5 Questions with Kathleen Carey
Kathleen Carey, besides being a leading light on Capital Region stages and the recipient of the Berkshire Theatre Critics Association award for Best Actress in 2021 for her portrayal of Margie in “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire at The Theater Barn, is also my oldest, closest friend in Capital Region Theater. Here’s my list of 5 Questions emailed to her and her responses.
PW: Who do you play in “Typhoid Mary,” and what does she do?
KC: I play Mary Mallon, more commonly known as Typhoid Mary. Born in Northern Ireland (where my mother’s paternal side of the family hails from!), she emigrated to NYC around 1884 at age 14 and lived with an aunt & uncle until adulthood. She started work as a laundress, but her skill at cooking led to better-paying jobs in the kitchens of the old money and nouveau riche of New York in the early 20 century. She is famously (infamously?) known as the reason for many typhoid outbreaks at each family she cooked for and was quarantined on Brother Island for two years. After she was allowed to return to the public after two years of quarantine, on the condition that she never work as a cook, she again returned to work as a laundress. However, this paid much less and she was employed by the Sloane Maternity Hospital, under the assumed name of Mary Brown, as head cook. Her co-workers, not knowing who she really was, jokingly referred to her as Typhoid Mary! Guess what happened next…
PW: How does this play to reflect on our times and our health concerns?
KC: This play so mirrors the last three years we have all experienced; you would have thought it was written as a reflection of the Covid-19 pandemic. It wasn’t! This quirky, anachronistic, moving, and funny play from playwright Tom Horan had its premiere at the Phoenix Theatre in 2015. Throughout the rehearsal process, the whole creative team has had goosebumps moments where what happened during and after the typhoid outbreaks at the homes Mary Mallon worked at reflects the past three years of our own pandemic and post-pandemic. Seriously, I could write a dissertation just based on the text of the script alone. It really boils down to what are the rights of an individual versus the rights of a community and society as a whole. Mary was an anomaly, the first known and identified “healthy carrier.” One of my favorite lines of the play (and there are many) is when a policeman sent to arrest her refers to her as “the healthy sick woman.” This play so speaks to our time right now, not just about health concerns but also about class and gender. Mary was, shortly after, not the only known “healthy carrier,” but she was the only one isolated. Three words stand out, uttered by Dr. Sara Josephine Baker: Immigrant, Poor, Woman. Tom Horan (who we had the privilege to face time with a few weeks ago) has crafted a beautiful play. Its dialogue is fast-paced, with serious moments balanced with humorous ones, and, indeed, melds with them due to the brilliant anachronisms woven into it. My favorite one… Nah, I don’t want to give it away; you’ll have to come to see it. I will just say, HGTV House Hunters realtor.
PW: What’s your history with Theater Voices?
KC: I love Theater Voices! They also bug me because I have so loved every staged reading I have done with them that I want to do it as a fully staged production! If you are not familiar with Theater Voices, they are an aptly named company that staged fully blocked staged readings of plays where the emphasis is on the text. Sets are minimal, and props are zero, costumes are suggested, and neutral colors. The idea is to get the audience to really listen to the words. And it works. I have done so many shows with TV, I often forget I have a script in my hand. As an audience member, I never see the script in the actor’s hands. If the work is being done, the story being truthfully told, I don’t miss an elaborate set or costumes. My first reading with them was the play “Collected Stories” in 2002. I loved it and couldn’t wait to do another. Weirdly enough, I have repeated two shows with TV. I played Lizzie in “The Rainmaker” at Albany Civic Theater in 2000 and then in the staged reading at TV in 2011. In 2010 I played Bella in “Lost in Yonkers” at TV and then had the absolute joy of playing her again in a fully staged production at Curtain Call Theater in 2017. If there was one play I wish I could repeat as a fully staged production that I first did as a staged reading at TV (directed by the fantastic John Romeo) it would be “Sight Unseen.” Theater Voices is a treasure to the arts in our community. Also, kudos to board member and all-around awesome person Eileen Schuyler for finding “Typhoid Mary” for this season!
PW: What do you love about Theater Voices?
KC: Ummm…I guess I answered that in question number three.
PW: What is a play that changed your life?
KC: I will name three, all ones I have done, because that is how I originally read this question and it’s late, I’m tired, and I have a kitty wanting my lap, making it challenging to type. First, “Don Juan in Chicago” at Albany Civic Theater in 1997. My entrance into community theater and the forging of lifelong friendships. Second, “Peter Pan” at the Theater Company at Hubbard Hall. A joy of a play to do and the forging of lifelong friendships. Third, “Boy Gets Girl” at my beloved Theater Barn. My first time experiencing the incredible craziness of summer stock and getting paid for my craft, and the forging of lifelong friendships. I think you can all see the common thread there.
Because of the physical toll elder care has taken on me in the past few years, the still present, raw grief at my parents’ passing, which lately coincided with the pandemic, I have thought recently, I won’t do theater anymore. It’s too much work, I don’t want to drive at night, I’m too tired to do the homework. But I love it; it’s in me. I have to do it. Laurence Olivier said, “Without acting, I cannot breathe.” What Laurence Olivier said.
“Typhoid Mary” by Tom Horan is presented by Theater Voices at Steamer No. 10 Theatre (500 Western Avenue) Friday, 3/31, and Saturday, 4/1, at 7:30 pm and Saturday, 4/1, and Sunday, 4/2 at 2:30 pm. FREE Admission.