We’ve invited our own Professor of Practice Jenny McKnight, who directs and also teaches Acting and Directing for the Department, to introduce her friend and colleague, Karen Janes Woditsch, in this first TGotW: Guest Artist Edition!
We Bloomingtonians are so fortunate to have Karen Janes Woditsch joining us this summer to play Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town and Betty Meeks in The Foreigner. When I was living and working in Chicago, I frequently ran into Karen at auditions – same age, same ‘type,’ so we were called in for a lot of the same projects. Then I started seeing her work onstage, and I was inspired and impressed with her range, her versatility, her connection to the material and to the other actors… she draws you in and takes you with her on her journey, which is what all great actors do. When Karen and I worked together on a production of Pride and Prejudice at Northlight Theatre in Skokie IL, I was overjoyed to discover that not only is she an amazing talent onstage, but she is also incredibly generous and loads of fun offstage. The student actors who have the gift of working with her this summer will learn so much from her professionalism, her craft and her kindness. And those of us in the audience are in for a real treat! – Jenny McKnight
When did first you realize you were a theatre geek?
KJW: I’m not sure I’ve ever been a “theatre geek”. But I remember seeing the film The Sound of Music on television when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. The next day in school I cut up white and black construction paper and stapled them together to make habits for my friends. Then we ran around the classroom singing songs from the movie. That’s the first time I so badly wanted to BE someone else.
(yes Karen, we think that qualifies.)
What is your favorite thing about the theatre?
KJW: I believe Story, in whatever form; told through theatre, novel, painting, song; is one of the few ways humanity gets the chance to view itself and learn about itself. And you cannot have theatre without an audience. The audience is the other character in the story. So you get the chance, night after night, to discover with an audience who we are. I think there is something terribly exciting about that. And sacred.
Do you have a favorite show or role?
KJW: Oh it’s so hard to pick one!! Some roles I loved doing because they were a huge challenge like Sister Aloysius in Doubt. But I may love Julia Child in Mastering the Art the most because despite her struggles, joy and perseverance is what she led with. So doing the show was a pleasure every night. Beatrice in Much Ado... is the role I would still love to do-and maybe Iago in Othello.
Who in the theatre world inspires you?
KJW: Emma Thompson is my hero. She has spent more time in film now than on stage. But she started out on stage doing sketch comedy with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (no comic slouches) as a member of the Footlights troupe. And I got to see her on stage in two productions with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, as Helena in Midsummer and the Fool in Lear. She was wonderful in both. I admire her because she always seems so real to me. She gives ‘warts and all’ performances (literally in Nanny McPhee). She combines her truth with wit and a heap of passion. I think she’s just gorgeous.
Do you have any words of advice for our theatre students?
KJW: I’m sure the students at IU could give me advice!! But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is 95% of good acting comes from fiercely listening to your scene partner(s) in the moment. And have fun daydreaming about your character when you’re off stage.
When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?
KJW: These things only happen in the sanctity of the kitchen. I sing a Colin Hay song called “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin”. And waaaaaaay back in the day, dance to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”. And I don’t even like Madonna….much.
* Karen Janes Woditsch appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association