Interview: Kate Haas of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME At Phoenix Theatre

Kate can be seen in Phoenix Theatre's production of What the Constitution Means to Me.

By: May. 09, 2024
Interview: Kate Haas of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME At Phoenix Theatre
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Phoenix area theatre artist Kate Haas is a terrific performer with loads of talent and skill. What sets her apart is her enthusiasm for theatre as an artform and her joie de vivre and love of humanity. 

Her first stage experience came at 5 years old, playing the Narrator in her church's ABCs of Nativity play. With two whole lines to memorize (she still remembers them!), a love of performing was born. Growing up in Phoenix, she immersed herself in theatre and choir while in school. Arizona State University provided a BA in Theatre, and she further developed her skills at the Megaw Actors Studio. For 13 years, she worked as a teaching artist for Childsplay, inspiring young people from preschool through high school, and even supporting teachers in finding their creative sides. Eight years with Mad Science found her teaching science-enrichment programs, workshops, and assemblies that made learning exciting. Her talent as an actor, writer, and collaborator shines on local stages. Additionally, she currently empowers future doctors as an Adult Educator/Standardized Patient Trainer at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and supports the rising stars of Rising Youth Theatre. She took the time (and she doesn't have much to spare!) to answer a few questions.

JB: Tell me about a production you're especially proud of. What was your role, and why does it stand out for you?

Interview: Kate Haas of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME At Phoenix Theatre
Kate Haas rehearsing Opus 
at Actors Theatre of Phoenix

KH: I played Grace in Opus with Actors Theatre of Phoenix: this show is about a string quartet preparing for a gig at the White House, and delves into the artistic process, rehearsing, and interpersonal relationships between artists. Although these are common experiences for performers, it's a world that audiences don't often get to see (instead they just see the final product). The script required us to "play" instruments in various scenes (my character was a violist). In becoming these musician characters, we had a strings coach who taught us to "bow-sync" so we could (somewhat) credibly look like we were playing the music. It was a wonderful variation in learning "lines" and I loved sharing with audiences a behind the scenes story about art being made!

Describe a challenging moment or project you've faced in your theatre career. How did you overcome it, and what did you learn from the experience?

Interview: Kate Haas of WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME At Phoenix Theatre
Kate Haas (top, second from right) on tour with Childsplay

I've participated in 9 local and 1 national tour with Childsplay in my career, and I think touring is a unique and beautiful challenge that has made me a more flexible artist. As much as we prepare for each space we tour to, you never know what to expect when you arrive. Sometimes my castmates and I had to make set, blocking, and script adjustments in short periods of time so that each audience could experience this show in its best light within the confines of the playing space. In particular, I remember a space where we needed to access the stage on the third floor of a building, with the only way up being an outdoor fire escape (we discovered this when we arrived). Since our larger set pieces couldn't be safely carried up the stairs, we worked as a team to reblock moments in the show with the smaller set pieces (in less than an hour!). I love problem-solving and touring exercised these muscles on a daily basis. Those tour shows are some of my favorite performances I've done, with some of my favorite artists I've had the honor to work alongside. My countless memories from touring include the wonderful, the ridiculous, the strenuous, the profound, the heartwrenching, and the magical.

How would you describe your artistic style or the approach you bring to your work?

My approach is to always strive to make each performance fresh and genuine for an audience; no matter how many times I've done this show, this scene, this's the audience's first time seeing/hearing it!

What do you believe is the role of theatre in society?

Theatre entertains, theatre engages, theatre heals, theatre challenges, theatre invites, theatre mirrors, theatre provokes, theatre envisions, theatre debates, theatre connects

Walk me through your process. How do you go from concept to realizing a project on stage?

I try to read the script multiple times before rehearsal starts: for the overall story, then for my character arc and moment-to-moment. I like to start memorizing once I know my blocking, because I'm a kinesthetic learner and I want to connect text to movement. I try various techniques to get to know my character; one of my favorites is creating playlists of songs (either things my character would listen to, or a mini sound design of their journey in the story).

Collaboration is essential in theatre. How do you approach working with others, and what do you find most valuable in a creative partner?

I enjoy collaborating with different artists because I always learn something new! I think it's essential to try new ways of working and I love to create a dialogue with creative partners to problem-solve, fine tune, and play together in finding what works best for the current story we're telling.

What initially drew you to the theatre?

I love storytelling! Even as a child telling my parents about my day, I remember going into context and details and was excited to see their reactions when I got to certain parts. Creative play and performing was a wonderful outlet for me to express myself, connect with others (both onstage and in the audience), and tell stories.

You are a celebrated teaching artist. What do you love about doing that?

Theatre was huge for me in my education. The concepts I remember the most from school are things where my teachers found alternative and creative routes to learning. Theatre also made me feel more confident in public speaking, eased some of my social anxiety, and was just generally a fun way to spend time. As a teaching artist, my goal is to create a space where my students can find their own sense of joy, confidence, perseverance, bravery, and expression. I especially love "world-building" with my students, and creating stories and characters that may exist in that world. I think this gives them ownership of a piece of that world, and encourages them to imagine "what else can we create?"

How is it going with What the Constitution Means to Me? It seems thematically more than relevant right now. How does that feel for you as the central character?

This play has become so near and dear to my heart. I think many people in the audience are seeing glimpses of themselves in Heidi's story; I know I do. I've been captivated by theatre for social change since I learned about it in school, and my parents instilled in me a sense of civic duty, so this play is an intersection of those passions. My hope is that it inspires people who see it to keep talking to each other and asking questions of our government, each other, and themselves.

Where do you see your work in theatre taking you in the coming decade?

I'm extremely interested in arts integration in schools, as well as utilizing performing and visual arts to teach science, history, and math. I imagine I might be working on something related to this?

Complete this sentence: "The ideal theatre production is..."

"...creating a space for both artists and audiences to grow."

To see Kate in Phoenix Theatre's What the Constitution Means to Me, visit the company website


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