Into the moment

Stretching can be a thrill, actress finds

Nancy Kartholl, photography by Ellie Bogue

Nancy Kartholl, photography by Ellie Bogue

With her first official stage performance, in a St. Jude school production of “The Wizard of Oz,” Nancy Kartholl learned that her acting career might lead her toward character roles rather than some of the coveted leads.

“Naturally I wanted to be Dorothy, and naturally I was cast in my first of many character roles: the Cowardly Lion. I guess I could roar better than I could be perky and pretty. I guess that’s a metaphor for the rest of my life. “

That outing was hardly her first foray into performance, however. By that time she had already established herself in a theater a bit closer to home – her family’s carport – with original variety shows.

“The audience would sit on lawn chairs in the driveway. Oh, my, these had to be simply torturous events for the neighbors, but they were good sports. I think I was actually a fairly shy kid without a lot of self-confidence, so I suppose finding something I loved to do where I could please people – that instant gratification thing – was pretty cool.”

That gratification still provides a thrill today as Kartholl continues to take local stages in a variety of roles.

“I still dig the instant connection of being on stage, the connection to your fellow actors and to the audience, right here, right now, totally in the moment. How often in our daily lives are we totally in the moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about what’s next? Whether you are a performer, an audience member or fulfilling a backstage role, the theater can bring you into the moment like nothing else.”

A graduate of Bishop Dwenger High School, Kartholl pursued two degrees at Barat College in Lake Forest, Ill. One, in acting and directing, was of her choosing while the second, in business and management, was at her mother’s urging. She concedes her mother’s wisdom now as she balances her daytime gig as merchandise coordinator at Do it Best with her continued love of theater, which she shares with her husband, Thom Hofrichter, managing artistic director at First Presbyterian Theatre. Kartholl credits him with helping to instill greater confidence in her abilities.

“I brought my own hard work ethic to the table – thank you, German heritage and Catholic schooling – but whenever I coach myself as an actor, it’s his voice I hear in my head. You can’t play a feeling. You can only play an action, an objective. Find the action within the text. Acting is just talking and listening, listening and talking. Don’t answer the phone before it rings. Earn the pauses, and then really take them. Fill them. Prepare your mind and body to perform from a place of energized calm. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself and move on, because you’re never going to have a perfect performance.”

Kartholl also acknowledges one of her favorite experiences was playing Amalia in “She Loves Me,” a play directed by Harvey Cocks at Arena Dinner Theatre. Although she nearly turned down the role, but she now cherishes her memories as well as another lesson learned about performing.

“It was a thrill to sing those notes every night, and I learned that stretching yourself doesn’t have to be grueling. It can be exhilarating. And, let’s face it, if you fall on your face, it’s only a play, for gosh sakes.”

First appeared in the July 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.

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