Top left to right: Caitie Auld, Molly Tellers. Bottom: SCC student, Kara O'Connor
Photo Courtesy of Amanda Smith at GiantBlackAlbatross.com
By Coral Nafziger
I never expected to see the blond woman from my graphic design class swaying languidly in a pink leotard and a mushroom cap for a hat. But that happened...
Kara O’Connor is a student in Shoreline’s graphic design program. She is also part of a three-person sketch comedy group called Day Job. They have been together for three years and are described as “amazing” and tenacious by Clayton Weller, who has mentored the group and runs the Pocket Theater in Seattle. In October, Day Job was awarded “Favorite Local Performers” at Sketchfest Seattle.
Weller “spice-girled” the members of Day Job -- O’Connor, Catie Auld and Molly Tellers -- at an 8-week intensive workshop called The Summit. Weller described “spice-girling” -- he also called it “boy-banding” -- as choosing the members and coaching them as they formed a performing group in much the same same way groups like the Spice Girls or various boy bands were formed.
Before The Summit, Weller said he was aware of all these women in the comedy scene and felt they all had something interesting to offer, so he guessed that they would get along and become friends. Initially Day Job had a fourth member, Nicole Santora, who continued on with them after The Summit, but later left the group.
In sketch comedy, finding people to work with who have similar senses of humor is essential, according to O’Connor, which is one reason why she enjoys working with Auld and Tellers. Collaboration is important to O’Connor, who has done stand-up comedy in the past, but she prefers doing sketches with others because they are able to support each other on stage.
Weller noted that O’Connor is very supportive of other actors on stage. He said she doesn’t feel the need to be the center of attention, and instead sometimes plays necessary but nevertheless background parts, which makes her incredibly versatile.
A hallmark of O’Connor’s performances is her ability to embody a multitude of characters. In “The Fantastic Misadventures of Twisty Shakes” at the Pocket Theater in Greenwood, I saw her slouch into a cocky swagger and sneer as a braggadocious sky pirate. She quickly changed costumes and fully transformed her voice and body to become several other characters, including a seductive infomercial mermaid, a nagging mother, and the aforementioned leotarded pink mushroom creature.
When she needs to learn a new accent, O’Connor heads to Google for research. She focuses on accent tags, which are key words, such as caramel and aluminum, that exemplify the unique qualities of each accent. As the owner of Leash The Hounds Dog Walking and Pet Sitting, O’Connor can sometimes be seen wandering the streets of Seattle, dog in tow, talking to herself in a new accent for practice, “Alligator, blueberry, caramel, dinosaur…”
Tootsie Spangles, a local performer who invited Day Job to audition for “Twisty Shakes,” said O’Connor was really willing to commit to a role. She recalled that O’Connor spent about the first twenty minutes of the show -- which included a dance number -- in seventy pound chainmail.
When Spangles realized how heavy the costume was, she told O’Connor that she could wear something else, but O’Connor wanted to stick with the right look for the character.
A trope in sketch comedy that O’Connor and Day Job have taken on is exaggerating gender characteristics when playing the opposite sex. She noted that male comedic actors, including the members of Monty Python and Kids in the Hall, have gotten a lot of mileage out of dressing like women, speaking with overly high pitched voices, and heightening “feminine” characteristics. For O’Connor this is fun to flip on its head by amplifying stereotypical male characteristics -- playing the caricature of a “bro,” for example.
Acting would be O’Connor’s ideal job, but it is one that is notoriously difficult to make money in. She spent some time in radio, first as “Kara Pain,” the metal DJ on a Sirius station in New York, and later as a producer and DJ at The End in Seattle.
When she was laid off from The End, she realized that radio was no longer a very practical way to make a steady living.
Interested in pursuing a different type of creative work, O’Connor enrolled in the graphic design program at Shoreline, another testament to her talented and multifaceted personality. It’s a good idea to keep your eye on Kara O’Connor.