Some say don’t ever meet your heroes, but Tate Kenney, a local aspiring actress and graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, says meeting hers was not only inspiring, it was life changing.
On Nov. 4, Kenney introduced acclaimed actress Marlo Thomas during the institute’s 50th anniversary celebration in New York City.
“She’s all the things I want to be,” says Kenney. “They say don’t meet your heroes but in my experience that has not been the case; she was very delightful.”
Kenney, 27, was asked to come in as a beneficiary of the institute, and though she says that may sound cliché – the opportunity to represent the institute which transformed her life and career, while also introducing a giant like Thomas was “emboldening.”
“It was really incredible. They’ve had a couple little galas like this before and they’ve asked me to speak – and I’m obviously very humbled to do so. I love being a representative of the school because it means so much to me personally and to my creative journey as well. (The school) gave me all the tools to be a working actor,” she says.
Kenney says Thomas’s career is something she could model her own path after.
“She’s someone who has had such a diverse career but then always in tandem with her activism. Your art should be your protest, your art should be your politics – that’s certainly how I feel. She’s always done that with grace and humour and tact.”
The positive influence of a strong female role model whose career is sort of winding down while she herself is embarking on her own journey is proof Kenney doesn’t need to set limits on her goals, she says.
“I can do all the things I want to do. I’m not going to be limited in terms of my ambition,” she adds.
“Stuck between two places,” she bounces between Niagara-on-the-Lake, where she spent many years working at local wineries to fund her New York jaunts and where her parents live now, to New York, where she received a scholarship for and graduated from the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. She is currently studying screenwriting at the New York University.
“I feel very privileged to come from where I come from but I’m also so excited that it has fuelled all of the different passions that I have, and now I’m here (in New York) I can make them all possible.”
Access to the Shaw Festival Theatre is one of Kenney’s highlights growing up in Niagara, she says, and it helped fuel her passion for dramatic arts.
“We’re really lucky to have the Shaw because it was really the only place I knew that actors could work. And it was such a special occasion when I got to go growing up,” she says.
Her love of the craft isn’t limited to stage acting though. She says she’ll “work anywhere for a sandwich.”
“I love the work. I’d ideally love to do a play and maybe three movies a year, because there’s just such different benefits from being on stage and being on camera,” she says. “There’s nothing like that real-life experience. When you can hear someone sobbing in the back row, there’s a power in that.”
But the “infamy of on-camera work” speaks to her as well, she adds.
“I love that you can have a little more time to grow into something.”
Kenney is taking the time to grow into her career, and says New York is where she feels she belongs right now. Managing the logistics of working in the United States, she says she believes her path is through higher education, which is why she is currently enrolled in a screenwriting program at the New York University. And though she sees New York as her home for now, she says she makes it back to NOTL to visit her parents often.
“My parents have made enormous sacrifices. Personally, financially, and I’m sure emotionally on their part. But they have really supported me from the beginning. Not only supported but encouraged. I try to see them as much as possible,” she says.