5 Questions with Kathleen Reilly

When I was wondering who I should interview next for my 5 Questions series, I probably had just come from a conversation at work with Kathleen Reilly about what was going on in rehearsals with her current production of “Grand Horizons.” We see each other frequently as we are both standardized patients for Albany Medical College. We play characters with scripts that have symptoms that the medical students come in and question and diagnose.

Kathleen Reilly

She has also been a trusted comrade whom I have directed when she played a fearsomely funny Lady Bracknell in my production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and a huge supporter of my work, showing up for countless productions of mine as an audience member with her husband, Mike. Kathleen is back at Curtain Call after her lovely grandmother role in last season’s “Over the River and Through the Woods” with a completely different role in the Capital Region Premiere of “Grand Horizons” by Bess Wohl, directed by Matthew Moross. Let the conversation continue.

PW: We see each other frequently, being co-workers at Albany Medical College, where we’re standardized patients. Can you talk about how your acting informs your work as a standardized patient and how being a standardized patient feeds your growth as an actor?

KR: My work as a standardized patient is very meaningful to me. It is important that I do my best to be true to the person I am portraying so the medical students and Residents may have a genuine experience under simulated circumstances.  I am committed to the emotional connection which sometimes occurs between patient and provider.  My training and experience as an actor have provided me with the necessary tools/technique to inhabit the world of my patient/character and to listen and react in the moment within the structure of the case materials/script.  The work I do as an SP has been very gratifying, and it reminds me, on a regular basis, to be honest in my acting.  Remaining in the moment is important in order to successfully accomplish both the work as an SP and the work I do on stage.

PW: Who do you play in “Grand Horizons,” and what does she do in the play?

KR: I play Carla in Grand Horizons.  Carla is great fun for me. She is the “something on the side” for Bill.  Change occurs rapidly during the course of the play, and Carla finds herself connecting in a completely unexpected way with Nancy, Bill’s wife. Carla has nine pages of work in Grand Horizons and the playwright has written a wonderfully kooky and provocative character.  I love her! 

PW: What’s this experience been like at Curtain Call, and how does it compare to “Earnest” or “Over the River…”?

KR: “Grand Horizons” will be my fourth show at Curtain Call.  I have enjoyed each experience immensely. I have been fortunate to work with terrific actors and directors.  I appreciate the opportunity to work in an environment where the Producers, Directors, Cast, and Crew all strive to create a quality piece of theatre.  Carol and Peter Max dedicate tremendous time and resources to providing audiences with an excellent experience.  They set the bar high, and everyone involved with their shows does the same.  It’s a genuine pleasure to work at Curtain Call. 

PW: What is a play that has changed your life, and how?

KR: There are many plays that have impacted my life in a variety of ways. I couldn’t begin to note them or choose just one.  I have been greatly moved by reading powerful works by Shakespeare and Williams and Miller. I have laughed out loud reading Wilde and Wohl. However, it was the experience of live performance that changed my life.  My first theatrical experience occurred when I was six – a school play. I discovered then and there in my school cafe-gym-atorium that it was my destiny to perform.  I was given the role of “the girl who holds the train of the wedding gown” – an invented role in an extremely scaled-down version of The Sound of Music. I think the nuns took pity on me as they saw how desperate I was to be included.  It truly was a life-changing experience for me.  I found my passion.  I pursued my passion through school completing undergraduate and graduate studies where I had multiple opportunities to learn from and work with talented professionals.  My first paid professional experience was not unlike how it all began…I had the smallest role in a play where Oscar and Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden had the lead.  This was almost 40 years ago in an Equity summer company outside Washington, DC.  Now here I am working at CC and I continue to feel the same passion as always!  I am a lucky gal. 

PW: You and your husband Mike are a frequent presence in Capital Region theaters supporting and attending many productions throughout the year. What are your thoughts on Capital Region Theater-its strengths, potential, and room for growth?

KR: I’m delighted to be here in the Capital Region as it affords an almost constant supply of theatre to participate in either as an actor or as an audience member.  I very much enjoy attending many of the shows offered. I believe there is endless opportunity for continued growth, but we must grow our audiences. We need to develop more young audiences – get them involved and invested. Perhaps offer on-school time performances at reduced rates?  I worry that in our electronic device-driven culture, we are losing a significant degree of human connection – we are also losing patience and tolerance. The theatre can remedy this as it is an immediate and collective experience with other humans unlike any other. It has been said that the theatre holds a mirror up for us to observe who we are and how we behave.  Live theatre has the power to impact people in ways that can last a lifetime.  I did me. 

I hope to see you all at Grand Horizons! 

“Grand Horizons” runs Thursdays through Sundays at Curtain Call Theatre 6/1-6/25. Tickets are available by phone at 518-877-7529.

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