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An Interview With...
Karie Koppel
Inside the Long Island Actor's Study

How did you get started in theater?
I was forced.  Well, sort of.  We were forced to do the shows in my elementary school.  If your class was doing a play it was considered part of the curriculum and you had to take whatever part was given to you.   But my first year in Junior High they were doing Annie Get Your Gun and I didn't know if I wanted to go down or not, so my Mother said, "You enjoy doing this, you should go down."  I think she just wanted me to join something.  I don't think she realized what sort of monster she would be creating.

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 think what really hooked me was the excitement of performing in front of a large group of people.  Having that many people pay attention to me at once, let alone having anyone pay that much attention to me at all was a new experience for me.  I figured if I could reach a large group of people at the same time and touch them in some way through something I was doing, then what could be bad about that.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
Saw- Nine when I was like 8 and I had no idea what it was about, all I remember is some guy in the middle of a set of stairs that lit up and he was surrounded by a whole lot of women.  Performed in- I played a tree in the spring chorus of our first grade Season's Show.  Only to be topped by my playing a bicuspid in the second grade Tooth Fairy show.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I did, and I still do.  I don't think it's something you can ever stop studying.  There is always something new to be learned.  But I was into it long before I studied it.


What was your first audition?
"Annie Get Your Gun" in seventh grade.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
It all depends.  If it's a professional job I will go down for any show I feel I could be appropriate for.  If it's a non-professional job I will usually go out for any show I think I may not get a chance to do anywhere else, depending on who is directing and if any of my friends will be in it.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
Usually I don't mind it as long as it is stated up front that certain roles have been pre-cast, but I do think that sometimes directors who pre-cast can cheat themselves out of someone they didn't know who may show up at the audition and be better than the person they have pre-cast.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
Well, up until a few months ago usually character and supporting roles, you know the type that just goes out there and belts their heads off.  However recently I've been getting cast as ingénues, and soprano ones at that.  So I guess, going by that previous answer, no I don't feel type cast.  How can I when I never know how they'll see me?

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 "Karie Koppell" type?
See above answer.  I get all sorts of different types of roles, and I never know how a director will see me, so I have no clue what a "Karie" type may be.  Although my friends would probably say it would be something evil.


What is your approach to developing your character?
It depends on the role really, but I will usually do a little research into the time period, and life situation of the character, and then memorize my lines and see who comes out.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
I loved playing Anne in Shenandoah.  That role was totally effortless for me.  We had a lot in common, well all except for the part where she gets raped and killed.  Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors was a ton of fun as well.  I also enjoyed playing the first witch in MacBeth.  That one was close to home too.

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
Best roles, hmmm, I guess Anne and Audrey, worst role Gloria Thorpe in Damn Yankees.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
The first witch in MacBeth was by far my most challenging role.  There are just so many ways that the witches can be interpreted and played.  I'm still not sure I actually got it.  I wouldn't mind the chance to have a go at that role again I think now that I am a little older and have had a little more life experience I would have a better interpretation of the character.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
See above.  I'd also love a chance to play Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker again, and have more than a day in which to learn and work on the role.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I usually want to play roles that are written for men cause they tend to get all the really good roles written for them, well maybe not all, but a lot.  However since that is not a realistic possibility I wouldn't mind being able to play any character that has a lot of layers to her and some awesome lines that are real zingers. 


How do you feel when you perform?
Exhilarated, fully alive, completely energized.  It's the only time I am truly happy.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
The fact that there is absolutely nothing else I could possibly do.  Or would want to do.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
I don't really get opening night jitters anymore, but I do it because I love it.  I love being able to entertain a live audience, and maybe help them realize something they may not have realized without seeing the performance.


What is your favorite theater story?
Well, this may start out not sounding like a theatre story, but it is one.  When I was 4 years old my Mother had this friend who came to my house on Christmas dressed as Santa Claus.  My oldest brother and I were completely fooled, but my other brother immediately called out, "Hi, Fred."  Well, we lost touch with Fred, but the story was legendary in my family because my brother wasn't fooled. Then when I was 17 I was doing the Sound of Music at Plaza Playhouse, and one day my Mother picked me up from rehearsal and watched me walk out the door with several of the other cast members.  As soon as I got into the car my Mother asked me who this one man was, and I said his name is Fred he's playing Uncle Max. Well my Mother jumped out of the car and called his name, and he turned around and recognized her immediately.  Then she turned around to me and said, "Karie, this is Santa Claus."  Sounds kind of cheesy, but it's true.  I've always thought that was really cool. 

