Katie Wexler is one of the stars of Most Valuable Players, a sensational new documentary about three high school teams competing to win the Freddy Awards for theatrical productions. The Freddys are like the high school version of the Tony Awards. The movie shows that musical theater can be as thrillingly suspenseful and wildly entertaining backstage as it is from a front-row seat. Katie answered my questions about her dream role, her biggest challenge, and the best advice she ever got about performing.
What’s your favorite role that you’ve played and what’s one you wish you could play?
Picking a favorite role is tough! I always equate working on a show to gaining a best friend in the character you’re playing, and then never getting to spend time with them once the show closes. It sounds mildly morbid I guess, but that’s the kind of bond I form with the leading ladies I’ve played. I think I’d have to say I had the most fun playing Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. She is fiesty and hilarious and the range of growth she experiences throughout the show is tremendous, challenging, and an incredible ride for the actress on board. I am getting ready to work on Reno inAnything Goes in the spring time and she may give Dot a run for her money in the feisty department, so we’ll see how I feel come April!
Now dream role? Well, that’s every actor’s favorite question! No brainer. Eva Peron in Evita. And not the movie-Madonna-stuff…I mean Patti LuPone-Tony-Award-winning stuff!
Do you have a favorite musical?
I pace back and forth on the favorite musical spectrum between Sweeney Todd and1776. So, either a vengeful-murdering-singing-barber or singing-dancing-founding fathers. See? How can you not love musical theatre?!
What surprised you when you first began to learn about Broadway musical theater?
Hmm. “Broadway” musical theatre is such a teensy tiny microcosm of the art form ‘musical theatre’. There are brilliant musical theatre productions both old and new being mounted all over the United States in regional theatres, even some that tour through it! Broadway is only the tip of this wonderful iceberg. The regional theatres that adapt, engineer, and re-engineer timeless favorites, as well as invent new pieces that may make their way to Broadway, all over the country are the unsung heroes of the musical theatre world, I think.
What has been your biggest challenge as a performer?
Letting go. And whatever ‘letting go’ means on that day; whether it’s leaving behind stress, a terrible day, letting go of preconceived notions of what is ‘silly’ or feels uncomfortable. Letting go of insecurities and trusting yourself, fellow actors, and directors is so important. There’s really no room once you’re in the rehearsal space for anything else but letting go to the show or the piece and letting the work have an untainted life of its own.
What’s the best advice you ever got about performing?
Embrace your own uniqueness. The sooner a performer is ok with who they are; I mean fully come to terms with flaws, insecurities, weaknesses, strengths, and skills, and like it. Love it! Our job is to honestly portray humans on stage and what a better well to draw inspiration from than the life you know best—your own!
Do the Freddy Awards create too much pressure or do they inspire kids to do their best?
As far as my experiences have informed me, there are no negative consequences of the Freddy Awards. Of course some people will take competitive situations to the next level, but that’s any situation in life. It’s no different from kid’s pitting rival sports teams against each other in high school, it’s another way we motivate ourselves to do better. I know concerns had been expressed that theatre was such a different medium than sports that to “judge” and “win” were somehow bad words to qualify an art form, but from my experiences in the theatre both at the college level and professionally, it is painfully competitive out there just as much for actors as it is for professional athletes. High school thespians deserve their moment in the limelight for all the heart and time those kids put into the productions, and the Freddy’s has done a great job at giving it to them. If a little competition brings the community into the process and pushes these young artists to work harder, I say no harm no foul!
Tomorrow: An interview with Producer/Director Matthew Kallis.