I recently finished the first production in which I was cast as an understudy. I was the understudy to Katie Beth Hall for the role of Cathy in Studio Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem. The understudy experience was interesting and had some pluses I did not expect; I am working on coherently preserving my thoughts about the experience, but between rehearsals for Brighton Beach Memoirs and the literally stacks of homework I have every night, it might be a while before that post is ready to be published. In the meantime, I thought I would post something related to The Hard Problem, which I find interesting and fun: pictures of every actor who has played the role of Cathy to date.
As Tom Stoppard’s most recent play, The Hard Problem has only been performed in four theaters thus far: The National Theatre in London, The Wilma in Philadelphia, American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. The Court Theatre in Chicago will stage the fifth production next month. By my count, the five productions have resulted in nine girls (7 cast in the role and 2 understudies) having the opportunity to take the stage as Cathy Kroll, the daughter Jerry Kroll playfully refers to as “Lollipop” when she makes her first entrance in the play. Cathy is 11 when the audience first sees her and she is 13 by the end of the play.
I can’t help but wonder how the five directors chose these girls to play Cathy? After all, none of us particularly resemble each other. We have different hair color, different eye color, different complexions, heights and I am guessing even ages. What was each director looking for? Why did they choose the flavor lollipop they did? And did any of their choices look like the girl Mr. Stoppard envisioned when he was writing the play.
Curiously, with the exception of the upcoming production at The Court, the girls chosen to play Cathy do not bear any striking resemblance to the women chosen to play Hilary (one might think that a director would seek such a physical resemblance between Cathy and Hilary since *SPOILER ALERT* by the end of the play the audience learns Cathy is the daughter Hilary gave up for adoption). During a talk-back session after a performance at Studio Theatre, one audience member noted that he thought Cathy resembled Hilary during the performance much more than Katie Beth Hall (the actress playing Cathy) resembled Tessa Klein (the actress playing Hilary) during the talk back session. To me that suggests it is more important that the actress playing Cathy be able to pick up on and imitate certain expressions or mannerisms Hilary displays than it is for her to actually look like Hilary. Props to KBH for successfully doing so!
I also want to send a shout out to all the Cathy Krolls out there: Daisy Jacob, Hayley Canham, Eloise Webb, Gaby Bradbury, Carmen Steele, Athena von Bothmer, Katie Beth Hall, and Sophie Thatcher – it’s a small club at the moment but if the reception D.C. audiences gave The Hard Problem is any indication, this club will grow in the coming years. Let’s find each other on social media – whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. – and see where we all end up a few years from now. Altruist, egoist, stage, film, high school, college, Peace Corp., Fortune 500? I already know how to find Katie Beth Hall, and we would welcome the other Cathy Krolls out there to join our marathon FaceTime chats where we quite frequently explore the tunnel of consciousness.