Former Miss America, alum showcases talent

Marissa Weeman

Carefully intertwined show tunes and anecdotes lit up Norris University Center on Thursday night as a former Miss America and Northwestern alumna released her first solo album.

Actress and singer Kate Shindle, showcasing songs from her CD, “Till Today, ” performed for a small audience at The Gathering Place. She said she was just happy to return to NU.

“I’m totally thrilled and pleased to be here,” said Shindle, Communication ’99. “To me it’s a compliment that the 15 people who wandered in, took time out of their night and came here.”

She said her 1998 Miss America title has allowed her to take advantage of many philanthropic opportunities, including involvement with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. But she acknowledged the pageant title sometimes carries unwanted biases.

“You’re always fighting the assumptions that people make about you,” Shindle said. “But the flip side of that is that when people have very low expectations for your talent, or for your personality or for your intelligence — then, when you can do anything — they’re usually pleasantly surprised,” she said.

After graduating from NU, Shindle moved to New York to pursue her love of music and theater. Since then, she has appeared in such shows as “Cabaret” and “Jekyll and Hyde” and now performs in an average of two to three shows each year.

Shindle drew chuckles from the crowd when she joked about her portrayal of prostitutes and strippers both on and off Broadway.

“Me and whores — don’t get me started,” Shindle said. “I don’t know what it is about me, but for some reason people seem to cast me almost exclusively as strippers, prostitutes and drug addicts.”

Her roles as fallen women parallel her theater debut at NU, when she played a prostitute lounge singer in “City of Angels.”

If not for her involvement in NU theater, Communication senior Rohith Malya might never have stumbled upon his interest in Shindle’s music. He said he first saw her in a Waa-Mu Show during his senior year of high school.

“I try to support Northwestern artists,” Malya said. “Kate is sort of a product of Northwestern theater, of all the great professors in the department.”

Shindle said she looks back on her experiences at NU with nothing but fondness.

“I love it here — it’s all good memories,” she said.

Communication senior Francesca Rodriguez said she remembers Shindle’s last visit to NU in 2001, when Shindle was promoting the annual Dance Marathon, but wanted to see her in person.

“I think she really relates to the audience,” Rodriguez said. “She talks to people on a personal level and doesn’t just talk at them. She’s an amazing performer, and it’s such a fantastic opportunity to come see her perform live for free.”

Shindle said she enjoys visiting college campuses and urges potential actors and singers not to be discouraged by the nature of show business.

“Remember that it’s a business,” Shindle said. “Learn how not to take everything personally because that’s very difficult.

“There are infinite opportunities to hone what you do,” she said. “You have to put out as many feelers as possible. Out of every 10 people you meet that promise they’re going to help you become something, maybe one will work and come through.”