A Passion for Local Theatre

Tidewater Women’s Fran Ward talked with Kathy Strouse, director of The Women, a play by Clare Boothe Luce, which runs Jan.8-31 at The Little Theatre of Norfolk.

TW: Good morning, Kathy. I first recognized your name in an off-stage context as the author of Badd Newz: The Untold Story of the Michael Vick Dog Fighting Case.

KS: Good morning. Yes, I’ve been involved in animal welfare for 30 years. I serve on the Board of the Virginia Animal Control Association. (I am the legislative liaison.) I am the superintendent of the City of Chesapeake Police Department animal services unit. I’ve been with the city 22 years. That is my full-time job.

TW: Where does the theatre belong in your life?

KS: Theatre is my second passion. Theatre is my reward to me for all the stress for the work with animal control and animal welfare.

TW: How do you fit the theatre into your schedule? You recently directed Steel Magnolias, and your acting has won you three Portfolio acting awards.

KS: It’s a race! Sometimes I don’t eat. Many times I’ve gone to rehearsal in my uniform.

TW: Where are you from? Where did you go to school?

KS: I’ve lived in Norfolk since I was ten. I went to school in Norfolk. I don’t have a degree. I went to work. As far as theatre, I am self-taught. I learned from working with other people.

TW: I first contacted you after an evening rehearsal for The Women. You work long hours at your passions. Is rehearsal simply a matter of practicing saying lines?

KS: Oh, no! That would be a disaster. I hate it when someone asks, “How should I say this?” or “What should I do with my hands?” I tell the cast members, “Live in the story. Make it real. Make it about you.”

TW: Is there a process actors take to live in the story, make it real, and make it about themselves?

KS: There is a lot of conversation that goes into developing how the actors become the characters.

TW: Would you give an example?

KS: For The Women, the first assignment I gave the actors was to build awareness of the struggles of women at the time of the play, which premiered on Broadway in 1936. Did you know that in some states in the 1920s and 30s women weren’t allowed to drive? Did you know that even in the 1960s a single woman could not get a credit card in her name? A married woman could get a card in her name on her husband’s account with his permission. We do research and have a lot of conversations to establish an understanding of the characters in The Women, in the context of their situation and how situations change and context can change.

      Onstage we try out “What would happen if you do this? What would happen if you do this instead?” I like the process of rehearsal. We work with attitudes and gestures as well as with the themes within the play.

TW: What are some of the themes of The Women?

KS: The main ones are the ideal woman, the role of marriage, and relationships between women.

TW: What constitutes the ideal woman?

KS: In the context of the play, it was a woman who was married, had children, and cared for her husband while relying on him financially. Women were expected to be perfectly happy fulfilling that role.

TW: I see that there could be room for discussion of that definition in this day and age.

KS: Yes. That was the role played by the character Mary Haines. My goal is for this play to prompt much conversation among members of the audience as it did among the all-female cast members.

TW: The genre of The Women is “a comedy of manners,” which is characterized by witty dialogue. Will the audience find the dialogue of 1936 witty in 2016?

KS: Yes, including the out-and-out catfight.

TW: It sounds like a winner. Kathy, what would you like the readers of Tidewater Women to know?

KS: it amazes me when I meet people who say that they have never seen a live performance—a play. Live theatre is a wonderfully exciting experience and it is so unique. That experience you have when you watch a live play and accept what you’re watching is so unique that nobody will ever have that same experience again. The show will play another night, but the experience won’t be the same. That uniqueness is so exciting to me. I hope your readers will read this and say, “I’m going to give this live play a chance. I’ve never been to one, but I’ll give it a try.”

TW: That’s exactly why I write this column. I want the readers to share the joys of live performances, to live the story, to be the story, and to get away from their lives for a while. Thank you, Kathy, for all the wonderful work you do!

KS: Thank you, Tidewater Women! 

The Women • Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Jan. 8-31, 2016 • The Little Theatre of Norfolk, 801 Claremont Ave., Norfolk  • www.ltnonline.org • 757-627-8551 ($)

Contact Kathy Strouse at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fran Ward

Fran Ward is an artist and writer with a Ph.D. in Metaphysics (the body, mind, spirit connection). She is an active art and music lover who enjoys traditional cultural productions as well as seeking events off the beaten path. Reach her at arts@tidewaterwomen.com.

Website: peacegrid.com
back to top

More from Lifestyle

Weaving the Threads of Life

Weaving the Threads of Life

Art Folks 03-01-2018

Artist, managing editor of Op-Ed News, and author of 90-Minute Quilts, Meryl Ann Butler teaches and creates art in her studio in Ocean View... Read more

Instilling Excellence at GSA

Instilling Excellence at GSA

Art Folks 02-01-2018

Deborah Thorpe has been a passionate advocate for the Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) since its initial pilot program in 1984. Today, Deborah... Read more

Changing the Arts Landscape

Changing the Arts Landscape

Art Folks 12-30-2017

The Virginia Arts Festival was founded nearly 23 years ago by Virginia Beach native Robert Cross, a man many call a visionary. He stays... Read more

Artist Paints Eclectic Mix

Artist Paints Eclectic Mix

Art Folks 09-30-2017

One exhibit you won’t want to miss this month is artist Elaine Fleck’s captivating work on display through Oct. 21, 2017, at Norfolk’s Transit... Read more

In the Moment with Court Watson

In the Moment with Court Watson

Art Folks 08-30-2017

Court Watson grew up in Chesapeake and studied acting with the Hurrah Players. In college Court studied scene design and costume design and graduated... Read more

Juggling Art and Life

Juggling Art and Life

Art Folks 05-30-2017

A flash of saturated color; bold ink lines; a curvy, spirited mermaid; a grumpy blue crab who looks ready to pinch your fingers. You’ll... Read more

Saving Elephants with Art

Saving Elephants with Art

Art Folks 10-29-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen sat down with California-based artist, educator, and furniture maker Wendy Maruyama at the site of her latest exhibition, The WildLIFE... Read more

Theresa Caputo: Embracing Gifts

Theresa Caputo: Embracing Gifts

Art Folks 09-22-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen had the opportunity to chat with Theresa Caputo, star of TLC’s hit television series Long Island Medium, who appears in... Read more

Meet Chris Hanna

Meet Chris Hanna

Art Folks 08-30-2016

Tidewater Women’s Stephanie Allen spoke with Chris Hanna, artistic director for the Virginia Stage Company, about his experiences in the theatre business and VSC’s... Read more