Kate Dunn, Broadway Associate Choreographer.
[Interview Date: November 30, 2020]
Billy Elliot, Matilda, Groundhog Day and more.
Where were you on March 12, 2020, the day Broadway shut down? And what was the week leading up to it like for you?
I was in LA where I have remained during the Covid-19 pandemic. The week leading up to the stay-at-home order was surreal for me. I was fearful and spent hours trying to collect information about the virus; decide whether to travel to Australia or Sweden (where we have a farm); talk with and prepare my children for this unprecedented event, shop for food and supplies; prepare to teach online and talk with many friends and family around the world.
Did you anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
I did not anticipate Broadway would have shut down for this long. I am still surprised there is no movement or coming together to provide entertainment; keep artists employed. To be honest, I am surprised such an enormous, creative, and mobilized community cannot find a safe and creative way to continue in some capacity.
What have, you, personally, been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Over the past 9 months, I have been co-creating and teaching a new Musical Theatre Program at USC in Los Angeles. I have also been choreographing, writing, working out, reading, spending much more quality time with my family, educating myself more deeply about racial injustice, dreaming of creative projects I would like to pursue, and reassessing my life and what is truly important and what I want to do going forward.
How has what’s happening in the world affected your drive to create? Have you felt a stronger urge? A lack of inspiration? Or has it stayed about the same for you?
I have always felt a very strong urge to create, but finding time has always been difficult for me, raising 3 children and earning money. This time has provided that space and time to actually deep-dive into projects that have been on the back-burner for some time. I think that Theatre will have a great blossoming when we are able to return to live performance venues, and that greatly excites me. I have also really been inspired by the online creativity that has been created during the Pandemic.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
The hardest part has been the lack of socialization for my son and ourselves, as well, while not being able to travel internationally. I travel a lot and have family in Australia and Sweden, so it has been really tough not being able to spend time with them. The state of the world and how politics and the media have created such fear, division, and negativity in the world also greatly concerns me, as this time has made us dependent on our connections to the outer world, and they can be heavily biased or false.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
There have been many positives for me, and the greatest one has been a strong realization or remembering that we can only survive, as a species, if we work together as a community. We need each other, quite simply. I am most grateful for the racial justice movement and the environmental focus. It has lit a fire to be much more active and educated with both of these issues and the most important things we must fix during my lifetime. Equality for all BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities of all kinds; and a return to science and commitment to our divine planet.
What is your biggest worry right now?
My biggest worry is my family staying healthy, and financial security for the future. I am very blessed to be employed during this time, but the pandemic has shown us that nothing is permanent and everything can change in an instant.
What do you miss the most about theatre/your job/the arts?
I miss performing, socializing, being transported through the power of live theatre, space; the joy and spirituality of a communal experience. I miss hearing live music and experiencing the human experience directly.
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
I have so many favorite memories, to be honest. Probably one of the strongest is dancing with the Royal Ballet Company with our live orchestra. I never took that for granted. My favorite Musical Theatre experiences have been watching the amazing children I have worked with, grow and accomplish incredible things as artists and people.
What is the first thing you’re going to do when theatre is back?
When theatre is back, I am going to operas, musicals, dance performances, plays, concerts, galleries, and everything I can physically get to experience. I will also be hugging everyone the minute it is safe to do so.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
I encourage young artists to deeply focus in on their foundational technique work and become as proficient as they can in these areas. I also encourage them to dream and create their own work for both live and online platforms, so they are learning to tell their own stories and not wait for permission or employment. The world needs these stories.
Favorite Broadway Musical: Lion King, West Side Story, The Total Bent, Fella, In the Heights, Passing Strange, Billy Elliot, Once on this Island, Wicked, Chicago, Hamilton.
Favorite Broadway Play: The Inheritance, To Kill a Mockingbird, August: Osage County, Cloud Street, A Raisin in the Sun
Favorite Movie Musical: West Side Story, All That Jazz, Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors, The Wiz, Singing in the Rain, Stormy Weather, Fame.
Movie you think should be a musical: Do the Right Thing, The Point, Moana, The Princess Bride
Favorite Theatre Ritual: Saturday Night on Broadway and Dollar Friday
Favorite NYC Restaurant: Freeman’s and Sardi’s
Favorite Theatre Superstition: The Legacy Robe and not whistling backstage.