An Interview With...Cate Magrane

How did you get started in theater? What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today? 
I was hooked since 7th grade when Oakdale-Bohemia JHS did Rogers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella." I fell in love with theater as surely as the prince fell for Cinderella. The following year, the school did "The Sound of Music" and I got cast as the understudy for Maria and a smaller role...I swore since that day that I would someday have that part. More on that later...

My inspiration comes from being a romantic, I suppose. I am sensitive to other people's needs and hurts, and can feel things they feel. I believe that feeling things makes you alive- regardless of whether they are happy or sad feelings. When I watch a good performance I love to experience the feelings portrayed. And, uh, Oh, yes- the applause helps :-)

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
I think the first Broadway play I ever saw was in High School on a field trip. We saw "Don Quixote" and I had never experienced anything like it. I was amazed at the power those little figures had, up there on that stage, all the way from our nosebleed seats, to pull the emotion from me like a wringing mop. I couldn't stop after that! I saw as many shows as I could get near, some twice. I became a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" regular because you get to get up and dance and act crazy to do the Time Warp. If someone would listen to me sing, I would do it- anywhere. I remember singing in a stairwell at SUNY Stony Brook during a break from a marathon study session. Some acquaintances heard me from down the hall and said they enjoyed it. They asked me to sing more...I said, "NOW???" So we found an empty classroom and I gave a concert for 2 people...Is that an illness????

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I first studied acting in high school, was the president of our Theater Arts Club, took a few college level classes, and eventually studied professionally at San Jose Reperatory Theater in California. I also took a couple of professional workshops for commercial video and audition technique. I got a late start because I was brought up in a very practical household that taught me that a job that makes money feeds your family...go figure...My first career as a computer engineer was a little too demanding to accomodate theater, so I used the years (and pay) to study voice and acting, hoping someday to be able to have time to perform. The birth of my second child and a very supportive husband set me free to finally pursue my life's dream.

What was your first audition?
Cinderella in 7th grade, but as an adult, I first auditioned for the professional Theaterworks company near San Francisco. I figured I'd start out big and work my way down to what I could handle. **smile**

How do you choose what play you will audition for? The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
I have been working mostly at one theater, 2 Fools Productions, but when I see a musical I want to do elsewhere, I go for it. I love to sing! (did I mention that?) The director is important, too, but I can make any production or part have some value to me. There is a piece of me in every character I have ever played, even if I didn't know it beforehand. I have been pre-cast  (hmm, and sometimes post-cast) in 4 of the last plays I have done so I suppose that has played an important role in my decisions.
Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I appreciate it when I am the beneficiary...(How's that for an honest answer?)  I do understand why it can be important, especially after having directed my own shows. There is a comfort in knowing what you can expect from an actor (and a director), and a solid working relationship based on mutual respect goes a long way to delivering a finished product in which you can all be proud.

What types of parts do you normally play? Do you feel typecast?
They are getting older and older...Now, Why do you suppose that is?? Seriously, I have played a flirtacious, straying housewife, a middle-aged television cook, a grandmother, a nun, and (twice) a wronged 50ish yr old wife. I just finished my 4th show playing a woman scorned in less than 6 months...Hmmm...well, I suppose you may have an interesting psychological case study there...

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly? When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Cathie Magrane" type? 
I am pleased that I can say that each character I have played over the past few years is very unique in demeanor, social standing, education, and appearance. They have ranged from unattractive, dowdy, and co-dependent to vivacious and sultry to intellectual and faithful. But I believe I have to attribute that to having become familiar to the directors within the community in which I work. They have evaluated my ability and flexibility and have put their faith in my past record.


What is your approach to developing your character?
Read, read, read...When I am familiar with a character, there is a definite influence of past performances in the beginning of  the rehearsal process. But my decisions are mostly based on how the other characters' dialogue describes my character. Where there are ambiguities, I will make a choice early on, but it is often changed in rehearsal to reflect the interaction with the other characters' body language, tone, and subtleties that may not have been obvious on first or second reading. (This is where a good working relationship with other actors comes in very handy!) I will sometimes write a little bio for the character, but usually that gets done in my head.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
The one I am doing right this minute. And if you ask me again in two or three months when I am doing a different show...the answer will be exactly the same. I fall in love with every character and the literature around it.

