My Dramatic Roots
I come by my dramatic roots honestly.
My mom has shared with me her thoughts on getting out of Nazi Germany before WWII.
She was 10 when she came to the U.S., but she had to come by way of a several year stay in Belgium.
In talking to my mother about her past and growing up years as a child in Germany, she told how they had to flee Nazi Germany.
“My father put us on a train to Belgium because the Nazis were coming to kill us,” she said recently recalling those days.
She continued with “I was six. We were very poor. We had one three-legged chair. We had to leave everything behind.”
She said although her family had property in Germany, they were penniless when they left.
“We stayed in Belgium 3 ½ years,” she said. She also said she had a premonition when she would be able to leave Belgium and the family would be reunited.
“I used to dream I saw my father across a field with a door in a fence that was locked,” she said. “One time I dreamed a part of the fence was ripped that gave me hope someday I could get through. The following week I got a letter he was bringing half of us to the US.”
So even when they started to reunite, they could only do it half-way.
“We went on an ocean-going freighter,” she said. “My mother stayed behind with half the family.”
My mom always said I became an actress because of the fact she always wanted to be on the stage in her own dreams and hopes as a child. Mom was a beautiful young woman (and still is today) and helped put food on the table by modeling. When I was her age I also did “tea room modeling.”
This term refers to modeling in restaurants for small parties. I remember specifically the dressers for these occasions. They would come from the store sponsoring the party with the clothes they wanted us to model. I was 16 at the time and I got the jobs by working as a sales clerk in one of the stores that provided the clothing for the shows.
Now, I’m going back many years – 1976 to be exact. I remember one man associated with the sponsoring store that made me very uncomfortable with his attentions.
The modeling didn’t really lead anywhere for me though. It wasn’t until I went to Indiana University as an undergraduate student in 1978 that I really began to find my voice as an actress and singer and dancer. By my junior year I auditioned and was hired for the American Repertory Theater and began touring the tri-state area of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. It was known to us as ARTreach.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com