We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie Banville and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think “work-life balance” has, in many ways, simply become a new way of pursuing perfection in the way we conduct our lives. The number of articles and posts I’ve seen promising creative “life hacks” to attain “optimal work-life balance” makes me think we’ve simply given the long-standing pursuit of perfectionism a new face and name. The concept, however, remains the same, and continues to lead people down the same fruitless path of trying to find a “perfect” balance in their lives that in many cases doesn’t exist. Instead, I try to think of work-life balance in terms of seasons. Before I became a parent, I invested most of my time in my work and I did so happily. It was a decades-long season, during which I pursued work and educational opportunities voraciously because it felt right in that season of my life. For a couple of years, I focused more on education and training as I pursued a master’s degree, which required a corresponding shift in time spent specifically on work opportunities. Now, I’m in the season of my life when I have a young child and the work-life balance has changed again, with far more priority and time given to my family. As life circumstances change, I think the work-life balance changes with it. For many theatre artists, this ebb and flow occurs multiple times a year as they begin and end various production projects. I think approaching it this way — as something you achieve over a series of cycles or seasons, as opposed to something attained on a day-to-day basis — frees me from calculating every moment and wondering whether I’m striking the right balance in how I spend my time each day.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I don’t know anyone in the theatre industry who hasn’t struggled. The odds are stacked against us as theatre artists and everyone who continues to make theatre happen does so through tireless resiliency, a deep sense of passion, and a desire to work for the sake of the art, not a steady paycheck. I’ve struggled to find my path over the years, but certain people and opportunities have cropped up at just the right times, letting me know it was time to pivot and change course. I switched my intended major from dance to musical theatre halfway through the college application process because my high school mentor, Carol Jones, convinced me I had the potential to do it despite the competitive nature of the field and how late I was getting into the game. When I showed up at graduate school, uncertain as to where I was headed next in my career, my professor Stephen Brotebeck convinced me that I had the skills to start choreographing and directing professionally and that I just needed to trust myself and my experience. When I choreographed my first show at Cygnet Theatre, Sean Murray essentially pushed me into the deep end one day to see how I worked spontaneously on my feet and his follow-up was, “See? I knew you could do it.” Every time I’ve shifted the trajectory of my career, I’ve questioned my qualifications in stepping into new positions. And every time, someone has reminded me that my past experience and existing skills would support me in rising to the occasion. I’ve met so many talented young artists who feel they aren’t qualified to even apply for certain opportunities because they lack formal education in a certain field or work experience in a specific role. I myself have been hesitant to pursue opportunities when they required work beyond my proven track record. I try to remind them — and myself — that every career has a beginning that starts with a first job, that all our experiences support us in making the leap to the next level of our careers, and that you absolutely should be reaching and aspiring in what you apply or audition for. If you say “no” to yourself — to going for that job, auditioning for that role, applying for that big grant — it’s over before it’s begun. If you say “yes” to putting yourself out there — even when it seems like a long shot — you might meet just the right person who’s willing to take a chance on you and help you reach the next level of your potential.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them to eat at all of my favorite places, which are mostly clustered in the University Heights neighborhood, where my husband and I spent the first decade of our time together. Bahn Thai, El Zarape, Red House, Kairoa, Plumeria, Madison — they all reside on the same city block and I’m convinced it’s the greatest block in San Diego to find excellent food. Then, predictably, I’d take them to the theatre. In non-COVID times, I’d have half a dozen shows to take them in any given week. It would be dinner and a show every night — I honestly don’t know a better way to experience San Diego. I mean, I guess we could go to the beach during the day — I hear it’s nice 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The list is long, but in the current moment of marking one year in quarantine, I would have to shoutout out to my husband and daughter. I know it’s cheesy, but these two keep me going every day with the hilarity of their antics. They’re like a comedy duo from the vaudeville circuit, putting on a new show every day and keeping my spirits up through the challenges of the past year.
Rachel Esther Tate