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
I think my worst was a maid in a melodrama I did when I lived in California. It was the one time I could not sincerely identify in any way with the part, and I felt self-conscious doing it. That has to be the worst feeling for an actor. My best...hmm...that is difficult. I loved pieces of my work from every show for different reasons. The first "best" role that came to mind was "Kate" in Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound", because I had never felt more in-the-moment than when Kate confronted Jack about his affair...As Beatrice in "A View from the Bridge" I created a transformation from a wimpering, scared wife to one who knows what she wants and decides to confront her demons. As Ellen in LUV, I luved (umm...sorry) the opportunity to portray so many issues that women face in their relationships and the conflict between being true to thine own self and the need to be loved.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
The roles with 1 week notice are definitely challenging...But I don't think that's what you are asking about...I find that roles that require me to relate to another actor from the perspective of a different age than I am are extremely challenging. For example as Kate in Broadway Bound, I played the mother of a young 20-something. It wasn't easy to find that "place" to come from.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I try not to look back...Learn from my mistakes and move on...

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
Romantic comedies and hard drama. (how's that for extremes?) I am finding that comedy is my forte.


How do you feel when you perform?
If I am doing it right, just like the character...and hopefully the audience, too...

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
Hi, My name is Cathie, and I am an act-a-holic. (Everyone replies: Hi, Cathie)

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
Ok, here's a serious answer...I need to. I need to find out things. I need to feel things. And I love to share that with as many people who are willing.

Also, I believe that when I was in high school, I found that theater is the fastest bonding mechanism for friendships. I love to make new friends, and I think that the rehearsals are just as important to me as the performances. It's all in the process.


What is your favorite theater story?
In Bedside Manners when I had to pull down my lover's trousers... and his shorts came down too!

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
YES! It has happened, but never out of character unless the show calls for it. I have done lots of melodrama and it was a regular occurrence in interactive theater. That was such fun. Even then, using your character to cover for you when you KNOW the audience knows it's not what you meant to do, can be very funny.

What was your worst theater experience?
Can't think of any...

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Bending over a little too far in a short skirt...Then realizing it was noticeable to the audience.


Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Flexibility and choice roles. I can have both at 2 Fools. I am also enjoying the closeby, newly formed Northport Community Theater. Bette Silver, the producer, is extremely organized and well versed in putting together a show, and community theater offers a wonderful way to meet people who share a common interest.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Absolutely! Just look around!

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
I am always pleased to work with Kate Defeo, and Mary Puma for their excellent dramatic skills and versatility; Marc Parrot, Dan Sheehan (God rest his soul) and Dick Sottile for their ability to create interesting, physical and believably funny characters; Ryan Maloney and Stevie GB for their impeccable comedic timing and emotional accessiblity to the audience; and Bob Vicchiullo for his great commitment to his dramatic roles and strong stage presence. Michael Keaton was pretty good, too. (**smile**)

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Dustin Hoffman in Mad City. Ok, well, maybe we didn't have any scenes TOGETHER, but... let's see...oh, this is tough...I think that I would have to choose a scene partner that offered me the strongest actions to respond to, enabling myself and others to work off of him. Without devaluing any of the work of my other favorite partners, I would say Bob Vicchiullo.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
Sean Penn and Harrison Ford top my list of Hollywood performers; Daphne Rubin-Vega  on Broadway (Rent, Rocky Horror); As for a Long Island performer, I refuse to answer on the grounds that I don't want to.

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
My career as a teacher is part time, and involves theater. The hours are mostly late morning and one weekly afternoon, so it doesn't usually interfere with my paid work. However, my career as Mom is much more difficult to reconcile. My kids are losing patience, and are tired of me being gone so much. Hopefully, the theater will be my career very soon.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
Because I don't have time for Broadway. (**grin**)

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
If they didn't it wouldn't happen. My husband has been wonderfully supportive, and my children complain, but I think they understand.

How has performing enriched your life?
It has made me understand myself better. It has given my a Weltenshaung, a reason; and it has allowed me to have something that is all mine.


What brings you the greatest joy?
A bright, happy child, laughter from the audience (at appropriate times) and knowing that I can touch someone's heart.

What really irks you?
An unhappy, whining child, bad drivers, forgetting a line and people reminding me that my head shot is so old it doesn't look like me anymore..

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
Buy a big house on the water .. both coasts. Have my husband quit his job, and I would make a run at a movie career.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
My first reaction was NO Way... but I suppose money can make you good looking....

What's your favorite word(s)?
"Of course I can."

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
"You did good."


Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
Coming up in June is Twelfth Night at 2 Fools Productions (Smithtown Blvd, Nesconset), directed by Peter Morrison, I am Assistant Director and Producer, and looking forward to starring in an original musical Shakespeare Cabaret (location TBA), also written and directed by Peter Morrison.  I regularly run production workshops for elementary and middle school age children at 2 Fools Productions. We integrate an acting class into the 2 hour meeting and the 8-10 week session culminates in a full production.  My new website, is currently under construction. Keep an eye out for it.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
I have always loved musicals, and  Eliza in "My Fair Lady" is a challenge I would be excited to take on. Also, I want to play Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" and Rizzo in "Grease".