Kathleen McNamara: Making Characters Come to Life


Photograph Courtesy of Kathleen McNamara

Kathleen McNamara (center) performs in a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The overture of the musical fills the air and captures the audience’s attention. As the music softens, it cues the start of the play. The stage is filled with the wonders of musical theater: beautiful costumes, professional actors and actresses, a stunning visual imagery, and the intricacy of the dialogue. Senior Kathleen “Katie” McNamara has mastered the art of theater and makes every character come to life in an unique way.




McNamara’s theatrical journey started in eighth grade. As a child who had stage fright in elementary and middle school, she was unsure about entering the world of theater, but once she did, she knew acting was her forte. Inspired by her friends in middle school, she also decided to join acting classes at South Coast Repertory. “SCR was a great way for people who want to start acting but are afraid. It is such an open community, and they are so nice. They cheer you on, [for example] you do a monologue and you feel weird, but they say, ‘No it was incredible’, and you think ‘wow maybe I am that cool’,” McNamara states. She was also inspired by another friend, Lily LaFlamme. McNamara was awestruck when she witnessed how LaFlamme was able to change her kind, real-life demeanor into a terrifying antagonist for a play. From that moment on, she knew that she wanted her acting skills to leave a lasting impression on the audience. From stage fright to stage delight, McNamara was on her way to a successful career in theater.




After joining the acting community, McNamara continued participating in acting classes offered at South Coast Repertory for five years. However, due to conflicting schedules, McNamara was not part of Beckman’s dramatic productions class until this year. Although it is only her first year acting at Beckman, she has grown to love the class and shares many connections with her peers regarding their love for acting. “You are never bored [in the class]. It is filled with so many different people. [The class] is everyone around the school who enjoys acting; we have a dance team person, choir people, orchestra, athletes. You have so many differently lives in the same class, but we are all in here for the same reason,” McNamara remarks. Beckman’s theater class gave McNamara the opportunity to express her passion for acting.




Currently, McNamara and Beckman’s theater class are preparing for their black box plays, which are mini plays. McNamara is working on her black box play called Selfie and is exhilarated to act in it. Selfie snapshots the everyday life of typical high schoolers through selfies, documenting the ups and downs of each character. By acting in the play, McNamara is able to convey to the audience that even though “we [characters] had tremendous ups and downs that complicated our [their] lives, at the end [of the play] we are all okay.” Using her actions to motivate the audience, McNamara has the capability of a professional actress.




Selfie is not the only production McNamara has acted in. Outside of school, she was part of Narnia: The Musical, a production hosted by Trinity United Presbyterian Church. Her role was one of the antagonists of the play, the captain of the guards for the White Witch. Throughout the musical, she enjoyed the anticipation from scene to scene, having her own fight scene in the end where she ‘perished’, and seeing the fusion of all the art forms in theater. “You had us doing all the acting and the singing, you had two incredible directors coming in, an incredible costume designer, and at the end of tech[nical] week, they put up the set and you got to see all the technical people come in doing the lighting and sound,” McNamara reminisces. “Narnia” was truly a memorable experience for her; not only did she express her natural talent, she also gained worthy acting experience.




McNamara’s love for acting allows her to truly understand the meaning of acting. “I have always found that there is something really magical in becoming someone else,” McNamara explains. “It brings great understanding of others, and it is such a great way to have empathy towards people around you because you spend all of your time studying a person that you are supposed to portray.” Her passion for acting drives her to strive for the best in every play. Connor Hunsucker, one of McNamara’s friends, exclaims, “She is the best example you could get in someone who shows dedication and determination. I definitely see her going far in life, and most likely she will end up on Broadway or being a director in a major film or even both; knowing her anything is possible.” Talented and dedicated, McNamara is bound to reach success in her career.




In the fall, McNamara will be attending California State University, Long Beach, majoring in music performance with a minor in film. She has a bucket list of jobs she wants to do in the future, but theatrical performance is definitely on the list. McNamara does not want to only limit her career to acting in plays and musicals, so she decided to also minor in film, a different aspect of acting that intrigued her. Although she is leaving her future open to different opportunities, McNamara will shine nonetheless in the world of acting and will forever turn fantasy into reality.