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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

Blog

Kat Griffin: Trans and Non-Binary Actors to Know

Angela Tricarico

Interview by Anna Altheide

Kat Griffin (Photo by THEGINGER3BEARDMEN for The Ensemblist)

Kat Griffin (Photo by THEGINGER3BEARDMEN for The Ensemblist)

What musical had the biggest impact on you growing up?

That’s a hard one, when I was little I wasn’t really listening to musicals. The first musical I was ever in was Seussical as a Wickersham Brother and my family took me to the see the touring Broadway shows when they would come through Pittsburgh. Wicked, Phantom, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, etc. My favorite show was always just whatever I was in at the time. Beauty and the Beast, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Oliver!, Camelot, and Jesus Christ Superstar were some the musicals I was a part of before I went to college but I don’t think I would say any of them had an impact on me outside of “oh, I like to sing and all my friends are doing this so I will too.” That’s not to say I wasn’t obsessed with theatre. I would let whatever I was doing at the time 100% take over my life, I would learn the entire show front to back every vocal part, every line that belonged to other characters, I remember 13-15 year old me telling the adult actors playing Horton in Seussical or Nancy in Oliver! their lines when they forgot or hadn’t learned them yet. I just loved it. It was all I did with my time; listen to the cast recordings of whatever I was in. I would stay at my high school theatre until late at night helping to build sets and costumes, I would get there as early as I could in the mornings before weekend rehearsals, It was the only place I ever wanted to be. As far as impact goes though, I didn’t see a musical that legitimately made me feel like I belonged in theatre until Fun Home.

What’s your dream role and why?

Another hard one! Being Nonbinary I have a lot of dream roles that are rarely cast with people like me. Toby in Sweeney Todd, Boq in Wicked, Orpheus in Hadestown. I am also a classically based actor. I love Shakespeare and Ibsen and Chekov. I want to play Hamlet, I want to play Lewis in King John and Hal/Henry V. This is not to say I don’t want to play female characters as well, I would love to be Guinevere in Camelot. I would love to play Joan of Arc, Mary In Jesus Christ Superstar, Alison or Joan in Fun Home. Medium Alison was my dream role for the past three years or so but I have kind of had to let it go after so many callbacks where it’s me and a hallway of femme girls in flannels. Feeling like an outsider while auditioning for a show that I once felt so validated by was something that really shaped my first two years in New York City and sent me down a long path of self-discovery. Once I was told I came across as too gay for Joan. So it’s been a struggle, there is such a ways to go with queer casting and with opening doors for actors outside of the cis/het mold. 

Right now I’m passionate about new work. I want to originate a role and help bring diversity and inclusion to the stage. Yes I would love to play Jack in Into The Woods or Mark in Rent or LeFou in Beauty and the Beast or *insert any role typically cast with cis men here* in a regional production (like really, call me) but I am even more passionate about crafting new and inclusive stories. Let’s go, workshops and new shows! 

How do you believe your identity has played a part in developing your current career?

t’s gone from hindering me and causing me serious anxiety and depression to elevating my career and making me very proud. I struggled in college and in my first year and a half in New York City. I did not know how to genuinely be myself and also be a “marketable” actor. After four years in a college program that made me feel like there was not a place for me on stage while also confusing me with affirmation that I was talented and that my work in class was good but then rarely giving me performance experience, I was very much fed the narrative that I was talented but people did not know what to do with me (a narrative that has continued to this day). Within an educational setting I learned that who I was was fundamentally not marketable or castable and that was baggage I had to unpack. My first professional New York City theatre gig was a nonbinary character in a AEA Workshop of a new musical where the team referred to the ensemble in genderless terms: “high voices/low voices/ok people singing on the tenor line, etc.” That experience was really healing and validating for me. From then on I realized that I needed to stop working against myself and I proudly began combing my identity with my career.

Kat Griffin (Photo by THEGINGER3BEARDMEN for The Ensemblist)

Kat Griffin (Photo by THEGINGER3BEARDMEN for The Ensemblist)

What advice or wisdom would you give your younger self, or a young person in a similar situation?

Stop feeding yourself the negative narrative. Find your people. Realize your worth. 

Its easy to only hear the negative voices, the audition monitor who returned my headshot to me and said “Sorry, men are at 2pm. We are only seeing women this morning.” The agents who affirm that I am talented but that they just don’t know what they would send me in for, my fellow actors who side eye me when I attend a male ECC. There will always be people who do not believe in you, so find the people who do. Finding queer/trans casting directors, theatre companies, writers, producers, and teachers who are passionate about what I do, about new work, diversity, and fresh faces and voices has changed my life. Realizing my worth and not being afraid to say that I am talented, and I am nonbianry, and I am castable has changed my life.