27 Questions with aspiring Theatre Producer Kati Donlon

Continuing on from The Happiness Project, I wanted to take the focus away from me and my habits and goals, and onto the people in my life. Over the next few months, I will be interviewing 100 people on life and happiness, to see what truly inspires them and makes them happy. I hope to discover something I didn’t already know about each person and gain further insights into motivation and happiness.

Everyone has some little piece of wisdom, something they’ve learnt that is unique to them because of their personal experience. I want to bring light to these small nuggets of truth and share a little part of each person’s story.

What do I hope to achieve? Well if anyone finds this at all amusing, thought provoking or inspiring, then I’ll feel I’ve done something worthwhile.

I didn’t really know where to begin, but I had the list of questions ready on my phone for a few months, and when Kati said she was coming over last Sunday afternoon, my gut said come on, Kati would be perfect for this…And strangely enough she didn’t laugh in my face when I asked if I could “interview” her for the blog.

I first met Kati Donlon at a Scholarship weekend at our school. To make a long story short, she got the scholarship, I didn’t. She’s one of those wonderfully humble clever people that thoroughly understates their cleverness. (A*s at A-Level, and a degree in International Politics and Economics from Kings College London, you can’t really downplay that but she somehow manages to..). Cleverness aside, she’s just a really awesome individual. – She gets shit done.

Sat in my living room sipping tap water and instant coffee, she leaves me gobsmacked one minute then chuckling away then next with her ridiculous stories and general overall wittiness. I would describe her as outgoing and assertive though she might disagree with the latter.
Having just spent a year interning at The Quarry Theatre, the 23 year old now works as a Duty Manager at The Hampstead Theatre. After several years experience in the industry, she’s also working with two close friends to start their very own theatre company.

*Bonding with one month old Maia

1. How’s your day? What have you been up to? 

This morning I had a bit of a lie in, I went and bought the paper – I always try and buy a newspaper – I came back, made some coffee and read the main section and the Arts section. I did a little bit of work then got the train here.

2. What does your typical day look like? 

In the morning I make some coffee, check my emails, check in on the world, deal with anything that’s come in. I might go for a meeting with my theatre company colleagues and discuss what needs to get done, we’re meeting a lot at the moment because we’re new and need to get established, there’s lots to be sorted out. I always try and do some more work. Then I end up at The Hampstead. I head home quite late.

3. Do you have a special morning or evening routine? (*I mention my need to journal and meditate).

I don’t have anything like that. That’s not me. I tend to be quite fly by nature. I need time in the morning to potter. I hate being in a hurry in the morning. I need time to eat.

4. How do you unwind at the end of the day? 

Normally I try and meet someone for a drink, if not a class of wine with a flatmate. I like cooking a proper meal, having a nice free evening.

5. Who are your biggest inspirations? 

Michelle Obama. Allison Janney, she’s wonderful, a ground-breaker. Amy Poehler, very good at what she does and doesn’t take any shit. Sharon Horgan, she writes Catastrophe. Emma Rice, Artistic Director of The Globe, she’s just done her first season and it was so bold and pure.

My Mum-  she’s very organised and self-motivated, powerful, very intelligent, dominates in a man’s world, she doesn’t stand for any nonsense, she’s very well thought of in a man’s industry. I go to her for professional questions. She’s very financially astute.

Loads of my female friends who are my contemporaries and inspire me daily.

6. Dream career or careers? 

To be the executive producer of a new writing theatre.

7. What are you currently doing to work towards your goal of being an executive producer of a new writing theatre?

Me and two colleagues are in the process of setting up our own theatre company which I am producing. Our first show is going to be performed in March at the Basic Space Festival in Peckham.

8. How was this idea born?

A good friend of mine Igor Memic approached myself and Adam Line -my co-producer- about setting up a theatre company that would specialise in new writing and telling impossible stories. He’s a writer, we’re producers and we all share a similar belief in the type of theatre we want to produce. At the moment in the industry you can’t really wait around for opportunities to land on your doorstop you have to make them yourself. So we jumped in at the deep end.

 9. Any advice for people wanting to go into the theatre industry?

Get any job you can in a theatre, whether it’s an usher or behind the bar or a volunteer, because every theatre across the country is staffed with young theatre makers at the beginning of their career who will form a pool of talent that you can be a part of. Once you’re in the building you’ll never know who you’ll meet.

10. The best plays you’ve seen?

A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic- Directed by Ivo Van Hove.

The Encounter by Complicite which was mind-blowing and the play that made me realise theatre was what I wanted to be in.

Macbeth at the Globe six years ago, vivid gruesome and engaging. – Oh my god that you can take such an old play and make it so engrossing and fresh and magical.

11. Any general life advice to younger people?

No one knows what they’re doing, everyone’s making it up as they go along. Confidently fake it till you make it. Be confident, work hard and something will happen.

12. Favourite bit of life advice/quote/something you live by. 

Just get on with it.

13. What would you tell your 15 year old self? 

Stop worrying so much about what other people think because you are smart and you will develop into something you are proud of when you’re older, that feeling when you move to London and you find your people, you’ll be okay. Don’t worry about what happens right now, no one remembers what happened when you were 15.

14. When are you happiest? 

When I’m with my friends. From about 21, I found a group of people I felt very secure with, who liked me for who I was, that made me an even more confident person.

15. One of the happiest days of your life…

Many days of the recent holiday in Bosnia. A beautiful part of the world with a wonderful group of people and I am so pleased to be their friend. The food and wine. Exploring a part of the world I never thought I’d explore and thinking “I’ve done pretty well here”.

16. Three things you took from your University experience? 

How to read the news with a more cynical eye and a greater understanding of the infrastructure of news and how it operates.

The value of putting the hours in by not necessarily putting the hours in and realising what a mistake that was.

I really don’t like vodka.

17. Three best things about living in London? 

The theatre, access to the most exciting scene in the world.

The sense of business and chaos. I love being part of this swirling mass of people.

It’s where I’ve cemented my friendships, it’s where I feel at home.

18. Any bad habits that you’re currently trying to work on? 

Saying what I really want, rather than saying what I feel would be easiest, to be more organised and to not procrastinate.

19. Best advice/guidance your parents gave you? 

Save for when things go wrong and be financially sensible.

20. Your perfect day? 

Wake up and have a nice morning in bed with coffee and newspapers and boyfriend. Go and talk to colleagues about an exciting project, have a good meeting that goes well. Go and meet friends for a really nice lunch, definitely with wine, go for a really nice walk to a London park, stop for more coffee. Take boyfriend or friends and see a really good play at somewhere like the Battersea Arts Centre where you can have really good food. Then stay and dissect the play with another bottle of red wine, stay till theatre closes and then head home.

21. Three things you couldn’t live without?

Wine. Tea. A good book

22. Three things you’d change about the world? 

Just Donald Trump. The refugee crisis. The way that the meat industry is damaging the environment.

23. Top Five books? 

To Kill a Mockingbird. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, The Green Road by Anne Enright and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

24. Top Films / TV shows? 

The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Parks and Recreation, Gladiator – Me and Dad cry, Hot Fuzz  and Pocahontas

25. Favourite holiday? 


26. Three things you’d like to say you did before you die? 

I was kind and a good friend.

I contributed in any small way to making the world a better place.

I did a good job at something I love.

27. What did you learn yesterday? 

That sometimes you have a lot more in common with people than you think.


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