Sarasota Songbird

FST Improv is now in its 19th year and has more than 20 members! To help you get to know the improvisers better, we’re going to be sitting down with cast members and picking their brains about improv, taking risks, and their lives offstage. Next up is Sarasota star Kathryn Parks.

FST Improv performs every Saturday and select Fridays in FST’s Bowne’s Lab Theatre. To see what shows are lined up for this weekend, click here.

Image result for stage
Left to Right: Brian Rudolph and Kathryn Parks. Photo from Venice Theatre.

You have performed along the Gulf Coast at many theatres, including FST. What are some of your favorite roles?

I loved playing Anna in The King and I at Venice Theatre. Wearing the hoop skirts, singing classic songs by Rogers and Hammerstein – I actually felt like royalty and hope I can someday revisit that role.

I also loved playing Violet in Violet, a musical about a young woman who plans to see an evangelist hoping he can heal the scars on her face. I was enchanted by the music, the story, the journey she goes on, and the acting challenge. Often, I play prim and proper characters, but Violet was much more earthy and textured. That was great fun.

Then, I got to play the lead in My One and Only, a Gershwin musical that is not done very often. I loved getting to tap dance in water and sing some of my favorite tunes. Gershwin is like chocolate for me.  (Watch clips of Kathryn performing here!)

You wrote, produced, and starred in 50 Words, a short film shot in Sarasota. Did you find yourself using your improvisation skills on this or any of your film projects? 

I think the fundamental basis of acting and improvisation are the same – reacting moment to moment. Improvisation has been helpful in recognizing what my instincts are telling me and then acting on that.

Left to Right: Jamie Day and Kathryn Parks. Photo by Becca Jennings.

What are your strengths as an improviser? What are you best known for?  

I think I’m really good at staying tuned into the big picture – what are all my scene partners doing and how can I help them? I’m pretty well known for my vocals, which come in handy in musical improv. I’ve been studying voice since I was 13, and I’ve certainly gone through ups and downs as I’ve learned to become as versatile as possible. It’s great fun to let loose and sing off-the-cuff when performing in musical improv shows like When X Meets Y.

What’s the coolest thing about Sarasota? About FST Improv in particular?

I think we take for granted how many wonderful opportunities there are for artists. A friend of mine recently moved to a city several times larger and were disappointed that the musical improv scene wasn’t as developed as it is here. Though there are many opportunities for artists, Sarasota still has a long way to go in certain areas, especially in valuing the many independent artists who live here. FST Improv and Will Luera have done a remarkable job connecting with talent, nourishing them, and giving them the chance to shine.

Watch Kathryn and the rest of FST Improv make scenes, songs, and characters up on the spot! FST Improv performs every Saturday and select Fridays in FST’s Bowne’s Lab. For tickets, click here.