By John Farrell, Theater Writer
San Pedro audiences saw Kristin Towers-Rowles most recently in the delightful production of Kiss Me Kate at the Warner Grand Theatre in February 2011.
She’ll be back in town, April 20 through May 26, in Panache, the comedy opening at Little Fish Theatre, starring the husband and wife team Holly Baker-Kreiswirth and Bill Wolski.
Panache, a screwball comedy by playwright Don Gordon, tells the story of a woman who wants the word “PANACHE” for her car license and has to get it from the man who already has the plate on his car. A Scarsdale socialite and a Brooklyn fry-cook meet and things are not what they seem in this screwball comedy that takes language seriously. Little Fish Theatre’s award-winning Managing Director Stephanie Coltrin directs the play.
Since Kate this past year (she was also in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers for Relevant Stage at the Warner’s before Kate) Towers-Rowles has been busy with her three children, all daughters: Ryanna, age 7, Makalya, 6 and Amelya, 4. She has been a full-time mother. Her husband, Ryan Rowles, is busy, too, producing My Fair Lady for his school this weekend. (He is arts chairman there.)
And, sure, she has appeared occasionally on stage in a few plays since then: Sunday in the Park with George (which won her an award for best actress in a musical from Stage Scene LA); The Chantilly Sisters; Once Upon a Mattress (in Torrance, another Scenie Award-winner); Little Women; Victor, Victoria; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; and Jacques Brell is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. She also won a Scenie for Kiss Me, Kate. Oh, and don’t forget her own one woman show, A Lovely Lineage, which she has done at Vitello’s in North Hollywood and in Palm Springs. She will reprise that show at Vitello’s next month. And, to cap it all she was named “Breakthrough Musical Theatre Performer of the Year” for 2011 by Stage Scene L.A.
“I’m just a working mom,” Towers-Rowles said during an in-car conversation while driving to a San Pedro rehearsal this week. “The difference is that I don’t work in a cubicle somewhere: I work on stage.” But, she has to admit, “My life is a little crazy.”
Unless she is too far way to make it home (she has been rehearsing in Indio recently and sometimes couldn’t face the drive home late at night) she drives home every night and gets up every morning to deal with the everyday problems of life like breakfast for the children and her husband, the laundry, shopping and cleaning, and then goes to rehearsal or performances. Husband Ryan is very supportive and they have also developed a large coterie of friends and relatives to help with child care and not one but two schedules impacted by the theater. The children are already getting into the business. Their 6-year-old daughter already has callbacks for national commercials.
For many families, this might seem a little too much. But for Towers-Rowles, it is a family tradition that goes back more than 60 years. Both of her parents were actors (her father still performs, sometimes with her.) Her grandmother was the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star Kathryn Grayson (of Kiss Me, Kate and other big musicals,) and Tower-Rowles was on stage when she was a child. She won awards at Hollywood High School Performing Arts Magnet and went to the prestigious American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York on a scholarship.
After graduation, she began a career that included national and international tours, including work on cruise ships and a year-long stint directing for the Sierra Rep Co., all from a base in Los Angeles. But on one national tour she injured her back and was told she’d never work again. For most people that would be the end of the road. For Towers-Rowles it just signaled a change. She decided that her life had been too hectic, and decided to “just be” for a while. She got married and had three children in just a little more than three years.
(“Three babies in three years – I’ll take my gold medal now!” she says on her website, www.kristintowers-rowles.com.)
After starting a family, she decided she wanted to keep performing despite the injury:
“The choice would be either I don’t act or I try to establish a balance between my home life and my performing life. I chose to keep performing.”
That balance is a very busy one, being a normal mom (well, a normal mom with a lot of rehearsals) and keeping a successful career going at the same time. Then there’s the driving around Southern California to shows and driving the kids to school, cooking and cleaning and learning the book for a new play every few months. Most people would wilt at the thought of so much activity. Kristin is cheerful and upbeat and very happy.
And she has grown professionally as well. Just this year she acquired her card in Actor’s Equity, the professional actors union.
“There is more work for non-Union actors,” she said, “but membership means a lot to me. Now I can perform in professional shows as well as being the one Equity member in shows.”
See her at Little Fish the next few weekends (she won’t be playing every performance, since she has to do Into the Woods in Redlands as well, and see her in her one-woman show next month. Hers is a career on the rise, and if it didn’t start in San Pedro, well, San Pedro can still claim some of the credit.
Tickets are $25, $23 for students and seniors. Panache runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 26.
Details: (310) 512-6030; www.littlefishtheatre.org
Venue: Little Fish Theatre
Location: 777 Centre St., San Pedro