BWW Interviews: Kathleen McCall of Denver Center's WHEN WE ARE MARRIED on Her Love of Shakespeare and Her Husband
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by Michael Mulhern
M: On behalf of BroadwayWorld, I just have to say how much I adore you and the wonderful work that you have done at the Denver Center over these years.
K: Well, thank you so much. I’m glad you’re a patron and have a good time when you come.
M: Last time we saw you was in a fabulous funny role at in Shaw's Heartbreak House - what have you been doing since then?
K: Well, what have I been doing? I don’t know if you know this. I sit on a board at Denver Health, the major hospital downtown, and we’ve been raising funds for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, so I’ve been very busy doing fundraisers for them. And I also have a son who is at Drake University – plays football at Drake – and we went to a few football games. And now, of course, I’m back in rehearsal. We’ve just started performances of When We Are Married. So I actually kept very busy since the last show.
M: I am excited about your performance in When We Are Married – can you tell us a little bit more about that?
K: Sure. The play is by J.B. Priestley and it takes place in about 1907. It’s about three married couples, so there’s six of us, who are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. And on the evening of their 25th wedding anniversary, it’s discovered that the parson who married them, or they think, was not legitimate – he didn’t have all his papers. So they’ve been living together for 25 years but they’re not married. And, of course, it’s very funny and very sweet, but it’s all about, you know, when you’ve been living with someone for 25 years, thinking you’re married, and all of the sudden you’re not, you look at them and you go, “You know, I never liked you anyway.” It’s just a great deal of fun. It’s a nice complement to White Christmas, which is going on, of course, in the Buell. But it’s a lovely little funny thing and anybody who’s in a relationship and been married will recognize themselves in it. We have one couple – the bossy woman that bosses her husband around. And then we have the couple that the husband is pompous and arrogant and tells his wife what to do. And, you know, it’s how they flip roles as they discover that they’re not married. So it’s great fun.
M: If you and your husband faced a similar situation, how do you think you would handle it?
K: Well, you know, it’s very different today because, you know, in 1907, to have been living for 25 years with someone that you then all of the sudden discover “Oh, I’m not married to you,” there’s a whole social pressure put on, you know, of “We can’t let anyone find out about this,” because it was taboo. People didn’t live in sin – they got married. So today – that’s a really good question; I haven’t thought about it – but today, there wouldn’t be the social taboo placed on it by society. I wonder, you know, I don’t know how Kent and I would react. I suppose we would probably look at each other and go “Oh well, so what’s different?” You know what I mean? And I think relationships today are built on different things, you know. Back in 1907, the woman stayed at home, women didn’t work, they were somewhat property of their husbands, and, like I said, there was the whole social issue of not wanting anybody to know. You know, today, women have their own jobs and their own lives and there wouldn’t be this social taint on them, so to speak, so I think we’d be okay. I think we’d look at each other and go “Okay, so do we really want to spend the money on a wedding or should we just carry on?” You know what I mean?
M: Can you tell us about your wedding?
K: About my wedding personally? Oh! Well, I was married in Upstate New York. And one of my dearest friends in the world, David Carlson, was the Episcopalian priest who married us, who married my husband and I. And he’s also my son’s goddaddy. So it was a very small wedding. It was only about 20 people. It was in December, so our anniversary’s coming up. It was a winter wedding. It was beautiful. Like I said, a very small wedding in a church that was built in like 17 something. And one of my best, best dearest friends in the world married us, so that made it very special. It’s interesting you should ask because my niece, one of my nieces, got married this last summer and she asked me if I had any advice and I said, “The only piece of advice I would give you is that whoever marries you, just make sure that they’re important to you,” because when the person officiating at your wedding knows you and cares about you, and knows you personally, it just means so much more. So it was a really simple lovely service with my best friend marrying us.
M: Now you have been with the Denver Center Company for quite some time now giving amazing and memorable performances, tell us how you got started with this fine company?
