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Life and Work with Katie Banville

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Banville.

Katie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been involved in the arts basically my entire life. My mom was a biochemist, my dad a computer engineer — so in the pursuit of providing a well-rounded education for their kids, they sent us to a newly opened performing arts magnet school where we grew up in Vista. I grew up in the arts community and simply never left.

I earned my BFA in Music Theatre from Illinois Wesleyan University, moved to New York to audition and work for a few years, but ended up back in San Diego almost by accident. While here visiting family, I auditioned and booked Starlight Theatre’s last production, Hello, Dolly! While rehearsing that show, a castmate told me I should come with them to audition for Cygnet Theatre’s upcoming production of Cabaret. This pattern continued show by show, I started developing continuous working relationships with different San Diego theatres and artists, and eventually I discovered a work-life balance I’d always wanted but never thought possible working in theatre – so I stayed.

I’ve been extremely lucky in my career and life here in San Diego. I’ve been fortunate to work consistently and establish an artistic home at Cygnet Theatre, where I’m a Resident Artist. I’ve been able to perform with San Diego Musical Theatre at the historic Spreckels Theatre, with Moonlight Amphitheatre in my hometown, and at both The Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse on the world premieres of new musicals. I recently finished my MFA in Musical Theatre at San Diego State University and have transitioned into choreographing and directing since graduating. I love contributing to this artistic community and I appreciate every opportunity it’s afforded me. And I love all the people I’ve met and developed relationships with over the years through this work.

Not to sound sappy, but the best part has been doing this alongside my husband Bryan, who’s both my best friend and biggest champion as I continue to develop my career. We’ve had the great luck of working on several shows together — he’s an incredible performer and I love watching him work — and he inspires me to pursue bigger dreams and continually expand the scope of my work.

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t know anyone in this business who hasn’t struggled. The odds are stacked against us as theatre artists and everyone who continues to make theatre happen does so through tireless resiliency, a deep sense of passion, and a desire to work for the sake of the art, not a steady paycheck.

I’ve struggled to find my path over the years, but certain people and opportunities have cropped up at just the right times, letting me know it was time to pivot and change course. I switched my intended major from dance to musical theatre halfway through the college application process because my high school mentor, Carol Jones, convinced me I had the potential to do it despite the competitive nature of the field and how late I was getting into the game. When I showed up at graduate school, uncertain as to where I was headed next in my career, my professor Stephen Brotebeck convinced me that I had the skills to start choreographing and directing professionally and that I just needed to trust myself and my experience. When I choreographed my first show at Cygnet Theatre, Sean Murray essentially pushed me into the deep end one day to see how I worked spontaneously on my feet and his follow-up was, “See? I knew you could do it.” Every time I’ve shifted the trajectory of my career, I’ve questioned my qualifications in stepping into new positions. And every time, someone has reminded me that my past experience and existing skills would support me in rising to the occasion.

I’ve met so many talented young artists who feel they aren’t qualified to even apply for certain opportunities because they lack formal education in a certain field or work experience in a specific role. I myself have been hesitant to pursue opportunities when they required work beyond my proven track record. I try to remind them — and myself — that every career has a beginning that starts with a first job, that all our experiences support us in making the leap to the next level of our careers, and that you absolutely should be reaching and aspiring in what you apply or audition for. If you say “no” to yourself — to going for that job, auditioning for that role, applying for that big grant — it’s over before it’s begun. If you say “yes” to putting yourself out there — even when it seems like a long shot — you might meet just the right person who’s willing to take a chance on you and help you reach the next level of your potential.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Recently, I’ve been working more as a choreographer and director, although I continue to perform and teach as part of my grab bag of jobs. Working as a movement consultant for small plays has been a surprise interest of mine. I love helping actors to craft and expand their comedic instincts through movement. I love finding ways of musicalizing and structuring pedestrian movement to increase its impact and clarify storytelling. I always say that on the spectrum between fully choreographed dance numbers and standard blocking, there’s a huge grey area — for both musical and non-musical works — that I love exploring with performers and other creatives. Engaging with others and working with what they bring to the table; fulfilling the needs of a certain moment; problem-solving logistically to bring a creative vision to fruition; serving a story effectively through whatever means necessary — this is what excites me about the work I’m doing right now.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rachel Esther Tate

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