BY CARY GINELL
Eighteen-year-old Caitlin Kilgore has been passionate about musical theater for as long as she can remember. Caitlin comes from a show business and musical background: her father, Brian, is a professional percussionist who plays in movies, television shows, commercials, albums and concerts. Mother Kim, a violinist, does some studio work as well, but mostly works as a private violin teacher as well as teaching for elementary schools and a youth orchestra at Cal State Northridge. Caitlin’s older brother, Austin, is currently enrolled in the USC School of Cinematic Arts. After spending three years at Thousand Oaks HIgh School, Caitlin spent her senior year at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan. She graduated from high school last month and has returned to Thousand Oaks to pursue a career in theater. We spoke with her about her passion and her goals for the future.
VCOS: If one knows anything about your family, it comes as no surprise that you’ve got your mind set on a show business career as well. Can you talk about how that all started?
CAITLIN: Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by the arts, music, going to concerts or things that my parents were doing. At an early age, I loved singing. I did it constantly and drove my parents a little bit crazy. In kindergarten, I started piano and did that for about three years, then moved on to violin. Then I stopped violin in middle school and did a little bit of percussion at T.O. High. But I’ve always sung and loved the stage and going to musicals, seeing professionals work all the time. That’s what I thought life was about. I didn’t really know anything else. So I just knew that I wanted to be a part of that.
Seeing my parents, the way they work in the industry – freelancing – not knowing where their next job is, gave me an understanding about the struggle that goes with an artistic life, but also the fun. So much of it pays off because if you do what you love and work hard, I just knew from the beginning that I wanted to do it too.
VCOS: Have your parents supported your desire to do what they do for a living?
CAITLIN: Definitely. They just always knew that both of us, me and my brother Austin, would be involved in the arts. They didn’t push us or anything; it just kind of happened naturally. Whatever our passion was at the time, my parents completely supported us. My dad’s dad told him, “I love that you’re doing music and I think it’s wonderful, but maybe you should have a fall back, like dentistry or something.” And my dad said, “OK, I’ll take that into consideration, but I don’t think so.” I think you might as well work hard and give it 100% of your focus and effort.
VCOS: Did you have a lot of experience in high school?
CAITLIN: Kind of. I did a little of everything in high school. Academics took a lot of time; I was in all AP and honors classes, but aside from that, I did choir at school and outside of school with the Los Robles Children’s Choir, I took music lessons, dance lessons, dance teams, I did marching band for my freshman and sophomore years, and then I did theater classes as well, so I covered just about all of the art forms, which only fed my passion for theater. I loved music and I loved dancing, which are both big parts of my life, but all along, I knew that I wanted to be on stage doing theater because that’s what I want to do as a career.
VCOS: What made you decide to go to Interlochen for your senior year?
CAITLIN: Before my sophomore and junior years I went to a summer camp at Pepperdine University for acting before the camera. Last year, I went to Interlochen for a musical theater intensive that helps prepare kids for college auditions. I saw the campus and met the students who went to the academy and I thought, “This would be amazing to attend school here.” It’s one of the best arts academies in the world. Being there really sparked my interest in it. So after that, I went to Cal Arts for the rest of the summer to do theater. So I kept doing theater all summer and thought that if I went to Interlochen, I’d be doing it 24/7, and since that was my main interest, I thought, why not apply? There was a small possibility that I would get in so I just applied, and I got in! Then I got a merit scholarship, which allowed me to go because it’s a pretty expensive school. A lot of the students at Interlochen are either one or two-year students. There are usually 15 freshmen, 50 sophomores, about 100 juniors, and maybe 200 seniors. As a senior, I only had to do two academic classes, while the rest were theater classes. That got me prepared for the college audition process and opened my eyes to the world of theater. I had been thinking a certain way before I went, but being there totally changed me.
VCOS: What shows did you participate in?
CAITLIN: In the fall I did a show called The K. of D., which stands for “the kiss of death” – it was kind of an urban legend that we did without any props or light cues. It was just kind of telling a story to the audience. We used percussion to add to the mystical, mysterious tone of the whole thing. That was really interesting. From December to February I was also involved with Coriolanus, a Shakespeare tragedy. We did it as a modern/futuristic view, where no one really knew where it was taking place. That was really fun. I hadn’t done a whole lot of Shakespeare, but the teacher was so, so amazing. He was really passionate about it, which was cool to see. Then we had a one-act festival, and I played the lead in one of those, called Criminal Hearts. I played a 33-year-old crazy woman (laughs) whose husband stole all of their stuff and left. She kind of has a mental breakdown and spends the majority of her time sitting in her apartment, eating pizza, drinking Dr. Peppper, and sharpening pencils all day long to relieve her anger. So the set consisted of one mattress, 54 pizza boxes littered everywhere, Dr. Pepper cans, and pencils. It was very, very strange. But it was a really funny show. It starts with a burglar coming to rob her, but then he turns the lights on and realizes there is nothing to take because all there is are pizza, Dr. Pepper, and pencils. So the robber and the crazy woman, whose name is Ata Windust, become friends. The main theme is knowing that you’re not alone in the world, because even though she feels abandoned by her husband, this robber becomes her friend. The last line is “You know, you ought to start eating from all food groups.” It’s just a nice moment.
VCOS: Did you do any musicals?
CAITLIN: Yes. The final thing we did was Into the Woods. I was an understudy in that, but at the last moment, I got moved up and got to play Snow White, just a very small part at the end. But it was so much fun doing that musical. We had a rotating set that was on three different sloped levels, with trees, and it rotated while the characters walked through the woods so it gave you the impression that the woods were always changing. We were actually living in the woods between two lakes at Interlochen, so we told the director that we wanted one of the teachers to take us out in the middle of the woods so that we’d get a feel for being in the woods alone in the middle of the night, so we did! So the cast took a midnight walk through the woods, and that was so cool. A good character building exercise. It was pitch black, we ran into bats and probably a skunk, but it was so dark, we couldn’t really tell what it was. It could have been a porcupine. We were really thankful to the teacher that took us out.
VCOS: Did you have any idea what you would do when you came home?
CAITLIN: During the college process, I had my eye set on one school: USC, which is where my brother is at, doing cinema. I thought that it was close to home and the perfect school for me, where I could do theater and also learn about film. I thought about having cinema as a minor. Eventually, I want to start a production company with my brother, where he would do the directing and producing and I would help with casting, coaching actors, and maybe do some screenwriting. That’s all in the future, but that’s my ideal. Who knows? So I’d get my income from that and then go to acting gigs on the side.
VCOS: What are your plans for this summer?
CAITLIN: Coming off of a year full of theater, I want to do a show. After being home for three weeks, I realized that I missed doing it every single day. I want to have it more in my life. I’m going to try and do some improv classes in L.A. at Upright Citizens Brigade, but then I also want to do a show.
VCOS: Any favorite roles that you’d like to play?
CAITLIN: Yes. Christine in Phantom, Beth in Little Women, Abigail Williams in The Crucible, and anything in Spring Awakening.