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Curtain Call: OSF alum Cate Davis likes to entertain

Cate Davis, center, performs in "Steel Magnolias" at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre in early 2020 with Katy Wilson, left, and Millicent Honeycutt. Photo by Justin Waggle.
Cate Davis, OSF veteran actor

Cate Davis didn’t grow up in a family of artistic creatives. Her dad ran a fruit and vegetable warehouse and her mom was an executive secretary. Her two siblings also led “normal” non-theater lives.

But somehow, she got the acting bug early on.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “I liked to entertain,” she said, smiling.

And entertain she has — on the stages of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 10 seasons and for other theater companies near and far.

The award-winning actor also appeared in an Oregon Cabaret Theatre production of “Steel Magnolias” two years ago, her debut performance with OCT.

“I spent my whole career with companies,” she said, “from Cleveland to Milwaukee and all over the Midwest. I loved every minute. I never aspired to Broadway. I’m a company girl.”

That’s not to say The Great White Way hasn’t been an influence. When she was 17, she saw “A Chorus Line” on Broadway a month after it opened. She also saw Anthony Hopkins in “Equus” on the same trip. “He blew me away!” she said.

Davis, 64, was born and raised in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the small town of Escanaba. She was in the sixth grade the first time she stepped on a stage. “I loved it. I was hooked,” she said.

Music also was a big part of her early school life. She did musicals in high school and was in the chorale.

“I loved doing musicals,” she said. “Then I ended up doing lots of Shakespeare professionally. The music training was immensely helpful for the musicality of The Bard’s verse.”

She also did a lot of theater in high school and credits a teacher who was passionate for the theater arts as a motivating force in encouraging her to pursue a theater career.

Others who inspired her along the way include Jim Pickering, a friend from her Milwaukee Repertory days, and her husband, Ken Albers, a long-time OSF company member who died three years ago.

She met Albers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where she earned a BA in theater. He was one of her teachers.

“We married in 1987. We had been together since 1985,” she said. “We worked together often. I loved every moment. He was a genius.”

In addition to acting on the OSF stages, Albers also directed 11 shows for the festival.

Davis’s first professional job was playing Miranda in “The Tempest” for the Cleveland Play House. “The artistic director had seen me at Case and hired me,” she said.

It was former OSF Artistic Director Libby Appel who brought Davis and Albers to the Rogue Valley, hiring them both as new company members.

She has fond memories of her OSF years.

“It has been a blast,” she said. “I got to play great roles with fantastic people. Also, Ken and I got to work together often at OSF. My favorite OSF role was as Nora in Nora and Dromio of Syracuse in ‘Comedy of Errors.’”

The best thing she learned from a director? “Go with the flow. Be in the moment.”

What makes a good scene partner? “Smarts. Being playful. Having a good sense of humor.”

How would she describe herself as a performer? “Fun. Happy. Not too serious, except when I need to be.”

What did she do during the pandemic? “I stayed home!”

What does she like to do outside the theater? “I love to decorate my home and love to hike.”

Davis is optimistic about the future of theater in the Rogue Valley.

“I think it’s in good shape. We are lucky to have people like Valerie Rachelle (co-owner of Oregon Cabaret Theatre) heading companies. She has amazing vision and heart,” she said.

Davis enjoys living in Ashland. She described one reason in her online blog:

“Because it is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the great things about living in Ashland is that you have a chance of walking down the street and running into a good theater friend,” she wrote. She explained that she was not just referring to company members, but to people in the business near and far who come here for the festival.

She’s had a long career and played lots of parts, but there’s no particular role on Davis’s bucket list.

“I try to stay away from wish lists,” she said. “Something always comes along that I never would have thought of.”

With her aptitude, attitude and experience, something “coming along” is pretty much a given.

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