BY CARY GINELL
One of the great things about Ventura County theater is that there is a never-ending progression of young talent that keeps coming up through the ranks. Two of the more impressive young performers we’ve seen recently are Katy Jarvis and Parker Harris, who play the two lovers in Camarillo Skyway Playhouse’s production of The Fantasticks. We first saw Parker as Riff in West Side Story (Rubicon, Summer 2015) while Katy is a new find, a vibrant actress who belies the fact that she is still just sixteen years old. We sat down with both Katy and Parker, who have become friends in real life through their shared theatrical experiences on stage.
VCOS: We’ve interviewed pairs of performers before, but we haven’t talked about how pairs work together and thought we might explore that first. Did you two know each other before appearing in The Fantasticks?
KATY: Yes. We’ve known each other for three years. We’ve been in two shows together before this one. The first was Light in the Piazza, which was at Ventura College in 2013. He was Giuseppe and I was Franca; we were a married couple, and we had to fight all the time, so we became really good friends. Then we did West Side Story together at the Rubicon Theatre Company last summer. I was a Jet girl and he was Riff.
VCOS: Did you audition together for The Fantasticks?
KATY: We both knew about the show and talked about it with our friends and thought it would be fun to do it together.
PARKER: I’ve looked at this role before. The first time I saw it was in Santa Barbara at the Ensemble Theater Company. I loved the music and everything about it, and I thought a lot about playing Matt: “One day, one day…” and I finally decided to go for it.
KATY: We came to the audition together.
VCOS: And fortunately, they cast you together.
KATY: Yeah, that was really cool!
VCOS: Tell me about your working relationship. Since this was the third time you were in a show together, were there any patterns you had developed in rehearsing?
KATY: Luckily, over the past three years, we had become really good friends. We would meet outside of rehearsal and go over certain scenes and talk about it. This show is very much about growing up, so for example, if you look at the scene in Act I with “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and then in Act II, “They Were You” you can see the changes they’ve gone through.
VCOS: Have they grown or does the show just reveal more about them?
PARKER: I think they’ve grown, especially since the whole thing was in El Gallo’s hands. He knows what’s going to happen, he knows what to do, and there are definitely different ways of learning what he’s trying to teach them, but for me, I’m going out there into the real world, thinking it’s going to be an amazing place, only to find that everything is a complete opposite and flipped upside down.
KATY: I think what happens in Act II is that they learn that what they wanted most wasn’t what they imagined it to be, and because they learned that, they learned more about themselves, and that’s what caused them to grow.
VCOS: Why do you think The Fantasticks has been so successful for so long?
PARKER: It’s a very minimalistic show, the set, the props, everything – a small cast – and I think that when they first did it, they did it just like we did, with just a carnival setting. And I think everyone likes seeing that lesson taught again.
KATY: This is a very universal story that everyone can relate to. There are the parents, there are the kids who are trying to find themselves. There’s the college student…
PARKER:…who thinks he knows everything.
KATY: And I think it’s such a feel-good show, too, and you leave the show with a lesson. It’s just so beautiful and the music is beautiful and it kind of reminds you what it was like to fall in love and grow up. There have been many different productions of it, but each of them is a little bit different because you can make so many different interpretations from it. There’s a lot of room for people to fill in the blanks.
VCOS: Have you been able to relate to your characters?
KATY: Well, I’m sixteen and Luisa is sixteen, so I’m at the same stage in my life as she is. I can relate to her big dreams – “the world’s all beautiful” – that sort of state of mind. But I can also relate to the fact that since I’m going to graduate from high school soon, I’ll be discovering the real world. So there’s a bit of a reality check there. You have to prepare yourself that everything is not going to be beautiful. There are going to be hard times and things that aren’t like what you had dreamed, so that’s what I’ve tapped into the most.
VCOS: Where do you go to school, Katy?
KATY: I go to El Camino High School at Ventura College, so I take college classes and have been able to do shows there as well, which has been nice.
PARKER: Matt is a biology major so he comes across like that, like he knows everything about the world. He even says so in his first speech: “I know the way things are.” Even though he his straightforward and certain about everything, I relate most to his reaction to Luisa about new things that cause her so much joy. He breaks free and becomes a new person.
VCOS: How old are you, Parker?
PARKER: I’m twenty-two. I’m going to Ventura College and am “almost graduated.”
VCOS: What are your plans after high school, Katy?
KATY: I’m looking to go out of state after graduation. I have some coaches to help me with my college auditions and it’s very scary. It’s a terrifying process and very competitive, but that will be in the cards for me in the next year. My favorite college right now is the Manhattan School of Music. They have a brand new bachelor of fine arts program, but I have lots of different schools to look at.
