Alum spotlight: Katrinah Carol Lewis (BFA ’03)

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Katrinah Carol Lewis, BFA in performance, 2003

Katrinah started as a singer in elementary school, where she was in All County Chorus. “I was taking voice lessons starting around 12 with plans to sing classical music.” She and her little sister (Krystal Joy Brown who played Eliza in Hamilton) would take the DC Metro to National Theatre and watch musicals from standing room.

At VCU, she expanded her experience to non-musicals. She especially enjoyed working with Marvin Simms on the Afro-Asian fusion production of The Bacchae. “It was a liberating experience and he asked a lot of me in my late teens.” As for her other teachers, “I had supportive teachers in high school, but Gary Hopper saw a talent in me that I didn’t see in myself and really pushed that. It was a transformative moment.”

Katrinah in “Twilight: Los Angelos, 1992,” produced at TheatreLAB in 2017

When Katrinah was cast as Queen Charlotte in The Madness of George III, she says “It helped me see myself as somebody who can carry a show, instead of playing a small role to the back and the left.”

After graduation she took a few months off and in 2004 she was cast in A Christmas Carol at Theatre IV, which reminded her why theatre is, “what my spirit needs in this life.” Katrinah started auditioning while holding down day jobs. “I never waited tables, but worked in offices and learned how to be a good administrative assistant.”

Katrinah as Camae in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” at Cadence Theatre in 2016

Since then, she’s been acting continuously in Richmond, citing the 2005 production of Crowns at Barksdale as her first substantial role. “When I think about my career as an actor, I’ve found the work diverse and challenging and fulfilling…not lucrative. My life has been working 9-5 and theatre 6-10.”

That changed in 2011, when the Senior Manager of African American Programs at Colonial Williamsburg, Stephen Seals (who attended VCU as a theatre education major), told her they needed Black actors. She started as an historical interpreter and later grew into writing and directing shows for the Department, where she’s now Artistic Director for theatre.

Katrinah (far left) with Deirdre Jones, Jamar Jones, and Jeremy Morris as part of ‘Created Equal,’ a unique theatre museum piece created to explore African American perspectives on the Declaration of Independence. Created Equal premiered live in 2019 and was produced virtually this year.

Katrinah also served as the Associate AD for TheatreLAB, where she produced their Cellar Series for two years. This was a run of one-woman shows, including her role in Twilight Los Angeles, 1992. Opportunities like this are why she’s never wanted an Equity card, “I enjoy working in these smaller theatres with challenging work.”

Katrinah as Billie Holiday in TheatreLAB’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” in 2016. She won the 2016 RTCC award for Best Actress in a Musical for the role.

Even with COVID, Katrinah hasn’t stopped performing. On the evening after doing this interview, she was performing an online concert —Holiday Legends Livestream—with fellow alum Jerold Solomon (BFA ’01, read his profile from our August edition here) for the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance. She’s also directing a Zoom production of Blood at the Root for the University of Richmond, “The learning curve is steep, but I’m going to lean into that and take it on.” The piece will show in February. Keep an eye for ticket reservations here.

Promotional image for Virginia Rep’s world premiere of River Ditty in 2018.

Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the December 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter