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Traveling with the American Repertory Theater


It was my first professional gig out of Indiana University in 1981.  There was an audition call for “Art Reach” a professional children’s touring theater traveling in the tri state area of Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. I remember the audition was located at the college and it was run by the Artistic Director, Kathryn Schultz Miller and her husband Barry.

I had never done nor was familiar with children’s theater, but I knew from the description it was to be for school aged children and we would be performing in the auditorium of each school we were assigned to.

I remember the children being absolutely mesmerized at the idea of live theater being presented by an acting troupe coming to the school to perform.  It must have been a combination of real live actors performing in a sort of fantasy way for these kids.

The picture I enclose is of Hanzel and Gretel with me playing the witch handing a pie through the window to Hanzel.  I am sure you are all familiar with the storyline.

In the picture I am handing the pie to actor Dahn Schwartz, portraying Hanzel.  The girl who played Gretel was my friend Tracey Huffman.  We became great buddies throughout the tour but I have pretty much lost contact with her over the years. The fourth person in the acting troupe was named John and for the life of me I cannot remember his last name, this is perhaps because he was not a very nice person and the rest of us couldn’t stand him.  Now keep in mind we are traveling in a big bright red and white van with the name “ArtReach” printed on the side of the van prominently.

Keep in mind we were traveling in close quarters with meals and lodging paid for by the directors, and when I say lodging I specifically remember the four of us crashing on someone’s living room floor somewhere in Indiana, so it was not all that glamorous.

I also remember staying at hotels, but they were far and few between.  We were mostly put up at the friends of the directors’ houses on the road.

I just emailed the artistic director of the troupe asking her the last name of the actor John, who I distinctly remember as John “something.”  I didn’t have fond memories of him, nor I imagine him of me.

She immediately emailed me back and said, “It was Kathryn Joan P. Andrew Spira, Tracey Andrew Huffman, Dahn Andrew Schwarz and John Andrew White!  Sometimes you would all introduce yourselves that way to get John Andrew White’s goat.”

We couldn’t stand him, especially having to be with him 24/7!

Art Reach was basically an outreach program to children in elementary school, and I would like to think that it made a lasting impression on them.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site

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