Q&A with Katherine Keberlein

by Northlight Theatre

Actor Katherine Keberlein



Relativity, written by Mark St. Germain, is a new play now receiving a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere at Northlight. In the play, reporter Margaret Harding, played by Katherine Keberlein, questions Einstein about a mysterious piece of his past, revealing shocking secrets about his personal life. We sit down with Katherine to learn more about her career and what it’s like playing this character.

You’ve had a steady, full career. Can you tell us more about your life as an actor?

Working with Mike and Ann, I am learning to envision the span of my career in decades, not years – and yet, as my character says, every moment is new .. now, now, now!  What wonderful moments:  In my first four decades of a life in the theatre, I traveled the globe and lived a broad range of theatrical forms. I started in a tiny town in North Florida as a five-year-old singing a Christmas solo in my kindergarten play.  School and church brought everything from Ruth, to The Foreigner, to Little Shop of Horrors, culminating in a BA in math and theatre (and Polly in The Three Penny Opera) at Tulane University in New Orleans. I began to work professionally right after I graduated – including 10 months in Guatemala City as a runway model, casino commercials as a ghost pirate in Biloxi, Mississippi, musicals and plays in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and traveling the world with a 5 member group giving concerts from Beijing to Paraguay.  I’ve lived in Chicago since 2000, and since then have been in over 50 productions: farce and comedies – including The Odd Couple here at Northlight, Shakespeare with Oak Park Festival, music-centered work like Die Fledermaus and The Mother (Jeff award for principal actress … that was a fun night!).  But my favorites are the gritty, emotional dramas … like Smokefall at the Goodman, When the Rain Stops Falling (Jeff award for best play), 50 Words with Profiles and A Kid Like Jake with About Face Theatre.  There’s nothing better than being on a Chicago stage with a Chicago actor and losing yourself in the intensity of the moment.

You play the roles of Margaret Harding. Without giving away too much, are there any personal connections that you have with the character or the play?

I come from a family of academics (and I am married to one), so I fully understand Einstein’s mandate that we must never lose our holy curiosity to solve life’s mysteries.  And yet theatre has taught me the truth of Margaret’s statement – that we must also open up to life, stay connected to our fellow humans and encourage empathy.  It’s a delicate balance.

Mike is, of course, a Chicago legend and most of the audience knows him through the parts he’s played on stage, but you’ve worked closely with him twice now. Can you give us some insight on that? What’s he like in the rehearsal room?

Mike is brilliant and a joy to be around.  A great man AND a good man.  He prepares vigorously, but then relaxes and enjoys the moment on stage.  In Smokefall, his first-act character suffered from dementia and he would stare into my eyes – his daughter – and say:  “What’s your name?” with such fear and anger and frustration.  It broke my heart every night.  Then we would skip around backstage and tease each other about lounging in our skivvies, or sit contemplatively at the end of the night and enjoy a glass of Templeton Rye after the show.  We are kindred spirits… our favorite place to be is on the stage.