On Tuesday November 14th, I met with long time friend, Katherine Alice at her favorite cafe, Chacha Matcha in Chelsea. As Connecticut natives under the same voice teacher we were always bumping into each other at voice lessons and now both in the city… at auditions. The cafe was brightly colored with accents of pink and green, neon signs with cute slogans saying, “I love you so Matcha,” and comfy window seating. The baristas bounced between grinding Matcha (finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves) and steaming milk for lattes. I swapped out my regular coffee for a coconut matcha latte, and Katie insisted we nibble on a strawberry Doussant (cronut).
*Ideal cup of coffee: I am so against sugar in coffee. Get out of town. Otherwise it is coffee ice cream! I drink black coffee with a splash of Almond milk depending on my mood.
AF: What are you drinking right now?
KO: I’m going for my “later in the day drink” which is an Almond milk latte or a macchiato…but a REAL macchiato…not a Starbucks macchiato. I was a barista for a year so I know how to make everything properly so that means…the Italian way! I can differentiate quickly between good or bad espresso and good or bad milk… With good milk and good foam I can drink a latte in a second- you’re actually supposed to drink a latte fast by the way! Espressos are perfect for like five minutes.
AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.
KO: Oh my gosh…Secretly I hate that because I feel like I have seventeen personalities and lives that all happen at the same time. The best way to meld them all together would be: creative. I sort of live for creative projects. I find gifting birthday presents so fun. My gut would be to say colorful… I am super goofy. And now I’m starting to sound like a Grandma…but old school?
AF: You appreciate the classics!
KO: And I’m determined they don’t die. I like hanging out with people, fireplaces, monogamy…or I’m the mom in some situations. Like, “You’re doing mushrooms? What? Mushrooms go on pizza…” To me that’s all encompassing “old school.”
AF: Tell us a little bit of your back-story…where you’re from…
KO: I’m from Connecticut! Well my favorite version of this story is actually a story that booked me A Chorus Line in college. We had to say where we’re from and everyone was going around saying where they’re from and I said, “Well… I was born in New York City, grew up in Connecticut, but I plan on moving back there so I’m going to pretend that Connecticut never happened.” And that’s how I booked the show and I know it’s because I said that. The funny thing is I have nothing against Connecticut. I love it. In retrospect I feel so lucky because I grew up an hour train ride from Manhattan which is where I was born, always wanted to end up, always wanted to visit, but then you had the country… Best of both worlds! And you get the seasons! I was always super surrounded by art. My mom’s an antique dealer and my dad was an Equity actor in England. He’s still very British…with an alien card and everything. My uncle is a serious painter and my mom’s dad was Allen Funt with Candid Camera so that was the family business that I just dropped right into. We would fly to California and see tapings of shows. My mom would always play old musicals, I’d push all the furniture out of the way to perform. I was Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi for Halloween when I was five. That’s how I explain it. I went between the balance of being forced to perform, when your family’s like, “Sing something!” which we all hate… I loved that until I was six and then there was this arch of time where I just didn’t want to be that close to people and then I jumped right back into it and my first show was Annie.
AF: So was mine!
KO: And I was Grace Farrell and I booked it because I hugged Annie. Nobody else got anywhere near her but I went in and hugged her in some kind of dramatic scene. Motherly…check.
AF: So then what about school? When did you move here?
KO: Oh right because that’s back-story now! I wasn’t going to go to school. I auditioned early decision at NYU because it was really the only one I wanted to go to…. Because New York!- Not like “wanted to come here”…fully knew I was going to end up here. I did early decision for NYU, didn’t get in because of grades… I was not focused on grades in high school. I didn’t have bad grades but I was in rehearsal every single day!
AF: Side-note…Connecticut schools are really hard!
KO: Toughest school systems! I had to choose between dedicating three hours at night to getting A’s or taking dance class. I never regretted that decision but I definitely didn’t get into any schools so I sort of let that go and was just going to move here and start auditioning. But my school did the Connecticut High School Theatre awards, which I won Best Actress for…so I got to go to the Jimmy Awards!
