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Everyone's Got a Story

by Kathryn Kemp - March 26-April 1, 2009

GLN permalink posted March 26, 2009

Danielle Karczewski

Northwest Indiana (think of it as the very South Side)

Job or Career:
Actor with a day job (I’m an SAT prep teacher.)

Life’s work or just a job?
Acting is and will always be my life’s work. I’ll keep a day job as long as I have to in order to make ends meet.

How did you get into this line of work?
I’ve known I was going to be an actor since I was six years old. Nothing has had as profound an effect on me as theatre, even when I was that young. If I can do the kind of theatre that has so impressed me all my life, I’ll consider myself a success.

What do you like about this job/career?
It’s soul-satisfying. Theatre lets you change hearts and minds through story-telling. It’s this beautiful exploration of the human experience by people in front of other people. I love doing shows that get to the heart of some issue or universal experience: politics, religion, love, loyalty. The list of possibilities is endless. Acting in a show that really resonates with people on any one of those things is so empowering, because it means I have a tangible effect on someone. If I do my job, I have the potential to change someone’s life.

Where do you see yourself, career-wise, in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope I’ll have gotten my MFA in acting and will be pursuing my acting career full time. I hope to be living in a major city, Chicago or elsewhere, and living off of acting alone. It seems daunting right now, but I’d like to think that I’ll learn and improve enough in 10 years to make that a reality.

Any fun perks to this job?
The whole job is one giant perk! When I rehearse a show, it’s the center of my life. I’ll spend my whole day waiting to spend three or four hours at rehearsal that night. I eat, sleep and breathe it.

Any downsides to this job?
It requires a thick skin. All my professors in my college theatre department would say, “If you can see yourself doing anything else and being happy, go do it.” Acting means spending most of your time flat broke, working day jobs totally unrelated to what you really love, and being told “no” by the vast majority of the people you audition for. I didn’t realize what a toll that can take until I left college for the real world. You have to have complete confidence in yourself and what you can do, or else you can start to feel rather small in a big world.

Did you go to school for this career?
I have a B.A. in Theatre Arts and English from the University of Iowa. I am grateful everyday that my high school college counselor made me apply to that program, because I loved every minute I spent in the UI Theatre Building. The productions I worked on and the classes I took there have shaped the person I am and the kind of actor I want to be. I couldn’t be prouder to be a graduate of that department.

What’s your background?
My family is small, but that only makes us closer and stronger. My mom and stepdad have always made it clear that they love me for exactly who I am, and have supported me through the best and worst of times. When I needed to move back home to treat and manage my bipolar disorder, my whole family stepped up to the plate to be there in whatever way they could. What’s more, my friends came from far and wide to make sure I had all that I needed to get better. I am extraordinary lucky, because it’s been made clear to me that I will never have to be on my own.

How are you involved in the gay community?
After moving back to Chicago this winter, I found Gay Liberation Network (GLN). Since college, I’ve wanted to get involved in LGBT activism, but Iowa City didn’t have much to offer, and my brief time in St. Louis after graduation didn’t yield much better results. But since finding GLN, I’ve been to a number of massive protests and rallies, been arrested for a sit-in at the Cook County Clerk’s Office with the rest of the Marriage Equality 7, and hosted GLN’s call-in show on CAN-TV. I am so glad to finally have an outlet for all the activist energy that’s been building up in me.

Do you belong to any organizations or groups in your spare time?
Besides GLN, I perform and take classes at the Chicago Street Theatre with Lisa Formosa-Parmigiano, a wonderful mentor and friend.

Anything else that we should know about you?
Being in the plays Tallgrass Gothic and Anton in Show Business changed my life. If you don’t know those shows, read them or, even better, see them. And I think Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov is easily the greatest play ever written.

What’s your latest project?
I’m throwing myself into GLN’s CAN-TV show lately. My next show is March 27, 6:30 p.m., on CAN21.

How did this project come about?
Andy Thayer of GLN asked at a meeting a couple of months ago who might be interested in being a part of the show. I jumped at the chance. I figured it combines my love and talent for performance with my interest in LGBT activism. A handful of us trained to be hosts and call screeners, and I hosted my first show on March 13.

What interests you about this project?
I get to talk to very smart, thoughtful people about issues that seriously affect the LGBT community. I learn a lot about what’s happening currently in our community through the research that the show requires. And it keeps my public speaking skills sharp and helps me practice thinking on my feet.

One wish for yourself?
I would wish that I continue to trust that everything that happens in my life, good and bad, happens for a reason. So far, that has most definitely been the case, and I hope I never forget that.

One wish for others?
I would wish that everyone the world over find peace and balance in their lives. It’s one thing to find happiness, but another thing entirely to find peace.

Website: Gay Liberation Network at www.gayliberation.net.


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