|Kathy Brombacher. Photo by Ken Jacques.|
My wonderful journalism teacher gave me as a graduation present a two week workshop at the University of Redlands. My mother thought “Are you kidding? What could she do with theatre!?” But the teacher saw something in me. And so I took summer school at the University of Redlands right out of my senior year of high school. First, I was terrified at having to perform and sing and do the things that they did. But then, I got hooked. And because I was going to the university, I met actors: the teachers were students at the university in the theatre department. So I met the people already and it was just a natural segue to getting involved with the theatre. But I owe that all to my journalism teacher who somehow saw that that might be something good for me. I had been a public speaker in high school also…I had done speech competitions, contests, that sort of thing. So maybe that was part of it. Then, I started taking those theatre classes in college and went on and focused on directing at one point.
What was the first show you ever performed in? What role did you play?
I think that would be the “Merchant of Venice” my freshman year. I played the role of Jessica. And, heaven knows, I needed a lot of training! [laughs] But the University of Redlands did one Shakespearian production a year. And we all auditioned for everything and that was what I recall was my first official role. And to this day, I love Shakespeare!
I want to talk more about your acting experience in the pre-Moonlight era. Have you acted with other San Diego theatre companies, for example, The Old Globe or La Jolla Playhouse?
Yes, with The Old Globe. I did a production of Chekov’s “The Seagull” directed by Craig Noel. At the time, I was teaching high school in Vista and they had open call auditions. At that time, I think it was 1978, this was a production that went into the theatre-in-the-round there and they were not paying the actors, except there were two Equity actors that they paid, but it was essentially all volunteer at that time. So my driving from Vista to San Diego while I was teaching full time was a little demanding, but it was something that I really wanted to do.
|Kathy and Craig at the 2006 SD Theatre Critics Circle Awards. Photo courtesy of the SDTCCA.|
I also performed with The La Jolla Stage Company in “The Lion in Winter.” I played Eleanor. That was some years ago … I can’t exactly remember the date, but it was another one I performed in while I was teaching and I drove down. And I became good friends with Walt Stuart, who was the artistic director of La Jolla Stage Company and directed the show. He was a long time teacher of theatre at La Jolla High School and that theatre was on the campus of La Jolla High. It was a community theatre that he helped develop.
And I did a couple of things here locally before the Moonlight got started. I did “The Lion in Winter” here for North County Community Theatre. I was Eleanor in that. And I did the role of Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes” with that same community theatre.
And onstage at Moonlight I played the role of Vera in “Mame,” the role of Jack’s Mother in “Into the Woods,” and Julia in “Lend Me A Tenor.”
Wow. You’ve had the privilege of playing some fantastic roles. Have you worked alongside any memorable San Diego actors?
Brian Salmon. Brian, I met at “The Lion in Winter” that we did in La Jolla. Thereafter, he came to our theatre to play Professor Henry Higgins in our first “My Fair Lady.” And I have great admiration for Brian. He’s a great person as well.
Any particular funny stories or interesting experiences during your onstage acting career?
Well, when I was doing “Mame” at Moonlight in 1991, I decided to be on stage, which took a lot of doing, but meanwhile I was working with a new director, a new lighting designer, a new costumer. Usually, what an artistic director does is integrate new staff in that direction from out front. So, because I had a relatively large role onstage, I wasn’t able to sit out and integrate. The director had a personal emergency, the choreographer left the show, and the costumes weren’t finished the night before opening. And I thought: of all shows to be in onstage, when what I really should be doing is helping direct from out front, helping finish the lighting, etc. So we just had to go forward and I called in some of my friends who helped with the costumes and the show went on … but it is not really a funny story. It’s actually kind of sad. [laughs] That all these things happened in one production!
Into the 1990’s I had decided - and it was a very good decision - to bring in some wonderful directors from the outside. I had only had a couple of local directors work with me and I was directing most of the productions in the 1980’s. So in the 1990’s, I said we’ve got to reach out and bring in more actors of a professional level. So that was my philosophy in the 90’s: integrating the artists that come from Orange County, San Diego, wherever it might be. And it was wonderful. But “Mame” was one of those projects where things just didn’t line up. [laughs]
I want to talk about your educational trajectory from college to graduate school. You mentioned you went to the University of Redlands where you got your…
BA in Theatre and then I went for my Master of Fine Arts in Acting at the University of Denver. It was a two year program with summers included and that was really training to become a repertory actress. And I loved the theatre department because they did musicals as well. And we did Shakespeare, and lots of training in repertory literature with some fine professors.
|University of Redlands. Photo courtesy of redlands.edu.|
Any specific highlights or milestones you vividly remember from those years?
It was a wonderful time of learning. I also taught voice at that time because I was raising money to pay for college and I played piano for classes and that sort of thing. What I remember most is the core of people and the achievements that we had. I mean, this was a theatre program where all the costumes were built from design.
I remember my training with John Powell who had worked significantly with the BBC in London. He painted pictures on stage that were extraordinary. I think it was during my MFA in Acting that I began to realize how interested I was in the directing aspects of theatre. Largely because there were such great theatre directors there. There were people who were "actor’s directors" who focused principally on the text and bringing that alive from the inside. And then there were (like John Powell) directors of great pageantry and visual imagery and they directed in a very different way. And then there was a third professor that I remember so clearly, Yayega Ziff. She was with the Polish Lab Theatre and she gave us exercises and coached us in dialect and her insight into the characters was just on a whole different plane. And very physically oriented.
And then, I just started directing a couple projects myself there. Even though I was in the acting program and required to be in all these productions, I started some outside multimedia directing and did some black box directing, too.