KO: Haha, casual… it was the first year they were on Broadway which was so fun! We got to do it at the Marquis Theatre. I missed my High School Graduation to go to the Jimmy Awards. Best decision of my life. No regrets…I remember talking to my High School theatre friend, Jelani Alladin, who is now Kristoff in Frozen on Broadway!! but I remember us talking about it and he’s like, “Yeah it’s no big deal…you gotta do the Jimmy Awards…”
AF: You need someone to be on that same wavelength as you to validate such a huge decision!
KO: Essentially it was like Broadway or High School graduation…so obviously I’m gonna pick Broadway.
AF: I’m pretty sure I remember seeing something about that on Melody’s bulletin board…
KO: Oh I’m sure there was a little newspaper clipping or something, haha!
AF: Oh yeah we haven’t mentioned we shared the same voice teacher in high school! How did we actually meet?
KO: I think you took class right before me so you’d be coming out as I was going in! I could tell you what your two audition songs were for college if you let me think long enough on it……
AF: I mean I can tell you…
KO: Tell me.
KO: I knew it! Because mine was “Gimme Gimme.” Those were THE songs! But yes Melody… another reason we were so lucky in that town. We had serious theatrical stuff happening without leaving the town. And then because of the Jimmy Awards I met the president of Point Park. It’s done through the CLO in Pittsburgh so all of the Point Park staff come. And I remember during the intermission of the show in the bathroom the Choreographer said, “So I hear you’re not going to school…you should talk to us about Point Park.” At the after party the president was like, “You should come…” So I sent my audition materials late. And then I got in and was like, “Well I guess I should just go there…” I knew nothing and the first semester I was terrified because I knew nothing about Pittsburgh. I was eight hours from home. But it ended up being magical because now I’m a die hard Pittsburg fan. They sell more theatre tickets combined there than all major league sports… All these artistic hipsters land thereto open their own shops because they can’t afford rent in the city so they move there. I stayed there an extra year after I graduated because I was doing so much theatre work. I got my Equity card from the PCLO. I knew everyone in the town. My friends who are still there work constantly…doing Equity or Sag things…but only in Pittsburgh….
AF: So now YOU’RE here! What have your first few years in New York City looked like?
KO: I stayed an extra year in Pittsburgh because I was working and then moved to New York as “SAG Must Join” and with my Equity card and have basically not worked since. I’ve been pavement pounding and pounding on doors… I’m not going to call it a negative but coming from a city where I was so “in” and I had cracked that glass case…in the union, working, and then having to do it all over again was a little bit of a “oh” because I thought I knew New York so well. But you don’t… The last agent I sang for two weeks ago asked what casting offices know me… and in my head I said, “No one.”…. They ‘pay to play’ thing is a real issue which is why you have to change your perspective… and think, how am I going to keep myself busy in this amazing place?”
AF: And stay inspired! It’s a blessing to book anything these days.
KO: And that is something I’d love to talk about truthfully. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been doing a lot of cool projects, I have a manager, I have an agent… all good on paper but I’m not specifically booking shows… I’m working on small things or I’m on this tour that I’m doing right now…and that’s all very different from a show at a regional theatre or on Broadway. And since it’s been two years now since booking a contract… that has flipped me around from being jealous of other people’s work and has forced me to be happy for other people so now I’m just happy when people are working. I don’t think about it that way any more. Which…obviously we all still get jealous in this business but it has definitely helped that. It mellows you out. It’s a good thing. You kind of have to enjoy the struggle… When people ask me what was the last thing I did I say, “You know what…I’m enjoying the struggle.” You find the good part of the struggle. Sometimes I get concerned and I think, when I’m in a Broadway show, what’s next? Right now I have that to look forward to! Think about how lucky were are to go sing in a jazz club one night, go see a show, have a nice cocktail… have your life. Broadway performers give up their lives. Your life becomes your Broadway show. Don’t get me wrong…we’re going to do it but at the same time it’s not all glitz and glammer.
AF: You’re shedding so much light!
KO: Every product has its’ own merit no matter how big or small… The benefit of the struggle is you can appreciate where you are!
AF: Speaking of that… tell us about this tour that you’re doing.
KO: The tour is, Candid Camera Live. My Uncle does the tour so he asked me to come do it with him and my cousin who is his son and is a journalist, comes with us too and runs all the slides.
