2015 Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominee: Katie Anne Clark as Ruth Sherwood in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's "Wonderful Town"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

We are delighted to interview Katie Anne Clark, a local Boston theatre star who made her Equity debut this summer at the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston with a deliciously comedic and highly energetic turn as Ruth Sherwood, the dynamic but secretly sweet half of the Sherwood sisters in Wonderful Town.  Katie commanded the show, striking just the right notes with her brash sense of humor, her warm tenderness, and her spunky attitude towards life and success.  It was Katie's chemistry with Jennifer Ellis as her onstage sister, Eileen, and her emerging infatuation with Kevin Cirone as Robert (Bob) Barker that made Katie Anne Clark shine brightest among the Greater Boston stars this season. 

In her Interview, Katie tells us about how she landed the role of Ruth in Wonderful Town (thanks, Miss York!), her biggest challenges as a performer, her guilty pleasures, and her advice to her 50 year old self!

Hi, Katie!  Thank you so much for joining us for our Nominee Interview Series.  Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Hi there!  My name is Katie Anne Clark and I am from Medford, MA, born and raised.  I went to college in Indiana for Musical Theatre, lived in New York City for a few years, toured the country with a National Tour, and came back to Boston about 3 years ago for a theatre contract.  Boston has treated me well, and I’ve been very lucky, so I’m still here!

Tell us about the audition process for Wonderful Town.  Was there anything different about this process?  How did you feel during each round?

Actually, yes!  The role of Ruth Sherwood was originally cast when Reagle announced their season.  Broadway vet Rachel York was pre-cast in the role.  However, she had to decline the contract because she booked something else, and they needed to hold auditions for the role of Ruth after all.  I found this out 3 days before the audition.  I went into the audition and sang and read for the role, and, luckily, I was a fit for the production team.  The rest is history!  Wonderful Town was my first Equity contract, so I will forever be indebted to Miss York. 

How did you connect with Ruth?  How were you different?  What did you discover about her?

I GREATLY connected with the character of Ruth.  We are eerily similar and even the way her dialogue was written, it felt like it was written for me.  Her timing, her jokes, and her sense of humor were all written in the style and cadence of my own voice and mannerisms. 

It was fun to discover the softer side of Ruth.  We see her brashness and her boldness most of the time, especially when trying to get a job and make her dreams happen in New York City.  But what was lovely to explore was her softer side with her sister Eileen (Jennifer Ellis) and how she dealt with falling in love with Bob Baker (Kevin Cirone).  For a role that seemed somewhat one note, it was an actor’s dream to be able to find all those different colors and really make Ruth more of an actual human being as opposed to just a cartoon character.  

Ruth (Katie Anne Clark) and Eileen (Jennifer Ellis) share a laugh in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's  Wonderful Town  (Photo Credit:   Herb Philpott  ).

Ruth (Katie Anne Clark) and Eileen (Jennifer Ellis) share a laugh in Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Wonderful Town (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott).

A big part of Wonderful Town is the relationship with Eileen (played by Jennifer Ellis), Ruth’s sister.  Do you have any siblings?  If so, what is your relationship with them?  How did you establish your relationship with Jen in the show?

I am the baby of the Clark family with an older brother (Matthew – 40) and an older sister (Tara – 37).  And it’s funny because Jen is actually the eldest of her siblings so we both got to flip flop from our personal lives.  It was lovely to be the nurturer, the “mother-hen” type of character and I know Jen had a blast playing the silly, naive younger sis.

What have been some of your biggest challenges as a performer?  What do you want to work on in 2016?

I’m fortunate to always be cast in the great comedic roles in musical theatre (Ruth in Wonderful Town, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Miss Krumholtz in H2$), but what I really want to explore are the more dramatic characters in the canon of musical theatre.  I want to be able to really sink my teeth in to a meaty role and really “act,” not just play shtick.  I would love to explore straight plays and challenge myself to not hide behind a song or a tap step or jazz hands.  It frightens me to even say it!

What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities?  Guilty pleasures?

I’m addicted to Food Network.  A closeted foodie!  I would love to take real cooking classes and learn to be able to cook like the chefs on Top Chef

Miscast! What are some of the roles that you would love to play but would not typically get cast (because of gender, race, age, etc.)?

Oooooo what a great question!  I would love to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.  I know I could really have fun with that dialogue and banter between her and Higgins.  And, honestly, I would love to play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.  I’ve been performing that role for my mother in our kitchen for years.  I could SLAY “If I Were A Rich Man.”

What advice would you give yourself at 10 years old?  20 years old?  50 years old?

At 10?  I would tell myself to not be so shy and hesitant.  It took me years to come outside of my shell and not be afraid to fall or make a mistake.  I never took chances as a kid and I would tell myself to go for it more and not play it safe.

At 20?  Woof.  I would tell myself that it doesn’t matter what school you went to or how tall or thin or fat or blonde you are; all that matters is the work and making connections and showing up prepared and ready.

At 50?  I would tell myself to get on that treadmill because I’ll need endurance to get through “Rose’s Turn.”

Do you have any opening night or performance rituals?

Nothing specific, but whatever routine I create for myself during tech and dress, I keep that down to a science once the show is up.  Once that pre-show routine is set, whether it’s saying “break legs” to the cast or stretching in a certain spot backstage, or setting quick changes, I MUST do that the same way every day, every show or else I’ll be thrown off. 

Ruth (Katie Anne Clark) raises the roof and swings in the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's  Wonderful Town , leading an Ensemble of talented singers and dancers (Photo Credit:   Herb Philpott  ).

