Get to know #theaTO: Kat Letwin, Dune the Musical

NOW Digital Residency: Soulpepper Spotlight

Inspired by ongoing #theaTO conversations on social media, we’re featuring some of NOW’s and Soulpepper Theatre Company’s favourite theatre artists working in Toronto. Experience more of the company’s 20th anniversary season here.

What’s your Toronto ‘hidden gem’?

It’s very hard to hide a lake near Queen and Roncesvalles, but the Gardiner expressway is ambitious like that. Crossing the bridge over the Gardiner to the boardwalk is an adventure in and of itself – many philosophers have scribbled their musings on boobs on that bridge – but the pathway around Lake Ontario is its own world.

You can walk on the heels of great conversation all the way to Mississauga you can look through the bars around Sunnyside Pool and imagine all the sweet flips you’re totally probably not gonna try if a goose attacks you, you can run through a nearby family picnic to throw it off your scent. There’s a dock that sinks inexorably into the lake, and it’s beautiful in the way photographs of the Great Depression are beautiful. Plus, you’re gonna meet, like, at least twelve dogs, and they are all very good girls and boys, yes they are.

Where would we find you on a typical Sunday morning?

Bed. If not bed, then … yeah, no. Bed.

Best place in Toronto for a post-show celebration?

A park with swings, climbable trees and a swirly slide. BYOwhatever. Though I’m also keen to check out Boots & Bourbon near Queen and Broadview. They have line dancing *and* a mechanical bull, and that all just screams celebration to me.

What was the last book you read?

Fordlandia: The Rise & Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin.

Did you know Henry Ford (of Model T fame) tried to create his own nation-state the size of Delaware in the middle of the Brazilian jungle so as to have some control over international rubber production? Can you believe not even one person pulled him aside and said, “Hey buddy, we love you, we love your hubris, but … have you *read* Heart of Darkness, bro? Also, if you ban drinking, shit’s gonna go sideways.”

It’s riveting. It’s also a joy to read about massive egos creating their own massive failures and massively misunderstanding why it didn’t all work out.

Describe yourself in three words.

Dune: The Musical!

What travel destination is on your bucket list and why? 

Japan. I was a massive anime nerd growing up (because of course I was). It got to the point that I was trying to teach myself Japanese and would frequently make dream plans to visit Tokyo and Kyoto and the entirety of Okinawa (where karate originated!).

I’d specifically like to visit Hashima Island, which was owned by Mitsubishi and they crammed employees and slave labour alike into these live-work apartments. It’s been abandoned for a while, so the crumbling island is stuck in a time and place that no longer exists. I think that’s pretty sugoi desu. There’s also a cat island overrun by cats and I’d like to pet those cats.

What are you looking forward to most in 2017? 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say “doing the VideoCab shows,” because 1) that’s true and 2) I have literally nothing else planned for 2017. I guess after the shows are done I’ll find true love and fix the economy and achieve peace with myself and the world around me (if I have time).

What was your first professional role in theatre?

Profesh, eh? Probably The Misanthrope (Or Why Contempt Is Sexy) at the Drake Hotel in 2009. It was a co-pro with Mirvish and the red light district, which was an indie theatre company I’d been working with since university. Johanna Schall (Brecht’s granddaughter) directed, and her sister Jenny designed these insanely beautiful costumes that were a mix of modern style and 18th-century, high-class French.

We sold out, I got my first mention in a national newspaper, we *got paid* and I got to pretend to snort glitter cocaine with my friends on stage and sing a hilariously self-important version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It felt like the indie shows I’d been doing, just … bigger. It was beautiful.

Last great #theaTO show you saw? 

Prince Hamlet at the Theatre Centre. I could go on about my deep feelings on the race/gender/ableism commentary that was not at all commentary but simply an intrinsic part of a world, and I could go on about Ravi’s direction that played with my own desire to see visceral violence, and I could go on about the wonderful performances … well, I guess I just did. I’m glad I did.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever rehearsed a role?

A conference room in the offices of The Canadian Cancer Society. A lot of the show involved us in our underwear, standing in a life raft and soaking wet. Sometimes people in the office had to stay late to work, and they always watched us with a mixture of confusion and watered-down annoyance. Bless their hearts.

Do you have any backstage traditions?

I’m a simple woman, so give me some space to stretch and five minutes for a smoke, and I’m happy. Though one of my favourite bits I’ve been a part of was when all the women in the cast got naked and ran around the dressing room, pretending to freak out about not finding our costumes. It was the stupidest thing and now I’m thinking about it and now I can’t stop laughing.

During Chasse-Galerie, Mike Cox and I had a top-of-the-second tradition where we’d sing Tenacious D songs to ourselves as quietly as possible. I like this tradition very much, so if any of you reading this end up working with me and you know The D, let’s make it happen.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been working back-to-back contracts since July 2016, so I’m looking forward to having a bit of time to breathe and work on my one-woman show (ugghh, I know, of course I’m working on a one-woman show). I was supposed to put it up for Hamilton Fringe this summer, but I gave up my spot to do VideoCab’s Confederation Parts 1 & 2. However, I’ve been constantly jotting down notes, and allowing it to find itself while I work on other projects. I’m excited to see what it wants to be.

Aside from that, I’ll go back to my habit of performing most nights at Comedy Bar or Bad Dog Theatre of The Social Capital. I’ve written some new material for my sketch duo Northwest Passage, and I’ve been exploring some collaboration with my favourite, silliest, smartest comedians in the city. I’m looking forward to having the time to actually get some of that off the ground. So yes. As Bill Murray said in the seminal hit film Caddyshack, “So I got that going for me. Which is nice.”

NOW Digital Residency: Soulpepper Spotlight

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