AF: What is the show like?
KO: So Candid Camera has been on TV for eight decades. It started with my grandfather and then my uncle took over and I’ve started doing a couple episodes since. So now they do this show that’s an interactive thing. They show clips, there’s music, I come out very briefly a couple times. I sing the theme song, I play a joke on the audience, it’s very short…very mini… but it’s nice to be performing! It’s not that it’s glamorous…but I have my own dressing room every time in these beautiful vintage theatres! We don’t have packed houses but they’re really lovely people who are big fans so they are so kind and happy. It’s great! And then I come back and I’m in the city. It’s a tiny little theatrical gift. I did it last year too!
AF: That sounds so great! I am so happy for you. Now…talk to me about long-distance…
KO: Oh brother. There’s a lot of different aspects of it. One is keeping one hand in New York and keeping your life happy. So, my boyfriend Garrett Storm worked on the Disney Cruise line and it was amazing- but I’m not proud of the fact that my immediate reaction when he told me was, “Eight months!?” and then “Ahh this is amazing!” And they were totally simultaneous…but it’s rough! One thing I was remembering the other day when I was in high school and in college until it happened… to me… all I ever wanted, like the “amazing goals” were to have a boyfriend and my Equity card. And then both of then happened halfway through college and then I left college and I was like, “Oh so Broadway’s next! I did my list!” So with all this reflection time now it’s like if Young Katie saw me now would be like, “You did it! You live in New York! You have a boyfriend! You have your Equity card!” She would be stoked out of her mind. And here I am grown up Katie like, “Where’s my contract…?”
AF: You’re building your foundation and finding yourself through it!
KO: And keeping creative! I try to imagine not having a partner in the city but if I didn’t have someone at my house at the end of the day who understands what’s going on…
AF: And your dog!
KO: Another thing… I don’t know how all actors don’t have pets… But we tear ourselves down all day we need people and partners who can pick you up. He’s just the best partner ever! And having a dog! They’re my little family. They’re a packaged deal.
AF: When did you start your color girl/Instagram side business? What does a typical day look like for you?
KO: So I’ve been with Instagram since day one. I’ve had one since it started five years ago. I never really liked Facebook but because I’m so visual I really loved Instagram. I also think it’s harder to be “mean” on Instagram. It’s a very positive space. And this might sound braggy but I feel like I’ve always sort of been “on trend.” Not so much with my wardrobe but… I have a good sense of what people are looking for at the time. Like new restaurants, visual trends… I was always following people who were in that zone. I rode this wave with a lot of other people. We were staying up on the trends. It was sort of an accident. My feed changes…if you looked at it over the years you would see that slow trend climb. But in the end it’s always been the same. I do it for myself. I effing love it. It keeps me creative. When I’m doing what would be called a “flat lay” (picture taken from above), for a brand it is totally zen for me. I can turn my brain off and just enjoy the staging. So now it has turned into a bunch of other jobs. Occasionally I do stuff that is sponsored . I accept free things in exchanged for sharing them. Again- only if I want to support them. I got a weird one about Game of Thrones makeup brushes? It’s become this portfolio and identity for me that has led to other jobs. Like last year I worked for a company and created content for them. And now I have a new job that I love where I work for a doll company and I run their Instagram and I take all their photos. I still cater occasionally, and watch my “Broadway child” backstage at her show, but mostly this is my job and it all came through Instagram. It’s more about what you can offer. The thing I struggle with is….okay so I have almost 10k followers…if I focused on turning it more into a very consistent brand, I could double that, but what I want to do is also have me in there. Sometimes if I post about theatre or acting I’ll lose followers… but then it will be my most popular post because all the followers who do appreciate who I am and I engage with back are like, “Oh this is such a fun side! We love hearing about that!” So it’s been a slower climb for me to the big numbers because I’m trying to keep it really me, mixed with this “color-branded” me. So it’s a full time brain job but yeah I hope to segue it… So every day there is a part of my day where I’m either “flat-laying” or going somewhere deliberately to take a photo, which usually means a café or a bakery. That thought process is in every day.
