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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

Katy Brown has been with Barter 20 years

Katy Brown (photo by Billie Wheeler)
Katy Brown (photo by Billie Wheeler)
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By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | January 30, 2018

Everyone in the region knows Richard Rose as the "face" of Barter Theatre in Abingdon. He's the theatre's Producing Artistic Director. Many people don't know Barter's three associate directors who have huge responsibilities in the Barter organization. These three stories introduce you to those people.

Katy Brown's father played a large role in her love of theater.

"My dad was a college professor, and he took me to see shows at the college where he worked whenI was little.I loved everything about it, butI remember one moment in particular. In the play "The Diviners,'a whole town of people was standing on docks when a young boy dove into the"water'; this meant everyone on stage held their breath, the lights went blue, and the sound was a muffled heartbeat. He rose for a breath and reality would return, everyone would shout and talk, and then he'd dive into the blue breathless quiet again.Iheld my breath along with them. Iwas hooked," she says.

A dancer growing up, she was a theater major in college, but got most of her training during her almost 20 years at Barter Theatre.

"Almost two decades of working and trying to figure out what it really means to get inside a story has been an incredible education," she says.

"The two biggest mentors of my career have been John Hardy who hired me, taught me thatIhad something to say and who has shaped every part of the artistIam, and Rick Rose who has given me an artistic home, trusted me beyond reason and continued to challenge the wayIlook at theater.

"I have been an actor, a costumer, a teacher, a choreographer, an administrator, a director, a casting director, a tour salesperson, a dramaturge, a spot light operator. Ihave done all sorts of thingsI never imagined — like helping design a Barter video game, organizing dog auditions, chasing people through a Barter haunted house, driving an enormous truck -I have mostly said "yes' and figured things out asthey came."

One of three associate directors at Barter, Brown assists with the running of the theater and is in charge of casting.

She also is the artistic director of the Barter Players and the Barter Players Encore Company. Together they will serve more than 100,000 young people this year.

She also directs six to eight plays a years in addition to her associate directing and artistic director duties.

This frenetic schedule doesn't leave her much time to spend with her family or relax away from work. She says her incredible friends and loved ones remind her to take a break and play a little. She loves to travel and keeps that a part of her life.

Her favorite moments of her job are about learning. "It's magic being in the room when something new is discovered — whether it's me or one of the actors or the audience.

"My very favorite experiences have been being part of a team that creates a brand new show from the script up. We started with an idea only, andI got to be there for all of it: commissioning, writing and evolution of the script, the building of the world, the creation of the music, the first concepts and choices that were ever made on the play.I've been lucky enough to do this several times, and it's always an incredible experience," Brown says.

One of her most memorable experience came from the audience.

"After "Charlotte's Web,'Iwent out to the lobby, and a little boy and his mom were waiting to meet Charlotte. The actor hadn't been assigned to meet and greet that day and, while they had met some of the rest of the cast, Charlotte was the one he wanted to see.Iwent into the theater and asked if she might be willing to come out to see him. When she opened the theater doors,the little boy saw her from across the lobby, sprinted into her arms and started talking to her like they'd known each other all their lives.His mom andIstood there crying and smiling.

"Ihave been incredibly lucky to have been a part of a place like this: a place where we can know our audience so deeply, a place where we can create together as a family of artists who know and trust each other, a place where theater is seen as a service first, a place that values growth above all-these are rare and incredible attributes in any job and in any theater," she says.

Brown helps with the casting of all the shows, and she produces all the Barter Players and Barter Players Encore Company shows.

This season, she directs "Shakespeare's Richard III," "Billy Goat Gruff: The Musical," "Steel Magnolias," "Great Expectations," "Wooden Snowflakes and" The Scarlet Letter."

Camille Davis thrives on her hectic schedule

Topics: Theatre

Katy Brown takes notes at rehearsal. (photo by Billie Wheeler)