Hapa Hour with Katherine Stein

It’s been a hot sec since I last did a Hapa Hour. What can I say I’ve been hella busy and I slacked off. But it’s back!

I’m excited to have gotten the chance to interview Katherine Stein, who is currently playing the Beggar Woman in “Sweeney Todd” at CMT in San Jose, CA. The show opens April 21st and closes the 30th.

Ms. Stein is a singer and actor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC San Diego (Theatre and Communication) and has studied at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, Studio ACT in San Francisco, and British American Drama Academy in Oxford. Favorite stage credits include Georgia in Curtains (Hillbarn Theatre), Jellyloram in Cats (Fullerton CLO), and Winifred in Mary Poppins (CMT Marquee San Jose). Katherine loves Stand up paddle boarding and all things Star Trek. She recently became a volunteer music teacher at her son and daughter’s elementary school in the East Bay.

Alex – What makes you Hapa?

Katherine – My mother is Chinese-American. Her grandparents immigrated from Canton, so that makes me 4th generation American. I’m half-Chinese and half-Irish.

Alex – How long have you been performing?

Katherine – I’ve had dance lessons from my earliest days, but the theatre bug bit me in 6th grade. In 7th grade I got the chance to play Annie at the Civic Center in San Jose. The audience for one of my matinees had over 500 people and I remember feeling exhilarated instead of scared. I think I’ve wanted to be an actress ever since.

Alex –  Favorite artistic moment?

Katherine – I really loved playing Cinderella in Into the Woods. I think I was 30 years old, so somewhat mature for the role. It was a minimally staged production intended to raise funds for students. The cast was all alumni of my performing arts high school, dressed in concert black, scores in hand. But boy, did I have a great time! It felt good to sing that role which I honestly didn’t have a shot at when I was attending high school.

Alex – How has being Hapa influenced the foods you eat?

Katherine – I love bok choy. I guess that’s a simple answer. If you find me in a Chinese banquet situation, I’ll eat the shark fin soup with courage and enthusiasm.

Alex – What’s your favorite food?

Katherine – The Gourmet Veggie pizza from Round Table. It’s got garlic sauce instead of red, and is covered with zucchini and artichokes among other things. I can eat 5 slices or more.

Alex – What’s your favorite restaurant?

Katherine – Nathalee Thai on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Alex – Best meal you’ve ever had?

Katherine – On our honeymoon, my husband and I found a small restaurant in Italy that Rick Steve’s recommended in his book. We walked up to this small storefront, unsure if we were in the right place, but indeed we were! The food tasted so fantastic, this place felt like a secret gem. The owners had a dog in the back alley who watched us inhale our salads and pasta. No one else was seated near by. It was very special.

Alex – Difficulties in being Hapa in the entertainment industry

Katherine – It is hard to pin any challenges I’ve had on my ethnicity because it could be so many other factors as well. I certainly feel that in the musical theater world, having big eyes and long legs helps a lot, so I’ve got envy. I have always wanted to be taller and…different. Over the years, it has become clear that I have to be confident with what I’ve got, no matter what. We owe this to ourselves and to each other.

There is an actor on TV named Conrad Ricamora. I don’t even know if he is Hapa, but when I see him each week on How to Get Away with Murder, I feel more represented. It wasn’t until I saw him that I realized I hadn’t seen someone like him before.

Alex – Funniest or worst audition story

Katherine – I was chatting with a friend from childhood at an audition for Gypsy. I was so excited to be reconnecting with her and catching up. They narrowed down the females and invited some of them back into the room to read for Dainty June, and I just walked in with her! Before I knew it I was up on the stage learning choreography and doing cartwheels. The production team asked me my name and I told them. They looked at their list. They let me “give it a go” and then told me that I was dismissed. It was very embarrassing because I felt like I belonged there, but I slowly realized that I had not been invited into the room in the first place.

Alex – Favorite family recipe?

Katherine – Turkey burgers. Any night of the week.

Alex – Any advice you’d like to pass on to other Hapa’s?

Katherine – We are the present and the future. Phillipa Soo is our current duchess. And let’s not forget Olivia Munn. Power on!

On being a parent:
Sometimes it is hard to cover all your bases. Moms these days are hard on themselves. I try to keep half a dozen theater moms on speed dial. Knowing that I have peers who fit art and creativity into their lives makes me feel more sturdy, not to mention inspired.


Thank you Katherine! I can’t wait to see you in Sweeney Todd. For tickets please visit http://www.cmtsj.org/content/sweeney-todd-demon-barber-fleet-street

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