AF: And is it typically a place you’ve researched? Or they reached out to you?
KO: It’s a combo. Sometimes I reach out to people that are new, telling them I want to promote them and nine times out ten they’re like, “Come by.” Or I get approached. It’s a part of my every day where I’m thinking, “What am I going to post today…” But that’s part of my day job brain!
AF: It’s so cool that you created this career for yourself!
KO: Yeah! And don’t get me wrong… other people are doing it and doing it well and I follow them but you have to create it out of thin air! Someone who created her own sprinkle company said in an interview, “You have to create your own dream job.” If you’re not going to do a 9-5 job, it’s true. It doesn’t mean you have to do a start-up but you have to create a reason for why people need whatever it is that you do in the world. It’s so crazy… now I hear of actors who lost out to other people who have more followers on Social Media. To me that’s pretty tragic…
AF: It’s so easy to put a timer on success. But there’s no rush! We’re in this for the long haul… it’s so important to have other creative outlets and remain confident that it will happen! It happens to the people that just stay.
KO: You just don’t stop. Like everyone says, if there’s anything else in this world that would make you happy go do that and if not, just don’t give up and then literally…eventually it will happen! You can’t riddle or rhyme anything out of it.
AF: So right now…how would you define success?
KO: The easy answer would be… once you’ve been on Broadway, because people know what that means so to them that means you’re successful. So from the outside looking in success is having a Broadway credit and they wouldn’t care if you’re the third tree from the left. If you’re on Broadway you’re on Broadway. But from the inside looking out I think success is being creative every day and working towards your goal every day. Sometimes there are days when I don’t do anything involving working out or singing and I don’t go to an audition…but even if you think about it and plan to do it tomorrow and being in that world in any way you can… that is success and you’re still working towards it. There are no rules in this business. People say this all the time but it is so hard to digest no matter how many times you hear it…but the only thing you offer is you. That’s the only thing that makes you difference, reason you’re going to get anywhere, the reason you stand out, the only thing you need to worry about. And people say it constantly, “You are enough.” But if you don’t believe it… I don’t believe it all the time. I go in and out. Some days I’m like, “I look like me today.” And then some days I’m trying to conform. That is the truest thing. That’s it. That’s the only through-line for all the classes.
AF: It could happen at any time! The stars WILL align! That’s what’s so exciting about the city! The world is your oyster… it’s all at our fingertips here in the city!
KO: People think that networking is this scary, important thing, but networking is what you’re doing right now! Networking is going to a nice cocktail bar and keeping your eyes out because you never know who you’re going to see. Networking is seeing a show. Networking is reading bios. Networking is not pedaling yourself… it’s about being involved in any way you can.
AF: What are your words to live by?
KO: Don’t stop believing. The trap I fall into is getting built up on negativity and feeling like I’m not where I thought I would be… So the thing to live by isn’t necessarily words but to not let that happen. So I get out, I talk to people, and I put on an outfit I love. You go to everything. Even though people say EPA’S don’t matter anymore… you go there, talk to people, meet the people, do it. Don’t stop, literally. Don’t be afraid to be dreamy about it because you have to be excited about the pursuit of it. It’s not lofty-headed but if you don’t love it go do something else! Be proactive. Don’t have a week where you choose to not go to that audition because have you ever regretted going? No. You regret NOT going! Also you have to love where you live. You have to find neighborhoods you love, places you love going, meet people…
AF: You need to find your “spot!” Like I’ll probably go to the puppy store after we’re done with this… Well I’m so happy for you and excited for your budding career!
KO: It’s different than a career… haha. Because if somebody was like, “How’s your career going right now?” I wouldn’t necessarily call it, “a career.” On paper… I have no contract to show but I have all the tools in my toolbox so I should be proud and I should think of it as a career because a career is not always “working.”
AF: It’s what you do in the in between time. Creating your own work is huge.
KO: YouTube is huge for me. People watch it. Our cover of “Lovely Night” from “La La Land” has over half a million views. I actually got to talk to Lionsgate Films about it. They used it for professional DVD sales and then they sent me a DVD! I watched a bootleg version of it two hundred times, reversed everything… if you watch it side by side it is the exact same thing.