Kate Shindle
(© Tristan Fuge)
Kate Shindle
(© Tristan Fuge)
A former Miss America, Kate Shindle has become one of Broadway's most consistent performers, with starring roles in such shows as Jekyll & Hyde, Cabaret, Legally Blonde: The Musical and most recently, Wonderland, in which she played the evil Mad Hatter. She is currently taking a break from the Great White Way to star as Angela in Bay Street Theatre's production of Enter Laughing The Musical. She recently spoke with TheaterMania about her stint in the show, the unusual photo on her website, and her commitment to AIDS education.

THEATERMANIA: This is your first production of the show. What made you want to take the role of Angela?
KATE SHINDLE: She's funny and huge, but she's also really thoughtful and earthy in a way that I like. In some respects, Angela is really over the top theatrically -- she thinks she's Garbo, and why isn't she a huge star? But in other ways, she is willing to act for nothing because she loves it so much, even if she's not necessarily the greatest actor in the world. She's very committed to the idea of being an artist, and I think that's why she connects with David [played by Josh Grisetti]. He misinterprets some of her signals and perhaps thinks she's coming on to him, but really it's that she's taking an interest in this young man who clearly is a person of the theater, even though he's just discovering it.

TM: Would you personally ever date an actor?
KS: Oh, yes. I. Every time I date an actor I think, "If this doesn't work out, no more actors. No, no, no." But they're so damn charming, you just can't help it! That said, I am attracted to people who are interested in the bigger picture, whether that's somebody who's a passionate actor, or an activist, or somebody who wants to make a difference in the world no matter what they do.

Erick Devine, Richard Kind, Josh Grisetti,and Kate Shindle in Enter Laughing The Musical
(© Jerry Lamonoca)
Erick Devine, Richard Kind, Josh Grisetti,
and Kate Shindle in Enter Laughing The Musical
(© Jerry Lamonoca)
TM: You have a great sense of humor. From where do you think you get your comedic chops?
KS: I think my inner monologue is pretty funny and amusing, but in terms of learning to be funny on stage, that's always been a challenge for me. For a while it was like, "You want to kill a laugh line, give it to Shindle." As for this play, it makes you less fearful when most of your scenes are with Josh Grisetti and Richard Kind, two guys who know their way around a joke pretty well!

TM: On your website, www.KateShindle.com, you prominently feature a big-haired picture of yourself as an awkward teenager. Why did you choose to do that?
KS: I have that there so I never forget -- and also to let people know that when they meet me, this is who they're actually meeting. She's still very present, that 13-year-old girl in the picture. That is why it was so nice to do Legally Blonde, and to an extent, Wonderland, because the girls who came to see it were all sort of that age where they didn't know who they were or where they fit in. It's a particularly cruel time in a girl's life, and I wanted to connect with them.

TM: It's been said that you're one of the first Miss Americas to really show strength in your initiative. Why was doing that important to you?
KS: I love when people recognize the activism part, because to me it was the only reason to become Miss America. I have to give credit to the fact that I came along during a time when the organization was actually set up for that. I wasn't the first, but it was because of the groundwork that had been laid that I had been able to push the envelope further. It's easy to be courageous when you're 20, and you're not an elected official, and you're not really beholden to anyone. If you suddenly have a national audience, and you feel strongly about things and you say them in a way that's diplomatic and yet somewhat forceful, and it happens to have to do with sex and you also happen to be Miss America, the media sort of magically shows up!

TM: There are so many causes and organizations where you can donate your time. Why is AIDS education and prevention so close to your heart?
KS: I grew up in a pretty sheltered, suburban, white, Catholic, Republican family. As a child, I didn't know any gay people at my Catholic school, and I didn't know anyone with AIDS. When I got to college there was suddenly a professor who had just died, and then my uncle was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. There was a course at Northwestern called 'Rhetoric of Social Movements' and the professor who taught it changed my life. We had to volunteer 10 hours on any movement for our final project. I decided to go down to an AIDS organization in Chicago and I discovered how unfair it was that there was this disease and we knew how to stop people from getting it, but we couldn't because of politics and bullshit!