Supporting creative work by women
Kate Middleton returns to the New York stage in Bell, Book, & Candle, the latest stellar revival by the company she co-founded eight years ago–Ground UP Productions. Last Fall, she was awarded “Best Ensemble” by the Kevin Kline Awards for her role of Theresa in Circle, Mirror, Transformation at St. Louis Rep, and previously nominated for “Best Lead Actress” by the NYIT Awards for her role as Irene in Bill C. Davis’ Avow.
Kate spoke to Works by Women about the production of Bell, Book, & Candle, being Ground UP’s Artistic Director, and what work inspires her.
WORKS BY WOMEN: You are an artistic director, actor and director. How did you first get involved in theater and when did you know you wanted to pursue it?
KATE MIDDLETON: I have been involved with theatre since middle school but didn’t really know that I wanted to pursue it until college. It has always been one of those things that I loved but never thought was truly possible until college. I went to an amazing K-12 school in Greensboro, NC that had a fantastic theatre program, and I guess that I got bit by the theatre bug. I always thought that you had to do something “normal” with your life, but that you could always have a hobby like theatre. I was thrilled to realize that your hobby could become your life. I moved to NYC after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill and have never looked back.
WBW: Ground UP Productions, the company you co-founded, is celebrating its 8th season. What achievements are you proudest of?
KM: I am proudest of the fact that we still make great art and that everyone who was a founding member is still a part of the company today. To run an eight-year-old non-profit in NYC and still want to spend your holidays and weekends with your company members is quite something. They are my best friends and the people that inspire me the most.
WBW: Your next show, which you will star in, is a revival of Bell, Book, & Candle. What sets Ground UP’s revivals apart?
KM: We love intimate, honest theatre. I think that what sets our revivals apart is that audiences feel as though they are seeing personal favorites through new lenses. We do our best to uphold that which makes a show great and moving, in addition to putting a more modern and intimate spin on it. We also build some of the best sets in the city, and our audiences love to come to each new production and see what new worlds we’ve created.
Kate Middleton & Brett Bolton in a photo by Randy Morrison.
WBW: You play Gillian, a witch who falls in love and may lose her powers because of it. Tell me how you will approach the character, who was written for a 1950s audience.
KM: Yes, the play was written for a different audience, but I think that the material still proves very appropriate and pertinent. It centers around a woman who seeks more in her life, and then once the opportunity presents itself, she questions what compromises will have to be made. I think it’s an interesting take on the mentality of strong women who want it all. And I love period work like this because you get to hold on to everything that is romantic and charming and fun about that time, while embracing who you truly are today as well.
WBW: What’s next for you?
KM: Auditions and more auditions. Some voiceovers, regional work, maybe another show in town. Our upcoming ninth year of Ground UP. That really excites me. Our board, staff and supporters are growing and we have tapped into a lot of inspiring new work. We also plan to expand Ground UP’s education outreach program here in NYC and I look forward to seeing what that brings. I like to stay flexible and see what life has in store.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
KM: I think that it remains a challenge for women in theatre to keep striving for more work, fresh voices, and new takes on the art. I think it’s important that women continue to embrace non-stereotypical characters in their work. Continue to seek out the fresh and the new. It’s also important to always be a go-getter. I’ve found that the busier you are, the more connections are made, and the more doors seem to open.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
KM: I love that there has been a lot of focus on new women playwrights lately. Ground UP just produced Catya McMullen‘s Rubber Ducks and Sunsets, and we look forward to the next one. Women’s Project does great work. I love that Lucy Thurber‘s plays are all being produced right now. There is risk and lots of challenges in a decision like that but the outcome is so very worth it. I really respect that kind of confidence and support for these women.
Bell, Book & Candle runs October 11 – 26, 2013 at the Gene Frankel Theatre in New York City. For more information and tickets, visit www.GroundUPProductions.org.