Interview: Kayli Jamison of CATS at Orpheum Theater

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By: Sep. 26, 2021

Interview: Kayli Jamison of CATS at Orpheum Theater

Well first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today!

Yeah, of course!

I'd love to start off by just getting to know a little more about you. How did you find yourself in the theatre world? Was it something you were interested in at a young age? Or where did your love of theatre come from?

Yeah! I mean, I was a kid who had tons of energy. I think it was something at my church where the kids just got on stage and just by chance someone in the audience actually ran a children's theatre program in the area. She saw me and I was just having a blast up there and she approached my mom and told her she thought I would really enjoy theatre and that my mom should look into the theatre program. And my mom jumped at the chance because I think she was always trying to find a way to funnel my energy but wasn't sure how to do it. So I auditioned for my first show there when I was ten years old. And then I've pretty much been involved in theatre in some capacity ever since then.

I love that! So, word on the street is that you might have a connection to Nebraska.

I do. I do.

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Absolutely! So I went to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and had a blast for four years. I actually wasn't sure where I was going to go to school, and I wasn't even sure if I was going to do musical theatre, but people from Nebraska Wesleyan came and recruited at my high school my senior year. And I thought these people were so great. I was kind of intimidated by the whole thing, but then these wonderful people showed up and talked to me and answered all my questions. After that I told my mom I definitely wanted to go visit the campus and see what it was about, and I feel like the moment I stepped on that campus was the moment I knew that's the place I wanted to be. Both Jack and Joan, who were the heads of the department at Nebraska Wesleyan at that time, really took me under their wing. I was double majoring and trying to do theatre and communication and they pulled me into their office and guided me along the process and gave me tons of encouragement at a point in my life where I really needed it because I had so many doubts about my ability to do theatre as a career and about making it my life. They really just kind of pushed me along and kept giving me amazing opportunities in the theatre and I owe a lot of my success to them.

After leaving college you went on to perform shows at various theaters around the United States. What was the journey like getting there? What were those experiences like for you both professionally and personally?

I moved to New York right after I graduated and for the first six months I just went to audition after audition and nothing happened. And I kept going, but there was that little part of myself that questioned what I was doing. But then after those six months I auditioned for a theatre called the Post Playhouse which is in northwestern Nebraska. I don't even think I did a wonderful audition but I had some kind of connection with Tom, who was behind the table, and he called me in and had me dance and kept calling me back and I ended up booking that job. So that was my first job ever and was kind of that boost that I needed that reminded me that I can go to New York and I can audition and I can get a job. And then I made connections there that got me jobs after that and jobs after that. I think as an actor you're always wondering if this is the last job you're ever going to get. And I think that the theatre community is so small and so caring, and I really think that if you just stay connected to your people that know you and care about you, those are the people who get your through. And as far as bopping around... I got married four years ago in April, which was also pretty soon after I graduated college. It's always been this kind of balancing act of taking jobs, and luckily my husband's job allows him to work remotely, but we're always trying to figure out how we can see each other and make sure that we're really investing in us as a couple and in our marriage. And he has known me since junior high so he gets that performing is something that I have to do. It's definitely a balancing act and we're talking about it constantly.

Speaking of auditions. What was the audition process of Cats like, especially given it happened in the middle of a pandemic?

So July of 2020 I sent in a long audition tape. They had all of these dance combinations that we had to learn, and then multiple songs that we learned as well, and then we put them all on tape. Since our apartment is too small to do much of anything in, I was rehearsing on the public rooftop of our New York apartment. And I borrowed a friends really large kitchen to actually film the tape because I needed the space to actually be able to leap and jump and dance. So it was like all a process to even get this tape made. I sent it in, and then I didn't hear anything until like May of 2021. At that point I was kind of assuming it wasn't happening, and really no theatre was happening at the time because of the pandemic. So in May of 2021 I get this email that says they're having in-person callbacks and everyone is going to be masked so it's going to be really safe, and we'd like for you to come in and dance for us and sing for us again. So I came back in and it was my first audition since the pandemic began, and I was surprised at how grounded felt. I think the time away with close friends and family did something really good. I went in and didn't have expectations and I was able to go in and just be me, and I fell in love with the creative team and the show and my role. But after that last audition it was three weeks before I heard anything. And I kept thinking that I really felt like I got that job, but then three weeks went by and I wasn't sure anymore. But then I finally got the call, which was just the best call to receive ever.

Speaking of your role.... Can you tell me a little about your character and how you've created that character on this tour?

So my role is Jellyrolum. She is one of the slightly older cats in the tribe and she's very caring and motherly. Her main job is to take care one of the older cats named Gus, who needs a lot of assistance and help, and she is kind of his right hand person and cares for him. And in terms of digging in and finding the character. I definitely go through and will look at the script and figure out all the things that my character does, and I try to see what the similarities are and kind of connect the dots. I noticed she's always kind of looking out for the kittens and the older cats. She's very selfless and thinking about others all the time. So little things like that can be my way in to finding her. And then we had such a lovely rehearsal process. We learned the show pretty quickly, and then we got to just run the show which I feel like is the most valuable because you get to just jump in. I think I find the best things when I'm really on my feet and I'm just present and in the moment with my other cast mates.

Cats has been around for decades and still finds new audiences and fans. What do you think it is about this show that keeps people coming back to the theatre time and again?

I really just think the show is spectacular. It is spectacular to watch. It is spectacular to listen to. And I always say that this show is the most in every way. It's the most dancing and the most singing. And the costumes are very exciting and vibrant and fun. And I think that all of those things combined really create something spectacular for the audience to watch and be a part of. I have friends who are coming to see the show who have never seen it before and I keep telling them that it's an experience. Cats is an experience like nothing else. I think there's just something magical about it. I don't know how they did it with this show, but the combination of what they created is still spectacular to audience nowadays.

Any last thoughts for the Omaha readers and audiences?

Yeah! I will say that this cast is really phenomenal. Every single person that I'm working with is talented in multiple ways and is so dedicated to this show. This show asks a lot of the performers and especially the dancers. They are so committed that it creates a really fantastic experience for the audience.

Well thank you again for your time. We are really looking forward to having you all with us next week as you open our Broadway season here in Omaha.

Thank you!



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