An Interview with Colleen Carey & Katherine Jett
Coriolanus, Fight Like a Bitch has just started its month-long run at Seattle’s 12th Ave Arts. The Mumble managed to catch up with two of its actresses for a wee chat…
Hello ladies, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
KATHERINE : I am from Nashville, Tennessee, originally, but I’m now based in Seattle. Just crossed the ten year mark. Colleen is a Seattle native.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
COLLEEN : I enjoy a wide variety of different forms of live performance; and I find that that I am influenced by the theatrical elements in each of them. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of ‘high art’ versus ‘low art’. I have been less moved by the perfectly cold technique of a famous actress in one of my favorite classical plays at a prominent regional theater and much more deeply moved by the uncontainable pathos of a burlesque piece, in which performer slowly revealed his dark skin from underneath a KKK robe and a white body suit. To me, what makes a piece of theater ‘good’ is this: “If you want to create a masterpiece, you must always avoid beautiful lies.” (Jerzy Grotowski)
When did you first find yourself getting into the dramatic arts?
KATHERINE : I did my first play at age nine- auditioned sort of on a whim- and I promptly fell in love with theatre. At thirteen I discovered Shakespeare and it was like a light went on inside me. After that, I pursued acting more seriously and sought out training, particularly in Shakespeare.
You’ve been washed up on a desert island with a solar-powered DVD player & three films. Which would they be?
COLLEEN : 1) The Wizard of Oz 2) Cinema Paradiso 3) Wings of Desire
What does Katherine Jett like to do when she’s not being theatrical?
KATHERINE : I am hardly ever not theatrical; I go to bed and wake up thinking about theatre. But to give my mind a break, I usually watch cartoons, which I love (Bob’s Burgers and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are my favorites). I also love learning, whether it’s via book, podcast, or documentary. My most favorite subjects right now are little-known women’s history and anything paranormal. I also love yoga, dance, and petting dogs.
You are quite a stalwart of the Seattle theatre scene. Can you tell us about it & how it compares to the rest of America?
COLLEEN : I don’t think of myself as a stalwart. I know that I work about as much as any other actor in Seattle. There’s any incredible talent pool here in this city!! I try to go out and see at least as much theater as I do. I am so inspired by artists around me that my experience of going to see theater is a huge part of what Julia Cameron calls ‘filling the well’. Theater in America is a huge topic to address! (I also try to see theater whenever I am traveling.) If I had to offer one small critique of the Seattle theatre scene, it would be this: I’d like for us as a community to challenge ourselves to take more risks. I’d love for Seattle theatre to more actively ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’.
You have just started a run of Coriolanus at the 12th Ave Arts in Seattle, can you tell us about the play?
COLLEEN : The country is at war, and the Senate cannot keep the peace within its own walls— let alone on the battlefield. Enter Coriolanus: the country’s most famous badass warrior. She returns home to face the greatest battle yet: to win the love of the people & run for office— or face the dangerous consequences of defying society’s expectations.
Your executive producer for Coriolanus is Rebel Kat Productions, can you tell us about them?
KATHERINE : Rebel Kat is a new production company, and Coriolanus: Fight Like a Bitch is it’s inaugural production. I have found working with them to be a wonderful and refreshing experience. The company is headed by Rebecca Petriello, who, in addition to being extremely skilled at business in general, has a level of integrity I have never before encountered in a producer. She cares deeply about making art that is meaningful and relevant, and she is really dedicated to doing right by the people working with the company. I feel very lucky to be one of those people.
How are you finding juggling producing Coriolanus & performing in it?
COLLEEN : It’s great! I am so very passionate about the project that I am constantly discovering new opportunities to support and contribute to the work of all the the artists involved in the production. Both crew and cast make up a truly fantastic team!
Can you describe in a single sentence the experience of putting on a Shakespeare play?
KATHERINE : No. But I’ll try. It’s like going on an archaeological dig while climbing a mountain, and sometimes you slide back down a little and have to re-climb parts, but by the time you’ve reached to top, you’ve created a path that’s still hard to climb but easy enough to lead tour groups on. (That was a very long sentence, but still technically one.)
It is interesting that an all-women play seems a complete flip from the days when Shakespeare’s plays were performed solely by men. Can you describe the unique energies surrounding a single-sex production?
COLLEEN : All-female Shakespeare is being done quite a lot these days. There are all-female Shakespeare companies in major cities all over the world. Personally, I would say that unique energies in any production have mostly to do with individual people. Gender is only one factor among many. It would be easy to assume that seeing or making a single-sex production would be a binary experience. The truth is, it is far more complex than that. Actually, the reason that I wanted to produce this particular play, with an all-female cast, is that the character of Coriolanus is neither a hero nor an anti-hero. It’s a fascinating social experience to see a woman playing a role that is not ‘likable’ per se; and when that beautifully complex female character is surrounded by other female senators, warriors and politicians (many of whom are also wives and mothers) a reflection of the modern world in which we live can be seen with a great deal of honesty.
How would you describe your working relationship with Colleen Carey, & do you hang out afterwards?
KATHERINE : You bet we hang out afterwards. Since meeting her almost two years ago, she has become one of my dearest friends, as well as co-collaborator. We have deeply compatible convictions and ideas about performance and the artistic process, and for me, it’s an extreme delight to work and scheme with her.