K: Boy, this is my 8th season, no, my 7th season – I’m not sure. And it’s been absolutely fabulous for me. I was born and raised in Colorado. I was born in Denver and went to Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, and went away for a number of years, went to school in London and then lived in New York, and worked out of New York, so for me to come home to Denver was just a real gift. You know, it’s been wonderful to be here. To be around family and to be in an environment that is home and also the theatre company is such an amazing, amazing facility, and the people that inhabit it, you know, the company’s actors, the staff, the crews, I mean, I love how I walk into a theatre and I’m always struck and just in awe of the change when they’ve put a new set up. It just transforms the place and I just feel so fortunate and so blessed to be able to be here and to work. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place.
M: I agree, we are quite spoiled in Denver with that center.
K: We are; we are. It’s the largest regional Theatre West of Chicago until you get to, you know, the Mark Taper Forum in LA, and the work that is gone there, from the New Plays Festival to redoing and visiting the classics is extraordinary. It’s an extraordinary place.
M: You are absolutely enchanting in your Shakespearean performances - what is your secret to your natural ease with the Bard?
K: Well, you know, Shakespeare, I think is my first love when it comes to theatre. And I went to school in London so I was able to work with, my mentor at school, was Patrick Stewart. I was able to work with a number of the Royal Shakespeare Company actors there. And I think doing it a lot – you have to understand the meter, you have to understand the poetry. But then you find a way, and I think that comes from doing a lot of it, and I’ve done a loooot of Shakespeare – I’ve probably done close to 40 productions of Shakespeare – where you inhabit the language. You just want to make it as natural as possible. The other wonderful thing about Shakespeare is that, because of the poetry, when you miss a word, you immediately feel it. You can feel it in your bones because of the rhythm. And so he’s just so special to me.
M: That’s wonderful. So, is there a favorite role that you never tire of playing?
K: Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know…I’ve revisited a number of roles, particularly in Shakespeare. I’ve revisited Kate. I’ve played Kate before, and that was a lot of fun. And, of course, doing that role depends on who your Petruchio is. And, you know, I’ve had two great Petruchios, so that was fun. I would love to go back and revisit Lady Macbeth. I think she is fascinating. I just don’t know that there’s one…I’ve done Winter’s Tale, I’ve played Hermione in Winter’s Tale, and that production was just so special to me, and so beautifully conceived that I don’t want to revisit it again. Because, not that it was perfect, it’s never perfect, but the situation was perfect. It was so ideal that I’m afraid to revisit it. Does that make sense?
M: Yeah, it does. Well, the context of my next question, was I was going to ask what role has had the most impact on your life?
K: Well, that production had a huge impact on me. I think the production that had one of the biggest influences on me was doing Macbeth. And that was because we partnered with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Defense, and we toured the United States, toured 14 military bases and performed for the troops, just as we were entering the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict, soon after, but not right after 9/11. So that had a huge impact on me – to perform Macbeth for military families on military bases, who understand, you know, Macbeth is a warrior. He’s a military leader. Their families were at war. I remember playing for kids who would come up to me and say, you know, “My dad’s in Afghanistan right now” or “My husband’s in Iraq,” or “My mom…” and it had such an impact on them. It was an extraordinary experience to perform that every night for military families. So I think that would be the one.
M: Wow, that’s really interesting. If you were not in theater, what job do you think that you would be doing in a parallel universe?
K: If I wasn’t in theatre. Um…well, I sit on a board at Denver Health and I do a lot of fundraising and a lot of event planning. We have an event coming up December 2. We just had a big Halloween party on the 31st that raised funds for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit, and we have a big fundraiser coming up on December 2, we are having 300 people for a brunch, and then we’re going to see White Christmas. And the money raised will go to support that. So, probably I would be doing event planning or fundraising for a NFP organization.
M: So, are there any other exciting projects after you’re done with this show? I know you just started.
K: Well, I go into rehearsals right after this for Romeo and Juliet, and I follow that with Other Desert Cities, so I have a really lovely season. So, I’ll be busy through the spring.
M: Well, I look forward to seeing you as always.
K: And right now, my son just got home from school and so I’m just happy to have my kid home for Thanksgiving.
M: Again - thank you so much for speaking with me and BroadwayWorld today!!! You are absolutely wonderful and I look forward to seeing you in When We Are Married at the Denver Center!!!