Katherine Trainor of Oak Park, IL had a once in a lifetime opportunity yesterday, January 28, at Saint Mary's College. The senior was one of just five students to perform for Tony- and Grammy-award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald in a master class on campus. McDonald is this academic year's Margaret Hill Visiting Artist at the school.
Katherine attended Fenwick High School and is the daughter of Matthew and Anita Trainor. At home she attends Ascension Parish. She is an English literature and English writing major with a minor in theatre performance. She plans to pursue a career in production, whether it is in acting or writing.
Here are answers to questions we asked Katherine about the experience of performing for Audra McDonald.
What was it like to perform in front of Audra McDonald?
Performing in front of Audra McDonald was like a dream. It was amazing to have her look me in the eye and talk to me specifically, but even more amazing to have such a transformation in my monologue because of her help. I was able to really lose myself in my character and my scene because of her natural abilities.
Were you happy with your performance?
I was very happy with my performance. I had written the character sketch for last semester, and I was so happy to show my work to Audra, and really bring it to life with her.
What was the best advice that you received from her?
The best advice that I received from her was if I truly want something, I should not question it. I told her about my passion for both acting and writing, and she responded with loving support. In terms of my monologue, the best advice she gave me was to think of the positive in the situation. My monologue ended on a sad and angry note, but in order to form a real dramatic arc, she helped me find the passion I had for the situation. Then I was able to act out the scene, without predicting what would happen next until I got to that point. It was a magical feeling to feel the difference.
How do/have such opportunities allow(ed) you to grow as an actress or singer?
This experience has helped me grow as an actor because I now feel more empowered and capable to break through my tendency to question myself, and to go for what I really want in life. Whether it is acting or writing, this experience with Audra has strengthened my self-confidence.
Have you seen Audra McDonald in any films/on TV/on Broadway? Which ones?
Before Audra came to Saint Mary's, I had seen her in Private Practice, but I had no idea until a few days before her visit of her true success. To be able to meet and work with someone who has completed so much in her life, while always being a truly grounded and genuine person was inspiring for me.
What do you appreciate most about her approach to acting or singing?
What I appreciate most about her approach to acting is her natural ability to find what needs to be worked on in a scene by only watching once. She was able to think back on her training in order to help each one of the performers improve. I appreciate her willingness to really get involved in the process, talking with us up close and improvising to help us make our performances real for those present at the master class, and for ourselves.