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What happened to the dreamers inside us – Vol. 9
This is Katrina Stevenson – actress, dancer, mime, prop wrangler, costumer and general Craftinatrix for The March of the Kitefliers. Kat’s been with us since she was an intern in *CORRECTION* December of 1999 (it just doesn’t feel like that long, Kat!). She’s now an artistic associate of the company and a member of the board. Let’s get to know the wackiness that is Katrina …
So here’s the usual drill: Tell me a bit about that picture. When was it taken and where, how old were you,m what were you doing, etc?
I was about 7 or 8 when that picture was taken … in the kitchen of our house in Northern California… staring out the sliding glass door into the backyard. It was a candid shot. I’m pretty sure my father took it since he went through a photography phase, but I’m not 100% sure. I know I was daydreaming … I totally recognize that far away look. I did that a lot as a child … just a touch more than I do now.
It’s pretty amazing, but your eyes, nose, mouth and chin doesn’t appear to have changed at all since that photo was taken. Have you always pretty much looked the same?
I’ve only recently noticed that! Other than my teeth (thousands of dollars of cosmetic dentristry) I’ve pretty much just gotten older. Not only has my face stayed the same, but a lot of my expressions are the same … I still get that pouty, dazed look.
You’ve told me lots of stories about how freaky-healthy your family was, and so I think it’s pretty amusing you’re wearing a shirt with a triple-scoop ice cream cone featured on it. Any comment?
My mother was a total health freak hippie. Sweets, junk food, all that good stuff was pretty much taboo. I distinctly remember the homemade wheat bread/carob chip cookie days. That sweat shirt was one of my favorites not because of the ice cream cone on it, but because it was bright pink … my favorite color at the time. But maybe it speaks to my ongoing food trauma. Junk food was a no-no … so we snuck it at friends’ houses and during special occasions whenever we could. To this day I still feel guilty with every cookie I eat …
Did you grow up with any siblings? Around a lot of other kids in general?
I have 2 brothers … one older and one younger. Until college I always wished I was an only child. I had friends, but not tons … between loud, dirty, rude brothers and kids at school and stuff, I remember always looking for quiet and solitude.
So let’s look back at that time and give me some of your favorite stuff: What was your favorite thing to do? Like the thing you’d bug other adults or perhaps even siblings about on a regular basis?
I liked to read, listen to music, jump rope, draw on the sidewalk with chalk. I would beg my mom for more colored chalk to decorate the sidewalks. I hung onto the jump rope thing even when the other girls moved past. Sure, you can jump on your own, but it’s more fun to have others turn while you jump. And my parents hated when I wanted to play their records… so my mom found me a used record player cheap and I started getting my own records.
Did you have a favorite TV show or a movie?
I loved fantasy stuf f… The Dark Crystal, Dragonslayer. I also had a thing for I Love Lucy. I had to fight my brothers and even my parents for that one … but I just loved that wacky red head.
Ice Cream … any kind. Chocolate was best, but I also really liked Neopolitan, cuz you got three kinds in one.
Favorite toy? How long did you keep that one?
I had a big thing for stuffed animals. Dolls were okay, but I preferred animals. My favorite was a duck that when you wound it up it played Old Mac Donald and it’s head would sway. By the time I retired that one to a box (still couldn’t throw it out) the neck was broken and it’s fluffy fur was matted and a gray green.
Did you have anyone you sorta idolized and tried to emulate – either real or fictional?
Lucille Bal l… Lucy Arnez … same difference. I loved her cuz she was always dressed uber fancy with great makeup and hair, but she was zany. I loved watching her fall down and do her physical comedy bits. She was tough and cute at the same time. And she was always dancing or performing something silly. I also adored Wonder Woman. She was really hot … and could totally kick ass. I was always amazed how she could do all those jumps and flips in those really high heeled boots.
What’s your earliest memory of what you wanted to be when you grew up, and why do you think you were attracted to that?
I wanted to perform. My mother will tell how as early as 2 I would sit spell bound in front of Great Performances on PBS … the ballets and musicals. She would pull me back from the set and I’d skooch forward to watch it all. At 7 I saw Annie … and I wanted to sing and dance and do an occasional Lucy prat-fall on my butt. I think I was attracted to it … cuz that’s what I’m meant to do. I loved the dressing up aspect with all the fancy costumes. I liked pretending to someone else … that more than anything else.
What ever happened to that dream?
Still livin’ that dream as much as I can. I’m still in love with performing … I never get tired of it. It borders on obsessive sometimes, but the thrill of slipping into someone else’s life hasn’t faded. Or maybe the thrill comes from not being me for a while … I dunno. I still dream of doing it all the time without the hassle of a day job.
Is there anything you ever wanted to be or do that you’ve felt regret about in your adult life? Not not allowing yourself to finish girl scouts, or never becoming fluent in Swahili?
