Santa Catalina School has long been known for its theatre program, so it’s no surprise that so many alumnae have ended up on Broadway.
In a virtual panel discussion attended by students, alumnae, faculty, and friends, six alumnae talked about their careers on the stage and behind the scenes while reminiscing about their time in Catalina theatre.
Maryl McNally ’00 is a lawyer for up-and-coming theatre artists with entertainment agency William Morris Endeavor. She performed in almost every show during her time at Catalina, and went on to major in theatre at Lawrence University. Not quite finding a fit in performing, directing, and playwriting, she realized she wanted to go to law school and be on the business side of entertainment. The pieces of her career fully came together after she started her own children’s theatre company and discovered a passion for producing. In 2018 she entered Columbia University’s master’s program in theatre management and producing, and joined WME in summer 2021. “The blend of my legal career with theatre management and producing was just the money spot for me, and it made sense right away,” she said.
Antonette Balestreri Cohen ’02 just concluded a 14-year stint as a dancer with Wicked, first with the touring company and then on Broadway. “I forged a career within this particular show, which is pretty rare,” she said. Antonette graduated from Northwestern University with majors in dance, theatre, and psychology. She first auditioned for Wicked in college when the musical opened in Chicago, and would audition several more times before being hired as a replacement dancer in the show’s first national tour. From there she moved up to crossover swing, covering 10 ensemble tracks, then was promoted to dance captain for the second national tour and finally for the Broadway company. As icing on the cake, she got to perform in 2021’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Shannon Gaughf Dillon ’08 is Santa Catalina’s Director of Alumnae/i Engagement, and she moderated the panel. As a student at Catalina, Shannon found her niche in theatre behind the scenes, and she went on to earn an MFA in stage management from the Yale School of Drama. Her most notable experience was working as stage manager for the 2016 Tony Award-winning play Eclipsed when it transitioned from off-Broadway to on-Broadway.
Kate Griffith ’14 is a swing makeup artist for Wicked. (She marveled at how she and Antonette had somehow never met.) Kate always played men in Catalina productions, and the process of transforming into those characters cemented her desire to become a theatre makeup artist. She received her bachelor’s degree in theatre and new media from Marymount Manhattan College and recently graduated from the intensive master’s program at Make Up For Ever Academy. In addition to Wicked, she has been a makeup artist for New York Fashion Week.
Kari Hamwey ’15 is the associate theater manager for The Book of Mormon. Kari performed in a handful of shows at Catalina, including all three her senior year. It wasn’t until college at Pace University that she realized she was drawn to the business side of theatre, and she graduated with a degree in arts and entertainment management and communication studies. She works at Jujamcyn Theaters, the third-largest theatre owner on Broadway, where she started as an intern.
All of the alumnae shared memories of their favorite Catalina productions and reflected on the people who helped them along the way: teachers who challenged them, supported them, and introduced them to new possibilities for careers in theatre.