Wicked Cast Member – Jillian Kates Interview

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Jillian Kates

WICKED will be flying back to Oklahoma City this September 4th-22nd. This time around a native Oklahoman will be a part of the cast.  Jillian Kates (Ensemble and understudy to Glinda and Nessarose) has been a member of the traveling cast for nearly 1 1/2 years and is ecstatic to be returning to her hometown for the performances. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and learning a little bit more about her background in Oklahoma and the arts. Donʼt miss your chance to see WICKED at the Civic Center Music Hall to give Jillian and the rest of the cast an Oklahoma proud standing ovation.

SC: You are from Oklahoma City! Do you feel like your time with Lyric Theatre prepared and groomed you for what you are doing now?

JK: Absolutely! I feel like it was all building blocks. Without Lyric (Theatre) I wouldnʼt have gotten into the school I got into. From there I got the exposure I needed to get this job. It all lead to this and Lyric and Oklahoma were a big step in that.

SC: Has performing been a lifelong passion?

JK: Yes, it never was a question for me. I started really young. My mom would walk us down to Jewelbox Theater for the summer shows. From what she tells me after the shows I would run up on stage and she couldnʼt get me down. Itʼs always been in me. Oklahoma was the perfect place for me to nurture that passion.

SC: The arts are really strong in Oklahoma City and the metro area but I wish the rest of the country knew that.

JK: Agreed! Honestly, I think that people are starting to catch on a little more. There are so many academy students that I grew up with that are now doing musical theatre in New York City. The director from my school in Cleveland has caught on and has accepted a lot of Oklahoma students and knows that there is something in the water here. Itʼs amazing how many performers come from Oklahoma City.

SC: What role did your family take in your dream of being a performer? How did they support you?

JK: Beyond my training and everything I would say that my family supporting me and providing for those lessons is really the foundation to my career. My parents were so supportive and even before I could articulate what I wanted, my mom could see that I had this love and passion from an early age. She found out what we needed to do and got me into voice class…and then…into dance. Eventually it was time for high school and she knew about Classen (School of Advanced Studies) and I auditioned for that — Check. Then she found the (Thelma Gaylord) Academy and I auditioned for that — Check. I really credit them for everything because if I didnʼt have this training I wouldnʼt have much of anything. I appreciate them so much for that. They wanted me to be happy and I think thatʼs the best thing you can do for a kid.  In my mom’s case (who is a brilliant artist/painter) she didn’t have the support she needed so it gave her even more of a desire to support me as an artist.

SC: Let’s switch gears and talk about what it’s like to be a cast member.  You perform night after night, day after day and have been keeping a demanding schedule for a year and a half.  How do you keep your motivation going?

JK: Yes, it is really demanding and Monday is our one day off to relax.  For example, we have rehearsal before the show until 5:00 so it can be intense.  But then I look around me and see everybody dressed up in their costume and it’s so cool.  There are some days that are harder than others when you have to muscle through and do your job but most of the time it feels like a dream to me.  Often I stand back stage and look around and say to myself, Wow, I’m in Wicked!

SC: When you first started with the tour was it difficult to get used to the demand of the schedule?  How did you adjust?

JK: It actually wasn’t that hard.  You just fall into it.  Of all the shows to do 8 times a week Wicked is a great show for the performer because you have just enough dancing and just enough breaks to be backstage.  We have some members of our company who have been doing it for 8 years.  It would have to be another really special show for somebody to be in it for that long and continue to get out there and love it.

SC:  Was there anything that came as a surprise when you first started with the tour?

JK: Yes, I don’t think I realized that I wouldn’t get to see my family and friends or not have a life outside of tour.  Once you are on tour these people are your family and they are all you have.  That can be tough especially since I’ve been blessed to have a group of amazing, life long best friends.  I didn’t realize how much it would effect me not getting to see them or my family as much as I would like.  It was also a really good growing experience for me as a person.  I had to be tough and make the most of who I was with.


This interview can be found at www.metrofamilymagazine.com.  A shorter version can also be found in print in Metro Family Magazine.  Check out Metro Family for tons of family fun in the OKC Metro area.

— In addition to the WICKED performances, Jillian and other cast members will star in a special performance of Witches Night Off, September 9th int he Freede Little Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall.  Produced by Wicked company members, the evening features some of their favorite material.  Net proceeds benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity and Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre.  Tickets start at $35 and are available by calling 405-297-2264.  For more info about Wicked, visit www.celebrityattractions.com.

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