By day Kathy Kluska is a full charge bookkeeper in Olympia quietly working with numbers and columns. At night Kathy dances across the stage as any number of characters. Her life as an active community theater participant is a vibrant collage that could easily remain a mystery if you first met over a cup of coffee. I have been in Kathy’s body works classes over the past two decades (really) and only recently discovered her not so secret other life – singing and dancing in musicals.
Shy as a child, Kathy found great comfort in dancing, beginning classes at the age of three. It did not matter if it was ballet, tap or jazz. Fun for her was watching Fred Astaire movies. When she was a junior in high school in New Britain, Connecticut, Kathy performed in her first musical, The Music Man, as part of the ensemble. The school had no funds for a choreographer, so young Kathy coordinated the whole show and still remained in the cast.
Her talents were so well received that the following year she choreographed South Pacific and played one of the nurses. After high school Kathy auditioned for a space at the United States International University in San Diego. That landed her a partial scholarship, and for the next four years she was immersed in theater. Her resume filled up with playing Sandy in Grease and filling parts in Anything Goes, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Boyfriend, to name a few. Primarily Kathy was singing and dancing in musicals, but there were a few non-musicals, too. At the end of four years, Kathy received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater Dance.
Shortly thereafter she attended a family wedding at Fort Lewis. Kathy put away her dancing shoes, moved to Olympia and turned her eyes to accounting. She did, however, lace up her gym shoes and teach classes at Bally’s during the 1990’s. Shortly after the Hawks Prairie LA Fitness opened, she moved her classes there. “I love the people,” she said. Teaching body works classes provides a balance to the sedentary nature of accounting. She noted, “It’s social, physical and there’s music, movement and fun!” All the choreography and music choices are done by Kathy. She ordinarily packs in teaching six classes each week yet still manages to lift weights and do yoga outside teaching.
In 2003 Kathy was singing in the Unity of Olympia church choir. A friend and choir member introduced her to Kids at Play, a theater workshop for local youth. Working with children that summer reminded her how much she loved the theater. Kathy said, “I remembered. Theater feeds my spirit.”
Kathy was inspired to pursue opportunities in local community theater. She dusted off her dancing shoes and auditioned once again. Today she looks back to realize that this fall marks her eighth season and 24th show with the Tacoma Musical Playhouse (TMP). Energy at TMP rose to new levels these past few months, because last year’s season opener, The Addams Family, propelled this talented group to compete in the American Association of Community Theater’s AACTFest 2017. This national festival hosts performers and adjudicators (judges) from around the U.S. and is a culmination of competitions that start at a local level, progress to state and then move onto regionals. In June the cast, crew and a few special patrons of TMP’s The Addams Family arrived in Rochester, Minnesota as the regional winner.
At AACTFest, show rules are precise and compiled into a multi-page handbook. Everything is timed, and falling out of the rules puts you out of contention. There are ten minutes to set up, one hour to perform and another ten minutes to strike the set. All the props are put within a 10’ x10’ space, which may be taller but not wider or longer. Lighting and sound are also in the mix.
TMP’s The Addams Family won the best of show! Outstanding achievement awards were also given to the leading role actor, featured role actor, featured role actress, set design, sound design and costume design. Yes, there were ghosts in the show, but, as Kathy said, winning really had them, “floating on air!” The win qualifies TMP’s cast to perform the show at the World Fest in Venice, Florida in June 2018. Kathy is humbled to be working with “incredibly talented people.”
You might not be in Florida next June, but you can certainly see Kathy in TMP’s season opening show, Footloose. By day, she keeps accounting order at Capital Development Company. By night, she is Betty Blast. It is never too late to follow your heart. Live theater is a favorite activity for me, and we are fortunate to have numerous local options. Not only is it fun, it significantly supports our economy. Want to know how it does that? Click here. Enjoy the show!