Ruth (Katie Anne Clark) raises the roof and swings in the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston's Wonderful Town, leading an Ensemble of talented singers and dancers (Photo Credit: Herb Philpott).

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I do!  I’m currently in rehearsals for Mary Poppins at Wheelock Family Theatre.  I’m in the Ensemble and I am the Dance Captain, and I also helped with a little bit of the choreography.  Then, in the spring of 2016, I’m playing Queenie in LaChiusa’s The Wild Party with Moonbox Productions, directed by Rachel Bertone

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

I’m just so excited to have been nominated, truly!  Getting to play Ruth was a dream come true and I could not have been happier for those 4 short weeks.  Also, getting to play with Jen Ellis and Kevin Cirone every night was also a blast.  I am a very lucky girl. 

2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: J.T. Turner as Alfred P. Doolittle in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's "My Fair Lady"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Cynthia August

Photo Credit: Cynthia August

J.T. Turner shone brightly as the delightful rogue, Alfred P. Doolittle, in an enchanting and exhilarating production of My Fair Lady at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston.  J.T. succeeded in winning our hearts in his charismatic performance, especially in "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To The Church On Time." It was J.T.'s ability to listen and react, especially with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (played by 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Nominee Jennifer Ellis), that made his Alfred just that much more lovable. 

In his Interview, J.T. tells about his many skills, including as a circus ringmaster; explains about the joy of working with Director Scott Edmiston; and lists some of his favorite movies (we're with you there, J.T., and we see that you learned from some of the best!). 

It is a sincere pleasure to be able to interview and speak with you.  J.T., tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am a stage actor, of course, but also work in film, teach acting, do stage combat choreography, work as a circus ringmaster and clown, and run a small non-profit theater company. A lot of my work is in the voice-over field for corporate clients and audio books. I do a lot of work with kids and teens, and use theater and the circus to teach life lessons and social skills. I am a Dr. Who fan, and I am originally from New Jersey, like most of New England!

Tell us about your character in My Fair Lady.  Who is Alfred P. Doolittle?  Why do you think that his story and character connected with audiences?

Alfred is the loveable rogue, with a surprisingly strong sense of clear morality. His moral view is that he has no morals, and he is proud and happy about it. One of the great pieces of direction Scott [Edmiston, the director] gave me was to think of [Alfred] as a street preacher, spreading the word about how to get away with as much as possible with as little effort as possible. I happen to be an ordained minister, so it was fun to play a character who preaches immorality as a life choice! What makes Alfred great is he knows who he is and makes no pretense about it.

Talk to us about Scott Edmiston as a director for this project.  How much latitude did he give you to develop your character?  How were rehearsals structured?  How did this shape the product?

I am glad you asked me this [question] because Scott is one of the greatest directors whom I have ever worked. His care and concern for the work and the process is thrilling for an actor, and he notices everything. He asks great questions of his cast, and truly listens to the answers. He allows as much latitude for the performer as he can, while making sure his clear vision of the whole story is honored. He is terrific to work for, ridiculously generous with his time and guidance, and puts a cast at ease with his clear grasp of the piece and where he wants to take the performance.

What is one of the most demanding roles that you have played onstage?  Why was it so demanding?  How did you prepare?

Playing Alfred was an absolute joy, but tons of hard work. I am not a trained dancer, and this role required a fair amount of movement. Thank heavens we had David Connelly as our choreographer. He challenged me to dance more than was in my comfort zone, while supporting me and playing to the skills I had. He was also a great collaborator; I used Charlie Chaplin as a physical template for Alfred, and he helped me incorporate that into the movement.

Alfred P. Doolittle (J.T. Turner) talks with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (Jennifer Ellis) in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's  My Fair Lady  (Photo Credit: Nerys Powell)

Alfred P. Doolittle (J.T. Turner) talks with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (Jennifer Ellis) in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's My Fair Lady (Photo Credit: Nerys Powell)

Do you have a favorite play?  Novel?  Movie?  Why are these some of your favorites?

I love Shakespeare, so any chance I have had to perform in his works has been a treat, especially as King Lear (in King Lear) and Oberon (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). I just adore his language and structure.

Playing Ben Franklin in 1776 is another favorite of mine; he has always been a fascinating character to me.

I am a movie addict, and I love so many [movies] that it is hard to pick one. Citizen Kane, Waiting for Guffman, Midnight In Paris, Shakespeare in Love, and The Great Dictator are all ones that I watch regularly. Also anything with Buster Keaton in it, his deadpan delivery and physical work is tremendous.

Do you have a lyric or bit of dialogue from My Fair Lady that speaks to you as a person?

Well, for many weeks my mantra became “With a Little Bit of Luck!” It is nice to focus on the thought that, with just a bit of luck, or energy or divine intervention or grace, there are great things waiting for you.

Is there anyone in the Greater Boston theatre community with whom you would like to work?  Do you have a specific project in mind?

I told Scott Edmiston that he can call me anytime, for any project!

There are several theaters that I have yet to work at in Boston: The Huntington Theatre, Fiddlehead Theatre Company, and Moonbox Productions, for example, and I would love to experience working at different venues.

That said, working with Spiro Veloudos and The Lyric Stage Company of Boston always feels like home to me.

What do you think makes a strong or noteworthy supporting actor?

It is always about the work for me. Working hard and honestly on your craft and sharing that with others makes this a lifelong joy. I also strive to simply be a kind and generous person, with good work ethics. I think people see and know that, or I hope they do.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have a one-man show about Robert Frost that I will be performing this year, hopefully at several venues.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Just a thank you to both ArtsImpulse and the Boston theater community for noticing my work, and for supporting live local theater. It matters!