TheatreVCU could be considered the farm team for the Richmond pro theater scene with many students from the University's top-notch program finding work around town.
But it's not the only collegiate gateway onto local stages.
Katherine Wright found her way in through John Tyler Community College, where she studied under Kerrigan Sullivan. Sullivan has taught at Tyler for over a decade, but she has also directed plays like last season's "The Fourth Wall" for the Firehouse Theatre. Wright's first professional role was as an ensemble player in the Firehouse's 2012 production of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and, ever since, she's shown up in local shows with increasing frequency. This weekend, she began a starring run in Chamberlayne Actors Theatre's thriller, "I'll Be Back Before Midnight," playing a fragile young wife recovering from a nervous disorder.
The road between "Rocky Horror" and "Midnight" was paved with a lot of work. "I did backstage work, running props, assistant stage managing," Wright recalls. "I also auditioned for everything and started going to a lot of shows. I'd walk up to actors afterwards and introduce myself and tell them all the shows I'd seen them in, just totally 'fan girl' out."
While I had seen her onstage several times, Wright really grabbed my attention thanks to the John Tyler production of "Extremities" this past summer. The infrequently-produced play tells the story of a woman that turns the tables on a would-be rapist and famously starred Farrah Fawcett when it played off-Broadway back in the early 80s. "It was an extremely difficult show," says Wright. "Unfortunately, it's about a topic that's always going to be relevant. It reflects many people's experience."
"Midnight" puts her character in a reportedly haunted house in the middle of the woods with people who may or may not be plotting against her. "Our director, Stephen Ryan, worried that I was going to get typecast as the woman who gets preyed upon," Wright says. "But this is a completely different show. It's really a satirical thriller: it pokes fun at itself and at thriller clichés but also has some genuinely scary moments."
Wright has branched out beyond the stage, landing background work in the PBS TV series "Mercy Street" and a speaking role opposite Rainn Wilson and Patricia Arquette in "Permanent," a movie that recently filmed in Richmond. She's an accomplished dancer, appearing with the Starr Foster Dance Troupe, and has been exploring her skills as a visual artist as well. "I think some people may have more of a plan," she says. "My career has been more like, 'hey, let me figure this out.'"
It's working out pretty well for her given her steady stream of projects. "I've been so busy and working non-stop, that after [Richmond Triangle Players'] "The Boy From Oz" closed in July, I thought I might take a break," she says. "But right after that, I got cast in 'Midnight.' I was telling my dad and he said, 'So, how'd that break go?'"
"I'll Be Back Before Midnight" runs through Oct. 29.
Running: The sound of curtains coming down around town gets deafening next weekend, with Firehouse’s “Ubu 84,” Swift Creek Mill’s “Almost, Maine,” Virginia Rep’s “1776,” and Richmond Triangle Players’ “Perfect Arrangement” all closing. Don’t dawdle if you’re hoping for tickets: closing weekend performances often sell out.
On Deck: Another “couple at odds with their surroundings” show opens this weekend as Cadence Theatre in cooperation with Virginia Rep presents Annie Baker’s “John.”