Docent Julie Lloyd interviews Folger Theatre Favorite Kate Eastwood Norris
Kate Eastwood Norris is a true theater gypsy. She has no fixed address, and keeps most of her belongings in a storage facility while she moves from job to job.
Growing up in southern Maryland, Kate initially aspired to become a marine biologist. But the news that Jacques Cousteau forbade women on his ships scotched that plan.
Her family's strong literarly tradition of reading aloud to each other shaped young Kate's love of language and storytelling. Anointing herself Katie Fantastic (the stage name she planned to adopt as an adult), she sought out tales with high stakes and strong emotions.
The first live perfomace Kate attended, at age seven, was Porgy and Bess at the Kennedy Center. The event overwhelmed her: "It affected me so much I made a spectacle of myself!"
In addition to acting, Kate periodically teaches Shakespeare, and finds children the most receptive of all her students. "The fourth-graders I directed in King Lear understood right away about fathers and daughters and about jealousy among siblings. They were quite comfortable screaming, shouting, and stamping. The size of the acting does not scare them."
In a classroom, Kate starts by writing "Zounds!" on the blackboard. "Kids always understand intuitively that it is an expletive or an exclamation. The sound of the word tells them."
Kate would like to perform Shakespeare as long as possible. Once she outgrows Shakespeare's ingenues, she hopes to play more of Shakespeare's men, having already played Petruchio, Richard III, Oberon, Hamlet, Elbow the Constable, and one of the clowns in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Her heart, however, lies with Beatrice [Much Ado About Nothing], that "faulted, big-mouth woman," whom she has played twice. And of course to the guy who created her: "I would so marry William Shakespeare!"
Kate Eastwood Norris is an actress and a teacher. She has appeared in seven Folger productions in the past seven years, most memorably as Lady Macbeth, in Two Gentlemen of Verona, and as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.
"The Folger is maybe the only home I have!" she says of her transient lifestyle.