Every so often you meet a real-life ninja — one who boasts multiple talents and is completely fearless. Katie Wilbert is one such ninja. Wilbert is presenting the ninja musical she wrote as part of the Solo Performance class at iO West Sunday, July 14 on the iO West Main Stage, and again August 5-17 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland where ninjas especially reign.
Here is Ninja Katie in action, artfully handling an amass of questions, some of them kooky:
AK: When did you first know you wanted to perform for a living?
NK: You know, I really grew up knowing from a young age that I loved performing and I guess I never really considered anything else as a real alternative. I wondered if perhaps I couldn’t be a baker or party planner or psychologist, but anytime I tried to switch my energy over to some other field, I’d find myself procrastinating by writing songs, or making youtube videos or creating comedic characters. I think it’s a desire that was just built into my DNA, because no matter what I try, my heart always brings me back to performing, whatever the avenue.
AK: What is your favorite word to sing?
NK: You know, no one has ever asked me what my favorite WORD to sing is. LOL — I like that. I really like singing longer more syllabic words. I like the challenge of having to bend them into my songs to make them sound right melodic. In my ninja musical I do that a lot. I’m really picky about the words I use, and if I land on something that explains what I’m thinking or feeling perfectly, even if it doesn’t initially rhythmically flow, I’m determined to make it work. In my song “Hero’s Life” I sing words like “all sorts of corrupt politicians.” It’s wordy — that one sentence alone, but I like the challenge of making things work. Because to me the lyrics are the meat of a song. That’s where all the good stuff is.
AK: Which of your family members is the most theatrical?
NK: Aside from myself I’d have to say that my Father, Tom, is the most theatrical in our family. However, his theatrics involve danger and adventure sporting. He’s participated in an Iron Man Triathlon; he convinced my whole family to skydive; and he’s now a professional motorcycle racer. [Motorcycle racing] was always his dream, and at 50 he will be racing with the big boys this summer at Laguna Seca Moto GP in the AMA division. I’m sure my father would deny he’s theatrical at all, but he likes entertaining people through sports, and I’ve got to say, he’s secretly one goofy dude.
AK: From where/whom to you get your confidence?
NK: I definitely get my confidence from my parents. My mother is this total super human who can do anything and everything. She’s tried her hand at every profession, and she’s legitimately good at all of them. I think this is due to her confidence. She can complete any given task. I’ve watched her multi-task and say “yes” to so many things over the years, so surely I get my confidence for trying new things from her. My father, as I’ve mentioned, is a real dare-devil-go-getter. He’s just not afraid to try anything! For as long as I can remember he’s told me that if I want something bad enough and I work hard, I can truly achieve anything. He’s right. I never would have imagined that at 22 I’d have written my own one-woman musical and be taking it to the biggest arts festival in the world. I attribute to my parents the self confidence to believe that I could ever do something as crazy as this.
AK: What do you hope/expect the Edinburgh Festival to be like?
NK: Ha! To be honest I’m still not even sure what I’ve gotten myself into. Bringing my solo show to Fringe means that I am doing all the marketing, publicity, tech, etc on my own. Something I’ve never done before. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve learned so much already. For me going to Edinburgh is primarily about the experience and opportunity of taking something I’ve created and showcasing it to other people who love theater. Would I love to sell out all the shows? Absolutely, yes. But for me, it’s more about hearing people laugh and enjoy themselves. That’s why I perform at the end of the day, to share an experience with people. Plus, I’m stoked to see the other shows and meet new people from all around the world! I feel so blessed to have this opportunity.
AK: Which real-life ninjas do you most admire?
NK: I’m obsessed with the whole Chuck Norris phenomenon. I know more Chuck Norris jokes than is probably appropriate. I also LOVE the Bill Bill movies, probably because she’s a woman assassin and that really expanded my ideas of just how bad-ass women can be. A woman with a katana is a sexy and frightening thing.
AK: What made you decide to do a ninja musical?
