EN ROUTE: Katie Hartke Finds Friendship & Love in Cariani's Plays

This is the first in our series EN ROUTE: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Cast of CUL-DE-SAC & their Journey to our Stage

I first worked on one of John's plays back in 2003, during my first season at HVSF (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival). The theater was experimenting with doing a series of 10-min plays before the actual curtain time for each show, and a short piece of John's called OBSESSIVE IMPULSIVE was included. I believe it was originally written to be one of the vignette's in ALMOST, MAINE, but ultimately didn't quite fit with the rest of the pieces (though I'd double check with John about that--I may be making that up). 

Anyway, it was a piece about two people who couldn't control their impulses and were in a recovery program to try to get them to ignore those impulses. The two meet each other and fall instantly in love, only to talk themselves out of it by the end of the piece, convinced it's the faulty impulses leading them astray. But ultimately I think the piece is about two people genuinely falling for each other. It was funny and fast and clever and sweet and sad, and I loved it. From that point, I knew I'd work on anything John wrote. In a serious case of art imitating life, I fell in love with the actor I played opposite, who became my husband five years later. So I don't think it's hyperbolic to say that short, sweet play had a major impact on my life. During the process, John and I became friends, and I made it my goal to work with him again any chance I got. 

"It was funny and fast and clever and sweet and sad, and I loved it. From that point, I knew I'd work on anything John wrote."

Over the years, we kept in touch. I auditioned for and did readings of some of his plays, and in 2013 was cast in his newest piece, LOVE/SICK, at Shadowland Theater. I was so excited to finally get to do a full production of one of John's plays, and he was co-directing it, which made it all the sweeter. It was another quick under-three-weeks rehearsal process, just as it will be with CUL-DE-SAC at Half Moon, and there was some re-writing going on. So we had to work quick. But I had a blast. 

John is such a fun collaborator, and extremely generous. He really values input from his actors and is always open to new ideas that spring up in rehearsals and performance. His goal is to serve the characters and the story, to do them justice. And he does so brilliantly. That show went great, and I was thrilled to finally have that long-awaited chance to work with him. 

Another opportunity arose to do a production of the same show in the fall of 2015 at Arc Stages, with a different cast and artistic team, and some rewrites and new elements to the play. I, of course, jumped at the chance. John was present for as much of the process as he could be (he was also starring in SOMETHING ROTTEN! on Broadway at the time), but it was another wonderful experience, and it was really cool to see how the play had changed and grown. It's rare as an actor to be involved in the different stages of growth with a new work, and I felt fortunate to experience that first hand with LOVE/SICK. And again, John. Just incredibly generous and oh so much fun to work with. I'm so excited I get another shot now. I'm thrilled to be doing this production of CUL-DE-SAC and I can't wait to see where it goes. If past experience is any guide, I have no doubt it will be a fun and rewarding journey. 

CUL-DE-SAC runs April 29 - May 14. LEARN MORE or BUY TICKETS.