Playing the Castaway Servant: An interview with Cast Member Kate Eastman

Kate Eastman Headshot

With rehearsals underway for The Tempest, our marketing director sat down with each of our cast members and asked them to share a little about themselves, their history, and what they love about performing Shakespeare. We are thrilled to bring their stories to you.

Our next interview is with Kate Eastman, returning to Smith Street Stage to play Stephano in The Tempest.


How did you get into theatre, and acting in particular?

I think I got into it because I liked the attention and stayed in it because in order to act well you really have to make peace with yourself. It has helped and continues to help me accept myself for who I am.

You’ve done a lot of Shakespeare. What is it about classical theatre, and Shakespeare in particular, that attracts you as an artist?

I like how big the stories are in Shakespeare. Everything is life or death. And no cell phones.

You last worked with Smith Street Stage in 2012, playing Olivia in Twelfth Night.  What was that experience like?

It was a difficult year, and a difficult moment in that year. I got fired from my restaurant job when we were in tech, and I remember how kind everyone was about that and in general. I met one of my closest friends. I had a fat crush on one of the other actors, and we would drink beers and eat hot dogs at Gowanus Yacht Club after the shows and I would just stare at him and laugh really loudly at his jokes. There was a pair of little girls – sisters – who lived in Carroll Gardens, and they saw the show FIVE times. After every show they would tell me which part they liked best, and it was always different.

That year wound up being transformative in its difficulty – I broke up with my first serious boyfriend and applied to Juilliard and basically got the ball rolling on the rest of my life. Before I got cast in Twelfth Night I was thinking about quitting. But then I got to play Olivia, and I got to play her using all the things I felt – frustrated, bratty, impatient, headstrong. I got permission to keep going thanks to these lovely, passionate people. I’ll be grateful for that for the rest of my life.

How are you approaching the role of Stephano in this production of The Tempest? Is your approach different because the role is traditionally male?

Stephano is drinking for the entire play. My dream is to just be a female Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I. I’m not really thinking about gender as much as I’m thinking about Stephano’s circumstances. I’ve been a servant my whole life, and then suddenly I am alone on an island with nothing but a barrel of wine. That’s bleak. But then I’m not alone – my friend is here! And this strange dog-faced fish-person! And suddenly, with companionship, the island becomes this place where the rest of our lives never mattered, where I can reorder the hierarchy as I please. I can be king. My ego can finally explode and run the show. Also, I’m drunk!

Are there any other non-traditional roles, Shakespearean or otherwise, that you would like to play?

I would love to play Richard II.

Are there any actors, directors, or other artists who have been a particular influence on you or whose work you admire?

Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Feldman, Vivienne Benesch, Debra Monk.

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