NK: It was sort of by accident honestly. I was working with my solo performance teacher (you) and you were asking me what kind of characters I have opinions about, and I replied “Ninjas.” I’m not sure I even realized at the time that I had real opinions about ninjas, but apparently I did. It makes sense now that I think of it. My favorite movie growing up was “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles;” I dated a Power Ranger at one point; and my favorite book series is all about, wouldn’t you guess it, ninja assassins. I explained that “It must be a hard life being a ninja; you have to be invisible, you can’t ever fall in love, all because you’re job is to kill people. That’s rough.” And that was essentially the birth of my musical. Me sympathizing with the hard-knock life of Ninjas.
AK: Are you still afraid of all the ways you might die at any given moment?
NK: I won’t lie, I definitely have a tsunami/earthquake survival kit in my house, because I live 1 mile away from the beach in Huntington. I watched too many news reports after Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in Japan. I’m not fearing for my life at every moment, but I like the comfort of knowing I’m somewhat prepared for a disaster should it strike. And yes…I do plot out how to thwart of the inevitable robbers and rapists who might break into my house. I have this elaborate escape plan mapped out in my mind which involves turning on my curling iron and using it as a flaming nunchuck. I think that’s ingenuity, not insanity. Others, however, might disagree.
AK: You took the solo performance class where you created the ninja musical; you just performed original folk music at a Music Festival in New Zealand; you take classes at Second City and The Groundlings; you record music; and you regularly perform improv around town. Where do you get all the energy, and which vehicle of expression do you most love?
NK: It’s going to sound so cheese-ball of me, but I find the energy from my passion to create and perform. AND from coffee. I’m hungry to learn and grow and create new and better things every day. I do wear a lot of hats, it’s true, but I’m just determined to do it all, and I don’t want to have to put down one thing to do another, so I just make it work. It means that my schedule can be a little crazy sometimes, but I thrive when I’m busy and creative. I think my soul withers a little when I’m resting on my laurels and doing nothing. I also firmly believe that everything I do separately ends up contributing to my overall collective goal. Everyone always asks me, though, ‘If you had to choose one thing, what would it be?’ and truthfully, gun to my head and everything, I’d pick singing/songwriting. I LOVE comedy, but when I am procrastinating and alone in my room, I’m writing songs. Even when I’m in Los Angeles traffic. I’m always writing songs. That’s just, I think, wear my heart defaults.
AK: What is your ultimate writer-performer goal?
NK: It’s a two-pronged thesis really: I want to be a professional, world touring singer/songwriter- who’s also an an actor on Saturday Night Live. It’s not a ridiculous goal at all…Ha! Realistically, I might be able to pull off being a professional recording artist who guest stars on SNL, but until then, I’m gonna keep dreaming of pulling off both. Why not, right? Who’s to say I couldn’t be the first Singer/Songwriter-SNL hybrid? In fact, that’s who I’d like to be.
AK: If you could do a two-person musical, whom would you like that other person to be? It could be ANYONE who is currently living.
NK: Aw crap. There are SO many people who just popped into my head. Will Ferrell is taking the lead on this one, though. Could you imagine how ridiculously fabulous that would be, to be in a two person musical with Will Ferrell? Um, yes. Final answer. Will Ferrell. I forgot all the other names in comparison to him. He’s my favorite.
AK: If you could choose someone no longer living, who would it be?
NK: Jesus, obviously. That’s because my version of Jesus is this super hot surfer dude who’s like “Chill everybody, let’s listen to some Bob Marley, take a little stroll on some water, and then I’ll turn that business into wine.” Jesus would be the ultimate. Jesus Christ and Will Ferrell. No man could dream of topping that mystical combination. Heck, take me out of the mix, I’d like to see a musical with those two. It’d be wild!
AK: What is your greatest fear?
NK: That I’ll die before I get the chance to either burn or edit the diaries I’ve had since I was 12. I feel like I only write in them when I need to vent or have a good cry, so people would find it and be like “Wow, Katie, really?” You know, that or Alzheimer’s. I don’t want to lose myself. Of course, if I continue to keep a diary, I can probably remedy that. I’ll still need to do some editing and burning though…haha.
See Katie Wilbert’s “This Life Chose Me: A Ninja Musical” Sunday, July 14 at 10:30pm at iO West and August 5-17 in Edinburgh, Scotland as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
It’s what Jesus, Will Ferrell and Wilbert’s parents would do.