We had the good fortune of connecting with Award Winning Director/Choreographer, Cate Caplin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cate, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
I learned very early on in my life that pursuing a career in the arts not only requires great focus, discipline and commitment, but also high levels of training, performance experience and sheer tenacity! There’s no getting around the importance of continued study and practice, no matter how good you are (!) and because art is highly subjective, there’s no guarantee that that you will be hired or that your work will be picked out of the crowd or acknowledged. So, if you don’t absolutely LOVE the process and the nurturing and development of the art itself, you might not have what it takes to survive the long distance journey required of an artist or someone in the entertainment industry.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have spent the last 20+ years deeply ensconced in the theatre and film making community both here in Los Angeles and in regional theaters coast to coast. I change hats alot, sometimes I am just directing, sometimes I am just choreographing, sometimes I am doing both. I am also a dance and acting coach, a published writer and a producer. I am most happy when I am creatively working, so I’ve learned to ebb and flow with all different sorts of opportunities and assignments as they arise within this ever changing landscape. I love live theatre work, but over the pandemic I was directing full length classic plays on Zoom to serve subscribers of Inland Valley Repertory Company where I have directed and choreographed over the years. This time directing for them, the plays were shot on green screen and edited together like hybrid films! I Directed Arthur Miller’s The Price, Noel Coward’s Private Lives and Jim Brochu’s Zero Hour. I was truly grateful to be working on these wonderful scripts during the lock down – It’s so important to keep your creative muscles in motion…. Now I am in rehearsal choreographing several dance sequences within the Mark St. Germain play, Dancing Lessons at Northcoast Rep and I am also in pre-production for a feature film I will be directing for a film network called We Make Movies scheduled to shoot in the new year.
What sort of training did you have when you were starting out and where did you get your professional start?
After many years of ballet lessons, character dance training, jazz classes and tap, I had the honor of studying at Interlochen Center for the Arts, the Royal Academy of Dance in London and various dance camp intensives including an exchange program in Southern France. I danced professionally with North Carolina Dance Theatre, The Metropolitan Ballet and Ballet West before coming to New York and receiving my Equity card dancing with and touring to Japan with the American Dance Machine. It was through Lee Theodore, the Artistic Director of the company, that I met and trained with the Legendary Adagio Dancer, Francois Szony. This unique and stylized coaching with Francois set me apart from other dancers. Lee featured us in a show at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC called “Steps in Time with the American Dance Machine” and also on a PBS Television Special called “From Ballroom to Broadway and Back with the American Dance Machine.” Because of this special dance training, I was drawn into the competitive ballroom world and became a 34 times Regional and International Theatrical Ballroom Dance Champion and also a two times Winner of Star Search and a Multiple US Open and World Champion in Theatre Arts Adagio.
When did you start getting into more theatre work and what were some of the highlights of your career?
I continued to take voice lessons, on camera commercial training and studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute and HB Studios in NY. In-between time, I shot a handful of commercials, performed in music videos and acted in films. I gained additional professional experience after several years of performing in regional summer stock shows and local theatre productions and was honored to partake in an International Tour of the Broadway revival of West Side Story conducted by Leonard Bernstein, and directed by Jerome Robbins.
Where did that lead you next?
Moving to Los Angeles, I did some theatre and television work, then booked a 22 city tour with “Disney’s Symphonic Fantasy” (featured as Princess Jasmine) starting at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and ending up at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. I then explored film making studies at UCLA which later lead to writing, directing and choreographing my first feature film and receiving an award from the LA Film Commission for my work as a Writer- Director- Producer & Choreographer. I’ve continued to be ensconced in the theatre community here in LA, Directing and Choreographing, working with new writers, developing and producing projects and seeing as much creative work as possible from fellow artists and local producing organizations to support their work and also to keep visually observing and learning. At present, I am a Directing Member of the West Coast Actors Studio, an Associate Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers and most recently was awarded the “Lee Melville Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community”. My latest chapter of studying and training has been in Intimacy Direction and Choreography, and in Consent Based Protocols and Practices for theatre, television and film work.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Call me crazy, but for the best pancakes and prices in town, I love to go to Norms Diner.
For entertainment in a unique setting, I recently went to a Musique Concert at the BEAUTIFUL Huntington Gardens in South Pasadena which I highly recommend for anyone who appreciates the peaceful serenity of Japanese landscaping.
It is a much appreciated haven for reflection surrounded by beauty….
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I feel incredibly blessed to have come from a family who cherishes and respects the value of the arts in all its forms. If it wasn’t for that emotional support and unwavering encouragement from both my parents, I could never have ventured out into the uncertain world of professional dance. I would never have received the training and traveling experiences I enjoyed, I would never have been exposed to the expert teachers and mentors that guided me along the way throughout my development and I would never have had the courage or strength of mind to go after my dreams, first as a professional dancer, and then as a director, choreographer, writer and producer. This is not an easy advocation to pursue and you are rejected many more times than you are selected – My middle brother Michael used to joke with me and said one time that if we as artists sat at a table gambling over a hand of cards and lost as many “rounds of the game” as we do living as an artist, we’d most likely walk away from the table! It can feel at times like you are buying lotto tickets with your life. There’s no guarantee of winning, it’s not necessarily fair and so, many people DO fold their hand and walk away from the game. Some come back after a hiatus, others fall by the wayside.
Pursuing a career in the arts is not easy. It takes drive, it takes patience, it takes hard work. It takes showing up on time and collaborating and communicating well with others. It takes knowing how to be a team player. Injuries and missed opportunities can be challenging and disappointing of course, but the relationships, friendships and memories made while devoting everything you’ve got emotionally, physically and spiritually in order to create and express your art reaps rewards that words can’t explain.
– Cate with partner Murray Phillips dancing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center
– Cate performing in the West Coast Premiere of the Broadway Show “Swing!” at Musical Theatre West
– Cate with partner Gary Franco outside the Los Angeles Music Center
– Cate with partner Murray Phillip Winning the US Open
– Cate at The Hollywood Bowl in a rehearsal as Princess Jasmine with partner Tom Slater dancing to “A Whole New World”, part of a 22 city tour of “Disney’s Symphonic Fantasy”|
– Cate with partner Gary Franco outside the Los Angeles Music Center
– Cate with Legendary Adagio Dancer, Francois Szony in “Steps in Time” with the American Dance Machine at Fords Theatre in Washington DC