I met Katy Albert at her apartment in Logan Square, a space that isn't quite like a typical 24-year-old’s. Albert has turned her abode (and its basement) into a performance space and workshop. Despite the art that literally surrounds her, at this point in her life, the Washington State native wants a job that leaves her creative energies free for her art -- at least for now. She's happy with her "pays-the-bills job" at a catering company, but also admits she doesn't want to be there when she's 35. The hard part is figuring out where she does want to be and how to get there.
I started theater young. I wouldn’t say either of my parents know much about theater, but they’re super supportive and came from a really supportive community where there were a lot of opportunities to pursue creative endeavors. And there were good programs already set for children who wanted to do theater. So I think it makes sense [that I'm doing this now].
Having a day job you don't hate...
I got to Chicago, I just sort of wanted to move. I got done with college … and didn’t have a place to go but knew that I didn’t want to stay in Washington, and just sort of picked Chicago. I didn’t know anyone here. I have an aunt in the suburbs, and I knew that there was one person that had gone to my college that lived here, but I didn’t know them very well until I moved. And then I made fast friends with them because I didn’t have any other friends.
I temped for a little while. I got this like terrible job that I held for maybe a week at this waffle place, where they asked for actors. And it was on Craigslist and I was like ‘No one asks for actors, what’s up with this?!’ And that’s because they wanted you to memorize all these sort of prompts about waffles and then shout them out to people in the street to get them to come in. And so I did two days of training and then never went back. Like, I don’t need the $40 paycheck, I just need to get out of here. And then (I) worked at law firm for a little while. And it was sort of bleak …
I started auditioning like a couple weeks after I got here and … that winter I was in a play at the Right Brain Project … And that was really great, because I met a lot of actors quickly, I got to be involved in a process quickly and have all my spare time sort of taken up by doing theater and auditioning and having the people that I met sort of expose me to the Chicago theater scene.
So you can pursue your art
I work at a catering company. And it’s great. It’s a catering company in Wicker Park so I can bike there and it’s really close, it’s really flexible. I really like working and I don’t really care if it’s in a theatrical field at all. I would prefer something to be super flexible and be totally apart from any sort of artistic venture than something to be really strict and demand a lot of my time and not allow me to pursue the theater that I’m really passionate about, which is the stuff that I create myself.
And actually, it’s fun and easy and it’s nice to, like, not have to devote a lot of like mental creative energy to my job so I can sort of save that for theater and just making ideas.
I don’t particularly want to work for a catering company when I’m 35. And so I guess I would like either to invest more of my time and sort of turn, maybe like a nonprofit or arts job into like my primary way of making money. … I think I see jobs in the arts and jobs in theaters that are jobs that I can imagine having and enjoying and getting as much back from them as I could give to them, in a way that isn’t creatively stifling. … And I think I would like those jobs.
There are still days where you wake up and you’re like, ‘Oh man. There’s no chance that I’m going to go into something that’s maybe a little more lucrative or … that has the upward mobility that I imagine that some actual jobs (have) … It seems like the possibility for salary is limited in theater. And I think that when I’m blinded by reality some cold mornings (laughs) it can be sort of depressing. But then that night I’m doing theater, and it’s exactly what I want to be doing.
Right now I’m entertaining the idea of having like a nonprofit buildshop for artists … so that people can have all their tools in one place … I mean I know a lot of set designers who have just crazy amount of tools because they’re like, if I’m building for a small theater company, I’m not going to have any of this so I have to own it myself. … But who knows if that’ll ever come to fruition. That’s my dream idea of the nonprofit company I want this month (laughs).
Working for the future
Right now I’m working with a performance duo called Mothergirl, and it’s me and actually my roommate Sophia. And we started, we met in college … we had similar artistic desires and visions and so we decided to form a performance duo.
Right now, we’re building a giant muffin for a cabaret night that we’re doing that’s associated with Food and Performance. So I’m thinking about, oh, we need to cut the foam tonight, and we need to finalize our script, and we need to buy our miscellaneous materials and start working on it. And then I think long-term about, well, we need to start working on long-term projects, we need to start applying for bigger grants or, do we want to do more gallery stuff, do we want to do more theater stuff, where are those opportunities, how do we get them?
If I could see a transition happening in me from college to my first year in Chicago to now, I’d say that in college I was sort of concerned, I was coming out of a theater program that was very geared on auditioning and performing. And when I first moved to Chicago, I was also auditioning and performing and waiting for that validation – the company wants you to be in this play, this director likes your work, this reviewer is interested in you as a performer, and while those things are still wonderful to hear, wonderful to get, as a performer it’s becoming clear to me through making my own work that getting my idea out to people is a lot more gratifying … so I think it’s more of, what’s out there in art and what can I create myself than trying to (pauses) be really good at getting people to like me.
As far as an end goal of wanting to be famous … that doesn’t really cross my mind as something that appeals to me … I think long-term goals of having a strong community, whether that’s in Chicago or somewhere else. When I started, I moved here initially not knowing anyone, I gave myself five years, I was like, ‘I’m just going to stick with it five years, and the first year’s going to be really tough because I don’t know anyone so I’m just going to be lonely.’
I needed to give myself enough time to kind of get over the rockier stuff.