When Lake Highlands High School grad Kathryn Williams opens August 11th in the North Texas Performing Arts Community Theatre production of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, it will feel like coming home.
Williams became known in LH during her high school years, starring in the Broadway-style productions of Artists of Christian Talent (ACT) at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church. After graduating from the University of Alabama, she moved to Napa Valley to become a music therapist. While there, she dove into the Napa musical theater scene, with featured roles in Seussical, Man of La Mancha and Funny Girl, among several others.
Though her performances in Spelling Bee will be held in Plano, she’s hoping her loyal friends and followers in Lake Highlands will come out to see the show.
“First and foremost, it’s hilarious,” says Williams. “It is six adults playing beautifully strange and awkward preteens. Imagine every weird feeling and emotion that you feel from age 10 to 13, and you can probably find it in Spelling Bee. This show is definitely rated PG-13 and was created for adults. Don’t let the fact that the show runs like an actual Bee fool you.”
“I have been singing and performing since I can remember,” continues Williams. “Lindsay Holland and I used to take old boxes and junk from our garages and create plays or rewrite fairy tales and then perform them for our parents. We rewrote Cinderella and had the stepmother run away with the prince – I guess we were forward-thinkers back in the 4th grade. Lindsay is one of my oldest theatre memories.
“The moment I knew that I wanted to do more than dream about being on stage was when I saw Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan at the Majestic Theater in either 1989 or 1990. I remember there being something so magical about seeing this story come alive in front of me.
“I feel like theater brings people together. As a performer we get to bring to life all kinds of stories, from the ones that are true and heartbreaking to the ones that are so far-fetched and wild that the audience leaves the theater wondering what they just experienced. And I say ‘experienced’ because I think that’s what theater is, an experience. The difference between theater and film is that you are right there. You are in the action. The actors are breathing the same air. There is a huge aspect of vulnerability for both audience and actor in knowing anything could happen.”
Luckily for Williams, she’s played her role in Spelling Bee before. She was award-nominated when she was Rona Lisa Peretti in 2014 at the Napa Valley Playhouse, and later that year she was featured in her own cabaret show, “An Evening with Kathryn Williams,” at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center. Her last Napa gig, directing two short plays for the Short Play Festival, earned her Audience Favorite honors.
“My favorite role so far is Rona Lisa Peretti. She is witty and vivacious, but also sweet, because, as a former speller, she knows the drama and emotion that come with being in a spelling bee. She is also the top realtor in Putnam County, so she has a bit of sass and gumption. I think there is a little Rona in all of us, and I love sharing her with the audience. I also love that there is quite a bit of improv for Rona and the word pronouncer, Douglas Panch. Each performance has 4 audience volunteer spellers who become fully immersed and part of the show. There is a lot of unknown that goes with having 4 new people on stage every night, and we have to be ready for anything, literally.
“I loved the Sour Kangaroo [from Seussical, the Musical] – my first role in Napa back in 2009. The Sour Kangaroo is truly complex and I love that we get to see her full change of heart by the end of the show. I also love any excuse to sing like Aretha, and I grew very fond of my Baby Kangaroo puppet, Betty. I guess there is something about brassy and bold characters that I love.”
Kathryn moved back to Dallas in March to become the new Special Needs Education Coordinator for the large and growing special needs program at Highland Park United Methodist Church.
If you’d like to see Kathryn in Spelling Bee, tickets can be purchased online here.