and the next day I got a call that we were canceling our shows for the weekend. Which then turned into the remainder of the run due to the Corona Virus. We are hopeful that we will be able to bring it back later this season in May!
- What is the next show you are scheduled to do?
I am so excited to return to The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival this summer! Taking on a few roles in our summer season but one being Viola in Shakespeare in Love. I’m truly looking forward to spending the summer with such a brilliant team.
- Do you have a non-theatre job?
I am incredibly fortunate to say acting is my main profession and the job I give the most time to but like any artists, the side hustles are still ever-present and so the personal assistant job I actually found when I first moved to Louisville during my apprenticeship is still active and a really great way to explore my other interests between and during jobs. Not to mention, my boss is incredibly understanding and supportive of my career which makes it all the better!
- When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
It’s funny, I didn’t even realize that being an actor was a profession someone could actually pursue until I was in high school and my director for the high school musical shared how he went to school for acting and that was what he decided he wanted to do as a career. I think if I had met him the decision would have been made a lot sooner than it was because I was always the girl ready to hit the stage and throw herself out there but I would say officially that choice was made right before going into my senior year of high school.
- What has been your favorite role so far?
I have been so honored to take on such amazing roles in these past two years that this question causes such tension inside but I would have to say…Peep One! Hype Man by Idris Goodwin was the show that brought me back to Actors Theatre post-Kentucky Shakespeare and it was such a special experience for so many reasons but Peep One still lives in my soul today. Her strength, goofiness, poetry, skill and just realness made her such a gift to bring to life! Plus, who wouldn’t love to play a super fly beat maker for an hour and half a night?!
- What role are you longing to do?
One day I WILL play Gabby in American Mariachi! This play is beautiful. Full of Latinx culture, women empowerment, strength, family and of course music. I truly do hope one day I have the honor of living in that world for a little piece of time and be apart of a team to tell that story!
- What is the best direction you ever received?
You know it’s funny but the best direction I have received from a director wasn’t actually about the character or the piece but it was for me, Angelica, the human. “It’s okay to close the curtain.” (The literal curtain in my dressing room at the time) It’s okay to need space and do what you have to do for yourself. You don’t always have to be apart of the party. Thanks, Jess!
- What music have you been listening to?
People are going to totally judge me but it’s been a lot of early 2000’s rock bands; The Fray, Good Goo Dolls, The Script, Lincoln Park. Coldplay. They are just such a weakness of mine, speaking to me in ways that I truly can’t explain. Maybe it’s the nostalgia? Either way, that’s what you’ll find me jamming out to in my room or car!
- What book is on your bedside table?
In the very literal way on my bedside table currently, I have A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I remember reading this book in high school and being so drawn in that I finished the book in a matter of two days and wept my way through. I thought with the extra time on my hands I would revisit this novel and completely recommend if you have not read it PICK IT UP NOW! It truly is beautiful and painful all at the same time.
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
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