Cinnamon Schultz talks acting, KC and Kansas City Actors Theatre

Before the growth spurt in area theaters, far fewer options existed for local actors. So in 2004, the founders of Kansas City Actors Theatre got into the business of growing jobs. And KCAT’s intent to keep things local remains true today.

“We make a point of hiring all local artists whenever possible,” KCAT core member Cinnamon Schultz (a familiar presence on KC stages) tells me in an e-mail.

As KCAT’s 12th season launches with I’m Not Rappaport August 10-28 (see for info on the 2016-17 offerings), Schultz answered The Pitch’s questions about KCAT past and present, its national recognition by the American Theatre Wing, and her own career track.

The Pitch: What originally lit the theater spark?

Schultz: My father was a theater professor and director, and my mother was a music professor and singer. So, saying I grew up around the arts is a bit of an understatement.

Where did you train?

I received my bachelor’s degree in acting from the Univesity of Kansas and my MFA from the University of Iowa.

What’s the worst thing that has happened during a performance?

An actor leaving the stage in the middle of a scene due to illness.

What’s the best thing?

My husband proposing to me during a preshow of Cabaret in graduate school.

What brought you to KC?

I originally came to KC to be with my husband, Brian Paulette. He was finishing up his degree at the University of Kansas, and we thought Kansas City would be a great place to start building our résumés. We talked quite a lot about moving, but we were lucky enough to get a lot of acting work here in KC. Eventually, we decided that since our ultimate goal was not to be famous but simply to be working actors, leaving and starting over didn’t make sense. Plus, the theater and arts community in Kansas City is stupendous. Not to mention it is a wonderful area to raise our children.

Six years ago, you appeared in the film Winter’s Bone. How does film work differ from or inform your work on the stage?

Film acting is completely different from stage acting. Neither is better than the other, just very different. When you’re working on a stage production, you have at least three weeks of rehearsal where you get to know your character and their relationship with the other characters. And when you perform, you get to go through a journey with the audience right in front of you. In film, you’re lucky if you even have a cast read-through before filming starts. Often, you don’t even meet your fellow actors until you show up on set. Yes, you get to shoot each scene several times, but you don’t have the same luxury of weeks of getting to know your character, so you really have to come in prepared. You also have to be very mindful of every move, every gesture, for continuity. Plus, you almost always shoot scenes completely out of order, so you really have to have a rock-solid grasp on the story and your character’s arc through the story, so that you can jump from scene to scene and tell the story right. It’s a very fun challenge.

When KCAT was formed 12 years ago, local productions were using fewer local actors. In more recent years, a variety of companies has sprung up and given local talent more opportunities. How does KCAT fit into KC’s current theater picture?

We are thrilled to see how much KC’s theater community has grown over the last decade, and we’re also thrilled to be a part of that growth. We make a point of hiring all local artists whenever possible. If you don’t call Kansas City home, you’ll have a hard time getting hired at KCAT. The only exception in recent seasons was when we brought in Paul O’Connor to play the father in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, but we did that only because the local actors who fit the role either turned it down or weren’t available.

How long have you been a “core member” of Kansas City Actors Theatre?

This is my fourth year as a member of the artistic committee.

KCAT has founding members and core members, yet some founding members are active in productions. How is “core” determined? How often does it change and what does it reflect? 

“Core members” is just another way of saying we are members of the artistic committee for KCAT. Most theaters are run by a single artistic director, while KCAT has an artistic committee. We serve the same function as an artistic director (selecting the plays for each season, holding auditions, etc.). We simply do so as a group. The “founding members” are the artists who originally formed KCAT back in 2004 and composed the original artistic committee.

Being on the artistic committee isn’t all sunshine and roses — it’s a lot of meetings, work, time, and more meetings. Even though most of the founding members are no longer on the artistic committee, most are still involved in productions in some way from time to time. Last season, The Island was directed by one of our founders, Walter Coppage. Mark Robbins, another founder who has recently departed from the artistic committee, just started rehearsing as an actor in I’m Not Rappaport

As far as where we fit in KC’s current theater picture, we tend to stay pretty true to our name. We don’t do musicals. We’re firmly planted in the “straight play” end of the theater spectrum, and we keep our shows relatively simple to keep the focus on the acting, rather than putting on a big, showy spectacle. Since its inception, KCAT also has always strived to pay our artists a “living wage,” which is really only possible if you keep your productions as simple as possible.

Last year, the American Theatre Wing awarded KCAT one of 12 National Theatre Company grants. What is the impact of that grant on KCAT’s work? 

It hasn’t changed how we pursue the work. We continue to feel the responsibility to create a rewarding artistic environment for local artists, which is what got us the American Theatre Wing recognition in the first place. And I suppose it’s a bonus to have more people paying attention on a national scale to what we are doing.

KCAT also has signed a five-year lease with Union Station. How will having a more permanent home at City Stage affect KCAT?

City Stage at Union Station has always been our “home.” It’s where we’ve performed the vast majority of our shows. The lease we recently signed with Union Station was for office space. This is a great move for us, having our office so close to the theater. But that said, we’ve always had to share City Stage with other companies, and that will continue to be the case. Would we, at some point, like to be the sole company using City Stage? Sure, that would be great, but at this point, that’s not on the table.

What’s the best part about what you do?

Working with people who I would consider family.

What’s the hardest part?

Time away from my children.

What’s one of your favorite roles?

Catherine in the show Proof at the Unicorn Theatre.

In what show will we see you next?

A Streetcar Named Desire [September 7-25], as Blanche DuBois, at Kansas City Actors Theatre.

Kansas City Actors Theatre

Categories: A&E