A conversation with ArtReach Founder Kathryn Schultz Miller - Part I
After the interview with my friend Jen Rowland of The Glove last week, I reconnected with my first theatrical employer, the founder of the American Repertory Theatre (ART) company’s ArtReach Program.
This is part one of an interview I had with her about her career as playwright, artistic director, publisher and marketer of her 56 original plays.
In my third year at Indiana University there was a call notice for auditions for ArtReach. Upon reading further I understood it was a children’s touring theatre company which was a part of the American Repertory Theatre.
At the audition, I met Kathryn Miller, and read for her from a piece she gave out. Kathryn was very bubbly, funny, smiley and very encouraging to an actor just starting her career. I’ve always known her as Kathryn (same spelling as my name) but she refers to herself now as Kathy, which I will do as well to keep from confusing interviewer and interviewee.
Here’s a short bio: Kathy co-founded the professional ArtReach Touring Theatre and served as Artistic Director for over 20 years. Most of her 56 plays have been published and have won countless awards. Her play A Thousand Cranes was performed at the Kennedy Center, the Sundance Institute, and has been produced thousands of times the world over. She has won playwriting fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council and the Post-Corbett Foundation. Kathy lives in Cincinnati with her husband Barry, who handles orders, soundtracks and website design for ArtReach Children’s Theatre Plays.com.
Kathryn: How did ArtReach Touring Theatre get started?
Kathy: I always did theatre in High School with Young People’s Theatre in Cincinnati. In college many of my friends from those days got together and started American Repertory Theatre (ART). We had three projects, Shakespeare in the Park, a Mainstage Children’s Theatre program and a program that took shows to schools. While there had been a lot of government funding for the arts for years, that was suddenly pulled and many arts companies across the country closed up or reorganized. ART broke up, Shakespeare folded, a friend took the Mainstage and I took ArtReach. I felt ArtReach was the best bet because it could bring in its own income from the schools and did not require maintenance of a building. And I was right, at its height the company had a budget of half a million dollars while many other theatre ventures failed.
Kathryn: How did you come to Indiana University to recruit? (Because that's where I auditioned for it and was hired. I think that audition was in 1981.) As a side note I will tell you that because of this job, I didn't finish college at the time, although I did complete the degree in 2001 at Empire State College where I'm happy to say all my credits matriculated.
Kathy: Congratulations on the degree. I had no idea you put off school for ArtReach! (Hmm, not sure if I would have suggested you do that.) We went to a lot of effort to get good actors. You really can’t just put an ad in the paper and expect you’ll find enough people in Cincinnati. Each state usually has auditions, mostly kids graduating that year from college. And then there are regionals such as the Southeastern Theatre Conference. We went to all of those looking for the best. You were one of them!
Kathryn: Stay tuned for part two next week!