How Dallas actress Kateri Cale got bestselling author Patricia Cornwell to buy her dinner
As a producing partner of Echo Theatre, the area's only theater company dedicated exclusively to mounting works written by women, Kateri Cale has built up quite a vault of theatrical knowledge. All that experience has come in handy, because she's also appeared — either onstage or off — in productions all over Dallas-Fort Worth during the last 20 years.
Her latest endeavor is The Lucky Chance, a play written by the first known female playwright, Aphra Behn, and set in 1960s London under the direction of René Moreno. Kateri took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Full name: Kateri Cale
Role in The Lucky Chance: Gammer Grime, a Cockney landlady, and Mistress Pert, a social secretary.
Previous work in the DFW area: Too much to list! I’ve been acting, designing and producing theater in Dallas for more than 20 years. Although I performed in the very first Echo Theatre production 15 seasons ago, it wasn’t until 2009 that I signed on as a producing partner.
My “day jobs” have included working for the Dallas Business Journal for 12 years, Reading & Radio Resource for three, and currently I’m the office manager for the amazing new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Where you currently reside: Dallas
First theater role: I took my first creative dramatics class when I was 5. My first non-school production was at the Amarillo Little Theater, and I played a 1776 feminist who tried to join the Minute Men. I think I was about 12 years old. That show also introduced me to the rejection that comes with being an actor when my best friend Beth was cast as the star of the play — a turkey! (My costume was much cuter than hers.)
First stage show you ever saw: My grandmother took me to see a touring show of Guys and Dolls when I was about 8. It was an overwhelming experience. I loved it!
Moment you decided to pursue acting: I think I was about 4 and realized that people had to “be” something when they grew up. I decided then that being a performer was a legitimate career. My parents were both art teachers and supported me wholeheartedly.
Most challenging role you’ve played: In Echo Theatre’s production of End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer, I played a Jewish woman whose family falls apart after the Twin Towers were attacked. When she heard about the Rapture, she decided that it was going to be exactly like the events of 9/11. She thought that the only way to keep her family all together forever was to become a born-again Christian and get her family to embrace Jesus too.
It was a challenging play because it was a dark comedy about very personal topics — differing religions, family dynamics, depression, bullying, science that disproves religious beliefs, and American’s adulation of what could be considered false “idols.” It ran the risk of really offending our audiences, but it was thoughtfully produced by Echo Theatre and directed by one of our colleagues, Rhonda Blair; she’s on the theater faculty at SMU.
Audiences loved it and found it both hilarious and touching, because at its core it was really about finding hope.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: Tap dancing! (I’ll never get to be in Guys and Dolls!)
Current pop culture obsession:Dancing with the Stars! (Those who can’t, watch.)
Last book you read: A Kay Scarpetta novel by Patricia Cornwell, because she picked up the tab for my husband and me when we celebrated our wedding anniversary last summer at a fancy New York City restaurant. Long story, but she was dining there that night and the manager told us that she could tell it was a special occasion and just enjoyed seeing a couple so much in love. Needless to say I’m reading all her novels now! Thank you, Ms. Cornwell!
Favorite movie(s):Stage Door Canteen (love the era), The Fifth Element (love the costumes), Will Ferrell movies (love his commitment to his ridiculous characters), and movies that make you think and talk about them for days.
Favorite musician(s): I love Big Band music from the 1940s.
Favorite play(s): At Echo Theatre, we only produce plays written by women. The voices of female playwrights are simply not heard on world stages as often as the voices of male playwrights are. Echo exists to produce highly theatrical, beautifully written, socially challenging plays by women. I’m always on the prowl for the next exciting work, whether it’s a brand-new work or a Restoration classic like The Lucky Chance by Aphra Behn. We transported the play to swinging London of the 1960s because of the similarities of the two eras.
Favorite food: Champagne and caviar.
Something most people don’t know about you: Racially, I’m Native American and Caucasian. In my acting career, I’ve played Hispanics, Italians, Native Americans, Caucasians, you name it! I’m completely energized by learning about other cultures and their dialects. In order to play someone outside my life experience in a true way, I want to understand their reality.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: New Zealand, Scotland, Italy, Spain — I’m up for any travel with my husband. Wherever we go we’d have to include fishing! We both love that.
Pre-show warm-up: I have series of vocal warm-ups that I’ve developed over the years. Physical warm-ups vary from role to role but always include stretching and walking the stage. I check my props and costumes in exactly the same order every night. If I’m forced to vary the order I get really nervous before going onstage! I’ve had to deal with missing props, and it’s not fun.
Favorite part about your current role: I’m a character actress at heart, so I love The Lucky Chance! I get to play two completely different women: the comical, unkempt landlady and the prim and efficient Mistress Pert.
Most challenging part about your current role: I think the costume changes will actually be the trickiest part for me. And, probably, keeping a straight face when I’m onstage. This cast is so talented and funny I spent most of my time in rehearsals laughing and enjoying their performances!
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: It could have been embarrassing and even dangerous, but it turned out well in the end. I was playing Lady Capulet in a Shakespeare Dallas production of Romeo and Juliet. I was in a scene with my daughter, Juliet, and her nurse. At the top of the scene, either the wind or a theater ghost toppled a prop lamp, and the glass globe completely shattered onstage.
Leaving it there was simply not an option that early in the show; we had to go on with the scene and clean up the glass, all the while staying in character. It was brilliantly pulled off, I have to say. The audience recognized what was happening, and we got a great round of applause after the scene ended. Live theater is so exciting!
Career you’d have if you weren’t a performer: Mega-Millions winner.
Favorite post-show spot: At Echo, we call it “the bar up the hill,” but it’s really the White Rock Sports Bar. It’s a neighborhood dive bar that stays open until 2 am and serves food late. Perfect for hungry theater people who end their workday around 11 pm! And it’s about two minutes from the Bath House Cultural Center, where Echo produces the bulk of our shows.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth: Too many to choose from — the beautiful life my husband and I have made together, my dear friends, Echo Theatre, Bath House Cultural Center, Shakespeare Dallas, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, to name a few!
Most memorable theater moment: When an audience member stays after a show to tell me that the play they just saw made a monumental difference in their life — they suddenly understood why their father acted the way he did, they realized that their decision to move their family to America was the right one after all, they are inspired by the strength of a character in the show and intend to follow her example.
Theater shows us our collective souls, and the stories audiences witness touch them in myriad ways. Sometimes the most enlightening moments of our lives happen in the darkness of a theater.
The Lucky Chanceplays February 7-23 at Bath House Cultural Center.