Alive in the Moment

Tidewater Women’s Fran Ward talked with Katherine Hammond, ODU’S Director of Theatre. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death this month, ODU has organized a week-long city-wide event: “Shakespeare 400 Years After.”

TW: Katherine, how does Shakespeare continue to be relevant today?

KH: He is one of the most famous writers in English. Many of his plays (17 comedies, 10 tragedies, and 10 histories) are classics. He gave people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t afraid to include current political topics.

TW: Like outspoken entertainers today.

KH: Yes, Shakespeare is also remembered for his way with words—both his invented words and his quotes.

Also relevant today in Hampton Roads, are surviving Elizabethan traces—seen in a documentary film and in historical exhibits from Jamestown and the Chrysler.

TW: How are you involved in the event?

KH: I am the producing director of the two-week ODU’s Much Ado Festival: Shakespeare’s Legacy and co-director of Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy “Titus Andronicus.”

The theatre festival is showcased by ODU Rep, ODU Opera, ODU Dance Theatre, CoreTheatre Ensemble, Warehouse of Theatre, The Governor’s School of the Arts, Hampton Roads Summer Theatre, and The Starving Artists.

TW: It sounds like full involvement!

KH: It is—both from within the university and from talented area professionals.

Many performances occur in a short period of time. A theatergoer during Shakespeare’s time might also have watched parts of 4 or 5 productions in a day. We are outside in daylight, but nighttime we plug in projectors indoors—adding another dimension to Shakespearean plays.

TW: Katherine, how are you prepared to produce such an extravaganza of performing arts?

KH: I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. In college, I was driven to be an actor, but I can’t say I was goal-oriented. I had a vague goal “to be an actor”—something I see everyday with my students at ODU. After my father became ill with ALS, I realized that that goal could have many meanings. Redefining myself as “an act-or,” learning to be alive in the moment, being aware of little things in life as much as big things—took years of work. I’m still practicing it daily. It isn’t easy.

I’ve had many careers. In fact, I came to academia rather late—after a career as an actor in the theatre and as production manager for the Oscars and the Emmy’s television and the Kennedy Center Honors. I went back to University of Georgia for my MFA. Then I became a teacher, a creative scholar. I am a digital media artist incorporating dramatic media with live performance. I also teach students to perform with media.

My husband, Lee Smith, and I have been making theatre together for over 30 years. We strive to create passionate conversations between audience, actor, and image with our company, Warehouse of Theatre. We create a world through media. The films are part of the production and primary to it. We juxtapose film and poetic language, interspersed with raw expression.

TW: It sounds like a complex and creative intermingling of techniques.

KH: Yes. That’s why “Titus Andronicus” seemed a remarkable fit for our company. We have interpreted it as a “black comedy” with plenty of blood effects. It is the tongue-in-cheek “Kill Bill” of Shakespeare!

Titus is a political exposé of corrupt leadership, misplaced moral righteousness—appropriate for 2016, right?

TW: As relevant as it was 400 years ago....What would you like the readers of Tidewater Women to know?

KH: Since I have had such a varied career path, I know how important it is to discuss goals—partly to verbalize ideas and partly to solidify them. I find it is important to share my past experiences in my field with my students. It allows them to understand that a life path can be varied and wide-ranging. It gives them insight into my expertise and passion for my discipline. While they may not opt for a degree in my discipline, they may discover which field brings them joy. It might take several tries. That is not failure. On the contrary, that is the very heart of learning to be a rounded human being.

TW: Katherine, you share sage insights. What is your first memory?

KH: I was sitting on the front porch in a thunderstorm, celebrating its power. My mother brought me a cupcake with a candle in it. She always made small things more. I remember it because she made it an event.

TW: That’s a recurring example of your life. You appreciate what is around you. What others see as background, you know is integral to the telling of the story. And you reaffirm your mother’s flair for making things more.

KH: I also want to say that Lee and I take works on festival circuits throughout the country. By bringing ideas back to our own artistic community, we can become more than we are locally. Tidewater is where we’re grounded. There is so much theatre and so many people here who love theatre. That’s what excites us. It lets us be more.

TW: Katherine, thanks for sharing your infectious love of theatre with Tidewater Women.

For more information:

• Much Ado Festival Week: Shakespeare’s Legacy, April 6-17, 2016 • •  757-683-5305 • Free & paid performances. Workshops, outdoor events, pop-up performances are free.

• Titus Andronicus, April 6-9, 7:30 p.m.; April 14 & 17, 7:30 p.m.; April 15, 4 p.m. • Goode Theatre, ODU • 5115 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk • • 757-683-5305 ($)

• Katherine Hammond
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fran Ward is an artist and writer with a Ph.D. in Metaphysics. She is an active art and music lover who enjoys traditional cultural productions as well as seeking events off the beaten path.

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

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