VCOS: Tell me a little about the folks you’re working with at Camarillo.
PARKER: I think that right from the very beginning, I loved Michael [director Michel J. McGraw] right from the start. He has a vision for the show, but he is open to working with us and our ideas.
KATY: Being kind of a younger director allows it to be a lot more of a collaborative process. He has so many ideas, like the troupe of performers coming through and reviving this circus is something we think about in the back of our minds. He even said on opening night, “Imagine that this is your last chance to save this place.”
VCOS: I hadn’t thought about that. When you use the word “circus,” it makes me think of how elephants would sit on a platform, waiting for their turn to perform. And the characters of Bellomy and Hucklebee do exactly that. They never leave the stage and just sit on stools with their backs to the audience until their next scene. What do you guys think about his idea of using a mother and a father instead of two fathers?
KATY: Working with Laura, who plays Hucklebee, Luisa’s mother, is such a joy. She’s such a beautiful person and so much fun, so it’s been really easy to build that motherly connection with her, especially with Luisa’s “I want my way” teenager kind of thing. And it’s been easy because she’s also a teacher.
PARKER: Actually, they both are. Dale Alpert, who plays Bellomy, is a teacher, too.
KATY: It fits so well now that I can’t imagine doing it any other way. It works and it feels right.
VCOS: How about working with Jeff Berg as El Gallo?
PARKER: Jeff is a very talented guy; his voice is fantastic.
KATY: I admire how big his voice is.
VCOS: Have you seen him do Gilbert and Sullivan?
PARKER: No, but he talks about it all the time.
KATY: I saw him in The Pirates of Penzance when he played Frederic and I remembering thinking how lovely his voice was.
VCOS: Can you compare the challenges between doing The Fantasticks and West Side Story?
PARKER: Ever since I did West Side Story, and going through what that show required, physically, from everyone, everything has been different.
KATY: I think it changed both of our lives.
PARKER: I’ve always worked really hard on every character I’ve come across, but every single person in that cast bonded so well because it was a huge team effort getting all those people on that stage. I remember rehearsing “Cool” and that was absolutely insane. There were two or three straight days of just doing that song over and over and over.
KATY: One rehearsal we did for “Cool” took an entire eight-hour day. Just that dance. It was summer and it was hot, and we had one fan for the whole cast. It just reinforced for me the importance of hard work and having so much pride in doing something you believe in. Ever since then, I’ve had so much more pride in what I do.
PARKER: I remember Karyl Lynn Burns telling us, “You will have this music embedded within you for the rest of your life.” All shows do stick like that, but this show was different. Everything is still there with me, all the dance moves, every little thing. And I’m able to take all that hard work and all that energy and carry it into another character like Matt. Even with a simple show like The Fantasticks, you can still put all that energy into just staying alive on stage.
KATY: I didn’t sing that much in West Side Story, but The Fantasticks shocked me with its difficulty. It’s opera, for crying out loud. It was all-over-the-place-crazy, and part of the reason it’s so amazing is that when you first look at it, it seems like a simple show, but when you take it apart, it carries such a giant message with it. At the end of Act I, when we do “Happy Ending,” all of the notes are on the word “ha” and it goes all over the place.
VCOS: Last question – it’s a hackneyed one, but it always produces a good answer. Where do you see yourselves in five years?
PARKER: You go first because you have you life perfectly laid out.
KATY: Well, I want to go to college, a four-year program, so in five years, I want to be graduated with a BFA and envision myself moving to New York through whoever I meet in college. A lot of friends who go to theater college together end up moving to New York together.
VCOS: I imagine you were a fan of Glee.
KATY: I was! Get a group of friends, rent an apartment together in New York, and do Glee all over again! But seriously, I want to see if I can make a career for myself there. If I’m lucky, in five years, I’ll be working on Broadway.
VCOS: Do you have a fallback?
KATY: I’m very good at makeup and have taken classes at Ventura College so I’ve been thinking being a freelance makeup artist would be something I could do while auditioning. I’ll figure that out in time.
PARKER: For me, I see myself steadily working. How this last year has been, from show to show, it feels so right to keep it going and building my resume. I feel myself still doing theater and as much of it as I can. I’ve thought a lot about going to a conservatory; it has piqued my interest so much and know that that would be one of the best decisions I could make. But I also want to keep working. It’s all hard and up in the air, but I see myself successfully working and being happy doing the thing I love.
The Fantasticks plays through July 10 a the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage Calendar.