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
Never missed an entrance, but I did sleep through a performance of Anne Frank once.  I was playing Miep and they had to do the entire show without me.  I wish I could have seen it though.  I've only dropped lines that would be noticeable to the other actors on stage with me, but not to the audience, I mean unless you count the time I was performing "Can't Get A Man With A Gun," during a cabaret show and just completely had to stop the song so I could get the lyrics from my accompanist.  Crack up on stage.who ? me???  How about during every performance of Godspell at CAP.
What was your worst theater experience?
Damn Yankees - 'nough said.

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
When I was doing On the Town this past summer in summer stock we had this one scene where all the girls were in these Betty Grable type bathing suits as part of a beauty pageant, and opening night the costumer lost my bathing suit, so I had to go out in my underwear.  And then of course there was this past Saturday night in George M! at Creative Ministries, when I was making my dramatic exit and got caught up in my dress and nearly fell flat on my face.  But I think the topper was during a performance of Godspell at Cap, while singing "Turn Back O' Man" I was supposed to take an audience member up on stage with me, and this one night there a was a cute little old man sitting in the front row who was really into the show, and so I chose him and when I went to get him out of his seat he said "I'm sorry, I can't walk."  I think I shrunk to the size of a peanut.  I just felt awful.


Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Usually because it's the place that hired me.  But I if have a choice of what theatre I am going to work at, such as out here on L.I. it's because I like the people I know I will be working with.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
I think that LI theatre will continue to go on strong for a very long time.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?  Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Wow, answering this question is just asking for trouble, cause I know I'm going to leave someone out and they'll get all insulted.  It would be so much easier to list the people I never want to work with again. The actors I have most admired are those I will never get the opportunity to work with because they were all movie stars of the 30's and 40's and are no longer with us or close to not being with us any longer. Gene Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cyd Charisse  But I have enjoyed working with many local actors including Jean McCormick, Rob Jones, Michael Buscemi, Fred Tubello, Staci Cobb, Tim Conway, Heather VanVelsor, Gene Forman, Rick Juliano, John Ferry, Gene Dicks, Michael Carbonaro,I'm sorry if I left out anyone by name.   It is by no means a personal slight.  Basically I've enjoyed working with just about everyone I've ever done a show with. (Is that enough of a disclaimer?)

I don't know that I have a best I have worked with, but the best advice I ever got was from Dan Lauria who told me not to edit myself if I make a mistake.  "Just take a breath and start over, that's what cutting room floors are for."  Unfortunately that doesn't work in the theatre, but I now try to move on rather than focus on what I did wrong.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
Favorite all time performer is Gene Kelly.  I don't have a favorite L.I. performer, but there are people such as Michael DeVito, and Ellen Dumlao whom I have never done a show with, but would love to have the opportunity to work with.


How do you maintain your career and do theater?
Well, I am trying to make my career theatre, so I'd have to say I temp to pay the bills and the rest of the time I'm out there auditioning.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
It's a good place to keep the skills sharp and maybe even pick up some new skills along the way.  You also get to meet some very cool people who may not otherwise perform.   But most importantly, it's just plain fun to do shows.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
For the most part yes, they always come see everything I do.  My father still asks me when I'm going to get a real job, but I think they understand the struggle of being an actress a little bit more now than they used to.

How has performing enriched your life?
It has taught me to be more outgoing.  I used to be painfully shy.  It has helped me to see life from many different angles, and has helped me to understand that everyone looks at a particular situation in very different ways.  I also find that being in theatre has allowed me to express myself in ways I normally wouldn't be able to.


What brings you the greatest joy?
Family and friends.  To me they are the most important things in life.

What really irks you?
People who speak condescendingly to others, having my time wasted at rehearsals, pettiness, and stupidity.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
Get a really swanky place of my own, pay off my parents mortgage, work less, and do more volunteer work, open my own production company and maybe my own theatre, and buy all of my friends some REALLY nice gifts.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Why not?  There's more to life than looks and at least with money you can do good things for other people. 

What's your favorite word?
I have a few, but I'll say PASSION this time.

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
Well, assuming that they'll let me in.Welcome, you've earned your stay.


Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
Well, I'm in George M! (The Yankee Doodle Kid) at Creative Ministries which opened on Jan. 26 and runs until Feb 23.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Hmmm, that's a tough one.  I don't know if it's been written yet.  I've always thought it would be really cool to have something written for me.  Any volunteers?