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Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Actor's Life

Theater

An Actor’s Life

Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Kate Hurster shares backstage secrets

Story by Kim Cooper Findling

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has grown to become a world-famous destination, attracting an audience from around the globe each year to witness top-notch theater on three stages. Each actor in the company of 350 typically spends years training and gaining experience in theatre productions before landing a job with OSF, thought to be one of the best regional companies to work for in the nation. Southern Oregon Magazine sat down with one such actor, Kate Hurster, to learn more about her and the behind-the-scenes life of an OSF company member.

Tell us briefly about your background?

I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri, where I attended public high school and was very active in the theatre. I was also very science-minded and attended Swarthmore College, where I majored in Psychology. After graduation, I worked at the University of Pennsylvania, doing research in the Department of Psychiatry, while also doing community theater. I eventually attended the National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center Theater Company, where I received my Masters of Fine Arts in Acting.

 

How long have you been acting with OSF?

I have been working at OSF since January 2010.

 

What do you love most about acting with OSF?

I love the intimacy that we establish as a repertory company—there are no 'stars' but a collective of artists who are dedicated to telling stories. The actors and artisans working alongside one another become very much like family, with all the love and respect a family brings.

 

What is your favorite play that you've done with OSF?

I had the great joy to play Marion in The Heart of Robin Hood last season. The role was such fun, so active, physically demanding, and I never tired of the kids' faces in the crowd. This is the first live theater some of these kids see, and I'm honored to be a part of that experience.

 

Is every OSF actor guaranteed work year to year?

No actor at OSF is ever guaranteed work from season to season. That said, new faces always inject new life into the repertory company. After all, that's how I got my first job here!

 

What do you do in the off-season?

Sometimes I work at other theater companies around the country, sometimes I travel.

 

What's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you on stage?

I'll give you some moments from the highlights reel: hearing an audience member had a grande mal seizure during a love scene at the end of Pride and Prejudice, doing The Miracle Worker for film director M. Night Shyamalan and his crying children, sitting down to dinner in Ah, Wilderness! with real food after a lighting fixture had shattered and covered the table with shards of glass

 

What do you love about Shakespeare?

Shakespeare tells universal stories. They are human stories, timeless ones. Audiences are often afraid they won't understand the stories, the lines, but when Shakespeare is done well, as I believe we do here at OSF, these plays can open an audience member's mind not only to the beauty of the Bard's words but also to the human condition.

 

What is unique about OSF from the actor's point of view?

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival offers a bit of respite from the usual actor's hustle. When you're in New York or Los Angeles, you're usually looking for work. A typical theater gig lasts six to ten weeks, whereas a contract at OSF lasts six, eight or ten months.

 

What would folks be most surprised to learn about the life of an OSF actor?

OSF is a great place to work because it also allows the actor to have a life. Oftentimes actors have to chase work, traveling from job to job around the country, not always able to take their families with them. Working at OSF allows families to be together while doing great work onstage.

 

What play/role are you most looking forward to this season?

I'm looking forward to being a part of our adaption of A Wrinkle In Time, as well as playing Ariel in The Tempest. The role that has me especially excited, though, is Lady Anne in Richard III. OSF veteran Dan Donahue will be playing the title role, and he's someone whose work I've long admired. Richard is the most delicious anti-hero, and he and Lady Anne have one of the most incredible scenes in the entire canon: in an unlikely turn of events, a funeral procession turns into a seduction. You have to see it to believe it. 

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland

800-219-8161

www.osfashland.org

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