BWW Interview: Cathryn Wake in CONSCIENCE at George Street Playhouse 3/3 to 3/29
Joe DiPietro's new play, Conscience will be performed at George Street Playhouse (GSP) in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) from March 3 to March 29. Directed by the Playhouse's Artistic Director, David Saint, the cast features Harriet Harris, Mark Junek, Lee Sellars and Cathryn Wake.
On June 1, 1950, Senator Margaret Chase Smith stood on the Senate floor and delivered her "Declaration of Conscience '' in a historic moment of political courage. This sharply written new play by Tony winner Joe DiPietro takes you behind the scenes of 1950s Washington in the days leading up to and following the singular speech that rattled McCarthyism, Congress, and the nation itself.
Wake is an actor, singer, and multi-instrumentalist specializing in originating roles in new work. Broadway: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Off-Broadway: The Other Josh Cohen, The Fantasticks, The Hello Girls (World Premiere). Regional: The Glass Menagerie (Pittsburgh Public), Well-Intentioned White People (Barrington Stage, World Premiere), Ebenezer Scrooge's...Christmas Show (The Old Globe), The Second Girl (CATF), Loch Ness (The Rev), The Other Josh Cohen (Paper Mill Playhouse), The Seedbed (NJ Rep, World Premiere), ...Percival von Schmootz (Adirondack Theatre Fest), Agent 355 (Chautauqua Theatre Fest, World Premiere). TV: "Madam Secretary", "Glee", "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" (Featured Vocalist), "America's Got Talent", "The Today Show", "Good Morning America", "The 71st Annual Tony Awards". Cathryn also appears on two original cast albums where she is credited as both cast/vocalist and musician: The Great Comet Original Broadway Cast Recording, The Hello Girls Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording. BFA Pace University, LAMDA alum.
Tell us a little about your education and how it has influenced your career.
I am a product of public school arts education. Drama Club was where I was introduced to plays and musicals, orchestra was where I was introduced to instrumental music, and English class was where I was introduced to Shakespeare. I am confident that, had my schooling not included arts education, I would not be a performer today. Once I decided to make the jump (or leap...or blindfolded, head-first plunge?) into acting, I attended Pace University in New York and LAMDA in London for my professional training.
Wow! Your credits are both varied and impressive. What advice can you give people interested in having a career in the performing arts?
Gosh, thanks! Regarding that variety, I'm very grateful to have performed on and off-Broadway, on TV, and regionally with about equal amounts of plays and musicals. Advice I would give people interested in having a career in the performing arts is to get very specific about what you want out of your career. Simply wanting to be on Broadway isn't specific enough. What types of work are you interested in? What steps must you take to get there? What does your timeline look like? Set some goals, break them down into projects, and don't leave things to fate.
We know this is your first experience with GSP. How do you like working at the NJ theatre?
I am having the time of my life here! David Saint, our fearless director and artistic director of George Street Playhouse, immediately made me and my fellow debut-ers a welcome part of the family. The Arthur Laurents Theatre is a stunning new venue and it is thrilling to be one of the plays in its inaugural season to break in those boards. I have seen Midwives, also directed by David, in the same theatre, and was blown away by how smartly the space framed an already gorgeous production.
Tell us a little about your role as Jean Kerr in Conscience.
Jean Kerr was first research assistant, then chief staffer, then wife, then widow of Senator Joe McCarthy between 1948 and 1957. She was a staunch anti-communist, and many historians feel that, due to her vigor for the cause, she may have been the one to lead Joe to adopt the crusade against communism as his chief "issue". In other words, she's the brains behind the operation, and many of the strategies used in Joe's attacks against his opponents were Jean's work. She is headstrong, tactical, and ruthless.
Why do you think Joe DiPietro's play is so important for our times?
This play takes us through a terror-ridden time in our country that parallels the fear rampant in our present day. In the early 1950s, the world was on the brink of nuclear war, Russia conquered Eastern Europe and expanded its empire, and countries were falling to Communism. Senator Joe McCarthy used this fear to gain political power and accuse many of his opponents of harboring Communist ideals - effectively ruining their reputations and ending their careers - with little to no evidence. Facts are secondary and unimportant: instead, assuaging fear through hatred and brash action takes precedence. Joe DiPietro has written a heck of a play and we continue to tweak through rehearsals. He is a dream to work with.
Can you share any of your plans for the future?
My plans for the future include continuing rehearsals for this play, tech, previews, and opening! After opening, I will probably treat myself to eight hours of sleep. :)
Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know.
"Thank you so much for having me, guys! Hope to see you all at the show!"
Tickets for Conscience by George Street Playhouse housed in the beautiful, new NBPAC are available by visiting https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/ or by calling Patron Services at 732.246.7717. NBPAC is located at 11 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick in the heart of the city's bustling entertainment and restaurant district and very convenient to mass transit and parking.
Photo Credit: Deborah Lopez