BY TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
The moment Kate Braun felt compelled to become an actor is a moment as poignant as one you might witness onstage.
In the late 1980s, at the age of 39, Braun went to see an Indiana University production of Cloud 9 by British playwright Caryl Churchill. The show is a sexually edgy, feminist farce with a middle-age female protagonist who begins to see new and limitless possibilities for herself. According to Braun, people walked out in protest of the ribald dialogue and challenging ideas, but as she watched it unfold, she found herself in tears.
“The effect that show had on me—I knew right then that was the effect I wanted to have on other people,” Braun says. She decided, in those moments, that she would be an actor. “And I’ve never looked back, never let anything get in my way.”
Braun enrolled in an acting class at IU. There she met Howard Jensen, the longtime head of the acting and directing program in the Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, who had directed Cloud 9. Since then, she has starred in more than 30 productions at the university, and Jensen, who passed away in late 2014, “ended up being my mentor, my hero,” she says.
Braun has performed with the Indiana Repertory, Edvyean Repertory, and Phoenix theatres in Indianapolis, as well as with Cardinal Stage Company, Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP) and in other local productions. She has brief on-screen appearances in the Paul Shoulberg film The Good Catholic, and in the new, award-winning independent film The Storyteller, and has starred in multiple IU student films. IU graduate Mark Totte is currently working on a feature film called BLOOM that Braun says is “very loosely” based on her life—particularly the years before she began acting, when she left her small hometown of Milan, Indiana, and ventured through the southwestern United States.
Her acting career has not been safe or easy. She has worked every kind of job—from food service to keypunch operator
—in order to support her passion. But Braun has experienced the kind of moments she hoped for—moments when someone walks up to her after a show feeling transformed.
Following a performance as Peg in the late-in-life romantic comedy Kalamazoo at the Adirondack Theatre Festival in upstate New York, Braun says, “All of these older women came up to me at the end and said ‘You made me realize that I can still find love and happiness.’” For Braun, the perfect finale to a night in the theater.