Kay Williams always had an inclination to be a professional actress, so, with stars in her eyes, she moved to New York City right after college graduation (she was a theater major). She lived in a rent-controlled apartment with no heat, and lots of rodents, too busy earning money to act (her dad had saved her letters from that time so she recently took a fresh look at those hair-raising and now hilarious adventures). After 9 months in the Big Apple, Kay slunk back to Ohio, to a safer life, teaching, directing, acting in community theater, and reviewing films and plays.
Her dream didn’t die. She moved to San Francisco, where she played many leading roles until several theaters went bankrupt (an occupational hazard, she discovered). Acting roles dried up just after she earned her Equity union card. She left the Bay Area for the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Two years later that theater was too broke to renew her contract. There was only one place left to go, New York City. It still scared her, but this time, she vowed to be victorious. Kay acted in a number of new off-Broadway plays, finding it more fun than doing a show that had been successfully produced and “set in stone.” In between acting jobs, she worked as an office temp until she landed a perfect job, “Gal Friday” to an award-winning independent filmmaker, which not only gave her flexible hours to audition, but also an education about film writing, directing, and producing. She took films she’d helped produce to the Cannes Film Festival and to the Leningrad International Documentary Festival (where Kay and Eileen’s second thriller, The Matryoshka Murders, begins).
Kay’s eventual move to an apartment in New York’s crime-ridden Hell’s Kitchen became one of the catalysts for Butcher of Dreams, Kay and Eileen’s first thriller (about the theater, of course).
Fearful of spending her retirement as a bag lady begging for money outside Actors Equity, Kay took a “real” job. A physician she’d worked for as a temp asked her to join him as he set up a Primary Care Residency Track at NYU Medical Center. She did and learned a great deal about good doctoring and academic medicine (and the politics of academe–another book, perhaps). The NYU job was too demanding to take time off to audition so she and Eileen teamed up to write, a move they had been contemplating for several years. Kay discovered that she didn’t miss acting all that much. With fiction writing, she had total control and could play all the characters! Kay and Eileen found they jelled as a writing team.
To learn more about Kay Williams and her book visit her website.
Topics of conversation:
- Her adventures in NYC and San Francisco in the 60s
- Being a Gypsy Actor
- Working as a “Gal-Friday” for independent film writer, producer, director, Jack O’Connell
- Her trip to Russia to the Leningrad International Documentary Festival
- How she and her sister finished writing their dad’s romance novel