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Graduating in the middle of a pandemic, budding new actor makes the most of it

Katie Bullock rocks it as Pickles in "The Great American Trailer Park Musical," playing now through June 20 at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre in Ashland. Photo by Justin Waggle.
Katie Bullock

For a budding young actor, graduating with a BFA in theater in the middle of a pandemic might not seem like the best of timing.

For Southern Oregon University grad Katie Bullock, it was a time for reflection, new projects, part-time jobs, and even a bit of good luck.

After graduating in December, she worked as a nanny and at a winery. She read new plays, learned new songs, studied films, and concentrated on the work of performers she wanted to emulate. She also developed new hobbies in her spare time — crafting, making earrings, scrapbooking, crocheting.

“I even started roller skating,” she said, “which has been a very fun way to stay in shape.”

But even before graduating, she found work in her chosen field.

“I directed “Dance Nation” on Zoom in September,” she said, “and raised $3,000 for the Black Trans Women in the Arts Collective. My cast included students and alumni of the SOU theater program.”

And then she got cast in Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s current production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” playing through June 20.

“Being able to be onstage and working this soon after finishing my degree has been amazing and I feel very fortunate,” Bullock said.

“I feel so fulfilled and grateful for this opportunity, and I hope I can bring some of the joy I feel to the audiences who come to see the show.”

She loves the busy, rigorous schedule of her new daily routine.

“I wake up, eat breakfast, go to rehearsal, get notes, run numbers, break for lunch and dinner, get ready for the show, perform, and then do it all again.”

She plays the part of Pickles in the Cabaret musical.

“I love Pickles,” she said. “My childhood nickname was Pickle, so it feels particularly special to have this role. She’s fun and so funny.”

Bullock learns and improves through practicing her craft. But she also has been inspired by her friends — by the ways they have coped through the pandemic and from the support they have offered her.

“Many of my friends are creatives as well,” she said, “and I am always so floored by their talent. It makes me want to keep up with them.”

Bullock plays the guitar, but singing is when she feels most like herself. She says it sounds very cliché, but when she saw “The Lion King” as a child, she knew show biz was for her. “I was so enraptured by what I saw onstage. I knew I wanted to be up there.”

She has a resume already filled with credits. She has performed for the Ashland New Plays Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show, and for the Oregon Center for the Arts. In May, she worked on a world premiere of “The Immediate Future,” a new work on Zoom by Jack Petersen, produced by Real Actors Lab of Los Angeles and directed by RAL founder Sarah Gaboury.

Currently, she is working on a new Zoom show with a group on the East Coast. It’s a show called “Confirm Me,” about four girls going through confirmation in a church.

She had some challenging but fulfilling roles during her college career. Two of her favorites were Elektra in “Elektra” and Liz/Beth in the musical, “If/Then.”

“’Electra’ was the first time I had ever done Greek theater,” she said. “I fell in love with the style and felt such a connection to the character.”

“If/Then” is a musical about a 38-year-old woman, Elizabeth, who moves back to New York City for a fresh start.

“That role was a huge challenge,” Bullock said, “not only because I had to play someone 20 years my senior, but also because I was singing HARD for two hours straight. It was definitely a test of stamina, and it felt really wonderful to know I had those capabilities.”

Her opportunity to direct has whetted her appetite for more. “I like being able to execute a vision I have for how a story could be told,” she said.

She says she is at a stage in her life where she is trying to become the person she most wants to be, “the most authentic version of myself.”

She is doing a lot of self-reflection. In the process, she has let go of a lot of pressure she had put on herself. “And I have learned to listen more,” she said.

What’s next for Bullock? New horizons and new projects.

“I am moving to Seattle help a friend start a theater company, and then I am off to New York,” she said.

The Seattle friend’s new theater collective will create new works and showcase the work with new artists. In New York City, Bullock will continue working with many of her friends based there and continue her career.

And with the pandemic coming to an end, the timing this time is just right.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.