Meet the cast and director of Vienna Theatre Company’s Other Desert Cities. In Part 3: Meet Kathy Ohlhaber.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell us where our readers may have seen you perform on the stage?
Kathy: My name is Kathy Ohlhaber and I was most recently in Rehearsal for Murder with the Reston Community Players in January. Before that I did shows in Maryland and West Virginia.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character? Do you share any similar traits?
I play Brooke Wyeth and I think there are definitely some similarities between us. I have some of her sarcasm, humor, and wit. I also battled depression as a teenager and underwent intensive therapy supported by multiple anti-depressants…so I have a very intimate understanding of a lot of what she is struggling with. She has a line where she says “most people don’t have to make a step-by-step decision to stay alive.” That really resonates with me because I was in the same darkness she has been in and it was day-by-day. Luckily for me, I have been recovered for about 14 years now! That is a large difference between us – she is still very much in the ebb and flow of the struggle and I am completely healed.
What is the show about from the point of view of your character?
Brooke is incredibly self-centered, which makes sense because she is so focused on her own issues and trying to keep the “delicate balance” of her life going. So for her I think it is all about the end goal of finding the truth about what is really going on with her family. That is all she cares about – just finally knowing. She mentions a few times she’s “trying to understand it” and she is constantly questioning and “torturing” everyone.
What do you enjoy about playing Brooke Wyeth in Other Desert Cities?
How complex and damaged she is.I think those types of characters are incredibly difficult to play and I love the challenge. She also has some very emotional moments which is great for any actor to play out.
What is the most challenging thing about playing Brooke?
I’ve had to work on finding a balance with her so she isn’t one-dimensional; she can’t just be angry all the time or sad. She has severe depression and has so many emotions towards her family, but she is also sarcastic, smart, and at times full of laughs. So it takes constant work to balance all those different emotions in a way that portrays a real person.
What is the best advice or suggestions that Director Rosemary Hartman has given you that has made your performance stronger?
She helped me find the love for the family. I was really struggling with Brooke feeling love towards her parents, especially Polly. But Rosemary helped me see that no matter what, Brooke is a daughter and is part of a family – as dysfunctional as they may be. That was a real breakthrough for me with this character and drastically changed how I was playing her.
If there were a song or title of a show associated with Other Desert Cities, what song and/or title of show would you choose?
I would choose “La Mer” by Nine Inch Nails. I think Brooke would like NIN and I read once that Trent Reznor wrote that song in a hotel room alone looking out at the ocean as he contemplated his own suicide. Now of course the Internet can lie, but I’ve always remembered the story. The song itself is so beautiful and ramps up into something upbeat. I think that represents this play so well – although it is dealing with very serious issues, there is still humor and love there – all is not lost.
This show has had several productions in community theatres and schools all throughout the DC Metro area in the past year. Have you seen any of these productions, and have you appeared in another production of Other Desert Cities? What makes this show and production of Other Desert Cities special or unique?
I have not seen any other productions of Other Desert Cities because I didn’t want to be influenced with how I’m creating my character. I think what makes this production so special is the cast. We all fit our roles so well and have such a wonderful dynamic between us as actors. Rosemary is constantly pushing us to listen to each other and really find the truth of our characters and we all take that to heart. I think that will translate to the audience.
What are the enduring themes and lessons of Other Desert Cities?
I think an enduing lesson is that you should be careful about the secrets you keep. Secrets can be incredibly damaging, especially in a family, and although honesty can be hurtful it can also be freeing. To be honest takes courage and also introspect into how you affect others. My life partner and I as well as my family and I have one rule and one rule only – that is to always be honest and it makes all the difference in my life.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Other Desert Cities?
I want them to feel right along with me – whatever Brooke is feeling. She goes through a roller coaster of emotions and I want to audience to experience that with me. I hope it transfers from me on the stage right into their soul. Good theater makes you really feel something. It is a true experience.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’: Part 1: Jessie Roberts and Susan d. Garvey.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Part 2: Director Rosemary Hartman By Richard Durkin.
Meet the Director and Cast of Vienna Theatre Company’s ‘Other Desert Cities’ Part 3: Kathy Ohlhaber.