Women in Spotlight Series: Kate Robards
A funny story about how I met Kate begins with San Francisco. Every year San Francisco hosts a literature festival called Litquake, giving authors - famous or otherwise - read pieces of their writing work, poetry, speak on panels about the art of writing in the literary world. Kate and I both read a essay's we had written and she came up to me after attempting to compliment my writing with her colorful accent but I immediately just wanted to be her friend once we discovered we were both from Texas and had found our way to the West Coast for various creative reasons.
As a performer, Kate's writing and comedy are the precise balance of wit and clarity, capturing the facets of life that force us to come to terms with ourselves and the relationships we create with other people. After meeting in San Francisco life took us down parallel paths until they led us here, women with strong ambitions and sense of adventure, but now living in New York City. I couldn't wait to sit and talk with Kate about her upcoming shows, including her comedy stand up shows around New York City, as well as her one woman show 'Ain't That Rich', which was well reviewed by Maui Fringe Festival and played for several weeks in Montreal at the Fringe Festival.
What was the inspiration for pursuing a career in the world of comedy and writing?
Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a performing, singing, storyteller. My singing voice isn’t classically trained, but I sure do love to write and tell stories and talk to people. I get that from my mom. I grew up in a small South East Texas town called Orange, and my mom was a newspaper reporter. She worked her way up to being the editor and now she hosts a radio show where she reports the local news. As a kid I’d follow her around to interviews. It could be the police chief, or feature on a one-armed woman who works at the Court House, or a family tomato and fruit farm that operates a business out of their garage, but whatever the story was, I loved that my mom treated everyone with a sense of humor and curiosity. I love that she got paid (though not a lot) to think and talk and write stories. Her job gave me the courage to do the same, though my path has been different.
In undergrad I studied broadcast journalism and even worked in newsrooms and hosted the college TV show, but my passion was always storytelling and theatre. I didn’t know if I would be able to make a career out of my passion. As fate would have it, instead of taking a job in a newsroom immediately after college, I ended up working for an amazing female artist, a Grammy Award winning opera singer Ana Maria Martinez. This is a woman who follows her passion every day and is devoted to her craft and her life in a very present and kind way. She knew of my longing to write and perform and she encouraged me. I’ve had a string of women throughout my life that have helped me. Too many to name. Professionally, in the world of comedians and solo performers, Lauren Weedman is an amazing artist and inspiration. She’s done like ten solo shows and she’s written two books. Befriending her made me realize, wow! People can make careers out of this. A helpful piece of advice she gave me after I wrote my first show was, “you either want to keep going, or you don’t.” I knew I did.
What do you envision as professional success and how is it tied to your personal beliefs?
Professional success to me is looking at a body of work I’ve created and being able to see my growth. It’s being able to continue working with friends. It’s being able to stay versatile and agile.
How have you weaved in your love for acting and writing together and how did you navigate the path that led you to where you are now?
I absolutely love acting, but I’m terrible at auditions. I’ve always had the belief that if a role is for me, it will come to me or I’ll write it. Luckily through my work I’ve met a lot of filmmakers. It’s fun to do projects with them and watch them grow in their craft and careers as I grow in mine.
I am currently co-writing a web series with some friends. We began shooting this weekend, and that process is fun. One of my dreams is to be in writing room one day. Until then, I’m having a lot of fun collaborating with my tribe of writing partners.
The solo performance medium is really fascinating to me. It just found me. When I write a show, I play characters that I meet in real life. They’re my versions of those characters, but there are definitely journalistic elements in my shows. My training as a journalist and an actor and playwright all come through. It feels good to know that my years of dance and writing and acting and public relations all come into play when I do a solo show. I’m a huge believer that no knowledge acquired is wasted. You use it in ways you might’ve never originally imagined, but it’s inside you, bursting around and looking for a way out.
What is the process like for you when you are going into your day on set or for a project, or is everyday different?
Regarding my process, every very day is different. Example, yesterday I woke up and went to Harlem to film the web series I co-wrote and am producing. Then in the evening I was off to the Bronx to attend a block party comedy show hosted by my hilarious friend Whitney Chanel Clark. This morning it was another day of shooting in the East Village at a bakery, and then I had a meeting about a play that someone wants me to participate in, and now I’m talking to you! The goal is to create and spend every day creating and making stuff.
Who has been a positive female influence in your life that contributes to your own personal evolution?
My grandmother Elaine-Ray Dupuy Toal was a librarian and she’d not only read to me, but she made sure I had and read all the important children’s books. I knew how much my family prized and revered reading, and I remember faking that I could read as a kid. I’d memorize the stories and retell them but I’d pretend to read. Call me a little liar or a future writer and performer, but I’ve been this way my entire life.
Of course Ana Maria whom I mentioned earlier, and Lauren Weedman. The latter was performing her one-woman show BUST at The Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. where I was working six years ago. I saw it several times. I clung to Lauren. Years later when I asked her help in my show, she said, “I was wondering when you would ask!” How did you know, I said…? She said, no one is this interested in what I do unless they want to do it too.
What has been your most fulfilling project to date?
The most fulfilling project I’ve worked on was producing three one-act-plays, one of which I wrote and acted in, while I was finishing up my Masters of Fine Art at California College of the Arts. Each one-act-play was written by a female playwright, my friends Zoe Young and Vanessa Flores. We collaborated with visual artists to make the sets and put the shows on in a gallery space. The experience is a reminder that you can do it all if you really want it.
YOU CAN FIND KATE & HER AMAZING CREATIVE PROJECTS ON INSTAGRAM AT @KateRobards
IF THERE'S A CREATIVE WOMAN IN YOUR LIFE YOU ADMIRE WHO EMPOWERS OTHER WOMEN AND YOU WANT TO SEE THEM FEATURED FOR THE SERIES, EMAIL ME AT HELLO@ERICABEAN.COM