Several things come to mind, but I regret I never learned the guitar. I wanted to, but at the time the only way to learn was through private lessons and my parents said no. Funny, my father played the guitar, quite well … But the more I think about learning now, the more I wish I’d been doing it since then.
You grew up a dancer. How do you think that shaped your childhood differently than what most other girls experience? How do you think that carried into your adult life?
I didn’t just grow up a dancer … I studied classical ballet with Russians … sometimes I’d be at the studio for 6-8 hours on a school day! It was the kind of environment in which you’d work yourself until you dropped, clawed your way back to your bloody feet and did it again … and were grateful and excited that you could do it again. Blood and sweat were encouraged but save the tears for mommy. A compliment from your teacher could make your week, but being accused of not trying hard enough was the worst insult. Discipline was paramount. You attended every class and rehearsal you were required to be at … and any others you could make. While in the studio or on the stage you gave everything you had and saved gossip and giggling for later. You tried everything, asked questions to help understand, and worked to constantly improve.
Other than helping to create a good work ethic, my dancing career helped create and fed into some extremely destructive habits and ways of thinking. Staring at myself in the mirror for hours on end… I was never good enough, pretty enough, and certainly never skinny enough. It was an unattainable perfection that I believed I could attain … it broke my heart.
In your early grade school years – were you outgoing, quiet, a teachers pet, sporty, nerdy or … ?
I was the epitome of spaz. I always felt awkward around my peers. In those early years I had no problems being the kid who knew all the answers in class, but that doesn’t make other kids too happy. I was a quiet reader who would morph into “superstar” in music, dance, and school plays… in the most annoying, show off kind of way. I had my own unique way of dressing (encouraged by my mother) that others made fun of. Again, as a kid I loved the attention of being different … but I heard every slam or joke about me. I just pretended not to hear … and then showed off some more. Or retreated into a daydream …
If you could “Butterfly Effect” yourself and go back in time to change one thing about your childhood that you could have actually affected – what would it be?
Sad to admit, but I wish I could have changed my father. Made him more interested in my life, less disapproving, more girl kid-friendly. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if that relationship had been a good one.
Did you play any pretend or make-believe games? If so, what were your favorites?
I didn’t have any set pretend games … usually I’d just zone out and create entire story lines in which I was the brilliant rock star (a la Janis Joplin) or the gifted yet troubled writer living in a haunted house, or the beautiful princess hunted by an evil demon guy who wanted my magical powers … had that one a lot. By not visualizing and not acting out the fantasy, I wasn’t limited by my physical appearance, the suburban terrain of our yard or even gravity and physics.
When you had time for just you as a kid, what were your favorite activities? Do you find yourself still doing any of those things now?
I loved reading, making new outfits for dolls, coloring/painting. Now I read bigger books with much more adult content, I make costumes for real sized people and I even recently took up coloring again … a Hello Kitty coloring book and a brand new box of crayons … what fun!
Let’s dig deeper – did you ever do anything really goofy or embarrassing back then when you thought no one was around? Ever get busted? What happened?
Most embarrassing moment … my mom was hanging laundry outside and my brothers were out … and I was singing and tap dancing to my Annie record on the family room coffee table. There I was … 7 years old, about 4 tap lessons under my belt and I was a friggin’ STAR!!!! Then I realized that mom, brothers and their friends were watching me … and the expressions on their faces were painful. My brothers teased me about that for years … mom didn’t care about the table being nicked by my tap shoes … but when dad returned home from a business trip I got a lecture and a grounding. Funny, he had the same painful expression on his face and didn’t even witness the event.
Ever done it as an adult?
Totally. But I live alone and my dogs think I’m a brilliant singer/dancer.
You’re like a grand master ninja of what some might call the Grandma Arts – knitting, sewing, baking, crafts – how’d you get into all that?
My mother was a stay at home mom when I was little. She baked, sewed, painted … so I learned a lot from her. Now I keep it up mainly because it gives me something to do with my hands … I have a teeny bit of the ADHD thing, so staying busy helps me focus. Also, I like the feeling of creating something. Even something as small scale as a scarf or a batch of cookies.
When’s the earliest you think you (or at least your family) should have been able to figure out you were a performer?
When I was in my first dance recital at the age of 4, I gave myself a solo. That and the constant need for attention. Dead giveaway.
What would you say to someone who might seem interested in the subject matter for the show but who doesn’t consider themselves a theater person?
The show is as accessible and “true to life” as a film script, but the live theater aspect takes the emotions and action to a higher level. The energy is palpable and you are guaranteed to be swept away into the world of the children.
And what would you to say to someone who said they already saw the show so they don’t need to see it again?
The actors, designers, writers, etc. have dug deeper and found even more life and depth in the script. It really is more personal to all of us. The themes of the show created a resonance with us the first time around, but this time we’ve found greater clarity.