By: Paulanne Simmons
January 29, 2022: Kathryn Kates was a talented character actress, as can be seen in her numerous roles in television, stage and film. But I knew her best as Mrs. Rivera, the very funny, stubborn, and kind-hearted mother in my 2010 Fringe musical, “In the Schoolyard,” with music by Rachel Kaufman.
When Kathryn showed up for auditions, we could hardly believe our good fortune. We could not understand why she would want to be in a show that would have only five performances and pay almost nothing. After all, she was the babka lady on Seinfeld!
But Kathryn’s only hesitation was that she was not a singer and had never been in a musical before. We heard her sing, watched her move, and said, “Don’t worry; you’re perfect.” And she was.
Kathryn brought all the enthusiasm and talent to that show she would have to a film seen by thousands. She treated her fellow-actors as she would have any of the celebrities she worked with. In the end, she became not only the wisecracking mother of the musical but a very wise mother to everyone in the cast.
Kathryn died January 22 at the age of 73. I am filled with grief. But as Mrs. Rivera knew, all of life’s troubles can be met bravely with “rice and beans, and a few good friends.” Goodbye, dear Kathryn. May your memory be a blessing.”
Photo: Walter McBride