Local woman, teacher shines on the stage

Angie Mayes • Updated Sep 3, 2017 at 10:00 AM

There’s a theatre teacher at Wilson Central High School who not only teaches, she is also an expert at doing.

Katharine Boettcher, who goes by Katharine Ray at the school, has involved herself in the theatre since she was a young child. Her mother was an actress, and Boettcher remembered time backstage, watching the magic of the theatre happen.

“I remember my mom doing ‘Man of Le Mancha,’ and I was backstage,” she said. “I had memorized the entire cast album by the time I was 6 years old, and I acted out all the characters. I started doing theatre very, very young – singing, acting and performing.”

She put the acting bug on hold in middle school when she decided she wanted to become an astronaut. However, “they told me I couldn’t, because I had a stigmatism and was blind as a bat. That dream was crushed.” 

But it didn’t take long for her to go back to the theatre.

“I went back to theatre and music, because that’s where my heart has always been,” she said. She attended a performing arts high school, Lee High School, in Huntsville, Alabama. Then she went to New York, where she trained with well-known teachers.

Boettcher, who has a great resume in television, musical theatre, concert and oratorio, studied with the Metropolitan Opera soprano Suzanne Marsee while living in New York. Marsee was the understudy for well-known opera singer Beverly Sills.

“She concentrated on the classical part of my voice,” Boettcher said. “But my ‘Broadway belt sound’ I learned when I studied with her and others. It’s basically the same, but it’s a difference of placement in your mouth and throat.”

Boettcher’s voice and the range she can sing are immense. Her ability makes her a “dramatic coloratura,” she said.  That is one of the rarest voice styles with a wide-range of abilities.

Her last voice teacher called her voice a “freak of nature.”  Her range is from D3, which is below middle C on a piano to A flat, which is above high C on the piano. “That’s unheard of,” Boettcher said her teacher told her.

After staying in New York for a while, she returned to Alabama to complete her bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Alabama.

She started working at Wilson Central about four years ago, she said.  She is also active in the theatre community in Middle Tennessee since she and her husband moved to Tennessee about 10 years ago.

She was involved in about six productions in Middle Tennessee this year, including the ones she worked on for the school.

“This year, I did ‘Mary Poppins,’” she said. “Then I did ‘Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang.’ We just closed ‘The Secret Garden.’ I did ‘Nuncrackers’ over the Christmas break. I also did a small theatre production of ‘Nice Girls Don’t.’”

In addition to her work on stage and in front of the camera, she also uses her certificate in film to do backstage work in makeup, special effects, costuming and assistant directing, she said.

“I’ve gone from in front of the camera to behind the camera, which is where I love to be,” she said. “But I love the stage. The stage has always been my home, and I’m most comfortable on the stage.”

Boettcher is excited about this season at Wilson Central. The first show will be the high school version of the musical, “Heathers.” That will be followed by “Metamorphoses,” a play by Mary Zimmerman. “Shrek the Musical” will finish out the season.

“We’re running the gamut this year,” she said. “From satire to straight-up cartoon.”

In addition to producing, directing and teaching theatre at the school, and her involvement with regional theatre, she also owns as teaches at a school in Mt. Juliet called Triple Threat. She teaches musical theatre, acting and voice, as well as “a little dance coaching on the side, because I’ve done tap and ballet and all that stuff. You have to be to do Broadway-style theatre. I try and remind my kids that they have to dance, too because, it is a musical.”

Like other teachers, Boettcher has goals for her students. At the end of the theatre I class, she wants her students to know about theatre and see the different parts of theatre, from on stage to backstage work. She wants her advanced students to be prepared for college, if they choose theatre as a field of study.

Her advice for people who want to seek acting as a career is “do it because you love it, not because you’re seeking fame and fortune, because it will not lead to fame and fortune. Do it because you’re passionate about it and want to tell really good stories, and you want to be a part of really good stories.”

She said she encourages all of her students to get backstage work. She emphasized there’s nothing wrong with not working as an actor.

“Frankly [without backstage personnel], you’d be in the dark with no script, no set, naked and not being heard,” she said. “I’m a big tech advocate, because it makes you a better performer, because you understand the entire process, not just one half of it. It really makes you a better person, because you realize that these people are putting in a lot of work, too. They’re putting in much work as you are. And that makes you a better performer.”


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