Katherine James

ACT of Communication

Every year on my birthday until I was 57 my parents had the same fight. “...and then three days later they handed me your birth certificate. With your name spelled WRONG. Your father promised me that if you were a girl your name would be spelled with an RYN at the end. LIKE MY NAME.” “But Marilyn – I named her after the famous author Katherine Anne Porter. I knew my girl would be an artist and she needed a name she could dream on.” “Damn it, Nelson...she couldn’t have dreamt on MY NAME?” And so, as Daddy predicted, was this theatre artist born. Was it because there was always dialogue in my life from those early days? Or the conflict which echoed the twin themes of all good theatre and all good lawsuits: Love and Betrayal? Or was I always destined, as my father knew, to be a creature of the theatre? What neither of them could have predicted was that this theatre artist, at the age of 25, would discover the link between two worlds – the theatre and the law. In fact, Mama never “got it” until she read my book, HARVESTING WITNESSES’ STORIES, published by AAJ Press in 2020. Daddy always wondered how with two competing professional focuses I could ever find pure artistic happiness. And yet...the twins have fed my mind, my heart, my art, my soul together for all these decades. How many times over the years has a theatre exercise solved a problem when helping an attorney become the best they can be? Or an amazing witness from a past case magically become the backbone of a character I am creating either as an actor or as a playwright? As for directing skills...whether dealing with a witness or an actor filled with self-doubt OR anger OR grief OR fear...all human beings in crisis have needs. Of course, as I have explained to many an actor, “Sweetheart, what you are going through you can leave at the stage door at the end of the show. You have no idea of what I’ve seen.” At this moment as I reflect on the decades I think the biggest lesson Life has shown me in my twin pursuits has to do with Mama and Daddy. The original creators of dialogue (theatre) or question and answer (law) in my very full life. The cruelty of Parkinson’s took over Daddy’s mind when I was 57 and he could no longer remember his lines in their yearly fight. I thought, “Daddy, such a brilliant playwright – thank God no one took your mind through greed or carelessness -- like happens in so many of the thousands of lawsuits I’ve worked on over the years.” When Mama died at 95, there were no words left unsaid, no unexplored vistas – no “missed opportunities”. I had thought that the theme I often use of “missed opportunities” was a good one for so many families whose loved ones had been killed by the negligence of others. But Life gave me the opportunity to fully realize what that means. Today I am writing shows, looking forward to rehearsing a few as an actor, and directing a few more...and, as always...finding that amazing link between this world that was my destiny and whatever the next lawyer or witness in front of me needs

TLU Live HB Agenda