As a newly minted graduate of the Massachusetts-situated College of the Holy Cross, Katherine Fritz moved to Philadelphia in August 2008 minus assurance the City of Brotherly Love could prove tirelessly affectionate to her professional goals. Arriving for an apprenticeship at the Arden Theatre Co., the now-28-year-old has certainly sewn up such surety, as she has come to design wardrobe for the location and numerous other entities, including Azuka Theatre, which is presenting “Skin & Bone” through Sunday.
“I’m so grateful for my opportunities,” the much-courted costumer said last week from her Dickinson Square West abode. “They’ve meant chances to engage with people who not only are brilliant but are likewise enthused about creating great work.”
Always thrilled to enter a play’s universe with curiosity and care, Fritz has found herself especially excited to contribute to “Skin & Bone,” the second element of playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Southern Gothic trilogy, because of its impressive script and inclusion of talented females, including fellow South Philly resident Amanda Schoonover. Centering on bed-and-breakfast-operating sisters Midge and Madge, the 1990s-set offering has enabled her to promote the sense of “visual magnificence” that cinematic and theatrical audiences often skirt so as to focus on the acting.
“There’s definitely inherent challenges when taking on modern material, but I love tackling projects and reinventing worlds,” Fritz said, noting the siblings’ garb as a study in confidence and weariness.
“Depth is always there for us to notice, and that often becomes apparent through dress.”
With an art studio and costume shop in her quarters, the workaholic never lacks for enthusiasm, taking cues from production teams to mesh their input with her consideration for the compelling conveyance of characters. A repeat hire for various companies, she is reveling in her inaugural job for Azuka.
“New works really interest me,” she said of the handling of “Skin & Bone” at The Off-Broad Street Theater. “A play by a woman and featuring women in powerful roles? How could I not enjoy this?”
Though she has amassed an engrossing and ever-expanding resumé, Fritz confessed to dwelling on finding the right fit for her skills. Fortunately for purveyors of riveting tales, more often than not that has meant pairing their visions with her visuals.
“Each play is its own thing,” she said. “There’s a realm of possibilities every time, and I’m thrilled to do the exploring.”
As an Upstate New York inhabitant, Fritz gravitated toward narratives early on, deeming herself “a bookish kid” and, as an ambitious third-grader, answered the “What do you want to be?” inquiry with “A movie star or someone who puts the makeup on them.” Retaining her regard for plots, she majored in English yet made a life-altering discovery as a collegiate.
“I concluded I was a pretty lousy actress,” Fritz said of her performance identity, which she dumped as a sophomore. “That was not a huge setback because I came to learn I was a pretty decent costume designer.”
Still enthralled with prose, she chose to cherish its benefits by visiting the visual rather than the performative aspects of bringing fellow story buffs delight. As her collegiate career played out, she gained confidence and an initial stitch of renown, even becoming a trainer for stage-stoked freshmen. Fearing an immediately frustrating future, she found the Arden position through a jobs listing e-mail, with the only other mentioned possibility being a turn as a dancing chocolate for a cruise company.
“I’d say I made a great choice by filling out the Arden materials,” Fritz said with a laugh, adding the stint taught her about numerous disciplines and gave her insight into the workings of Philadelphia’s theatrical presence.
Using the tutelage adeptly, she has become a reliable freelancer for many top directors, including South Philly denizens Joe Canuso, Jennifer Childs, Aaron Cromie, Charlotte Ford, Brenna Geffers, Dan Hodge, James Ijames and Lane Savadove. She derives her greatest sense of autonomy as an artistic associate with the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, whom she is aiding through next month’s staging of the Elizabethan-era piece “Mary Stuart” starring South Philadelphians Ross Beschler, Krista Apple-Hodge and Jessica Johnson. With such a busy schedule, Fritz, also a guest lecturer at Temple University and an autism outreach instructor through Theatre Horizon, maintains balance and perspective through her immensely popular blog, dubbed “I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog.”
“I’m still experimenting with the scope of it,” she said of the 10-month-old, 6,000-subscribers strong brainchild, though she knows and appreciates that it is putting her in contact with figures from all over the world. “I don’t have any pretension that it is this cosmos-altering thing, but it’s a forum for opening myself up and perhaps offering and accepting comfort with whatever someone is going through or what I am experiencing.”
Through the discussion site, Fritz has reinvigorated her interest in writing and has become a commendable user of threads in two senses of the word. With a literary agent looking for her to compile her views and through her design prowess, she appreciates her current patch of fruitful endeavors and yearns to take on more tasks.
“At times, I feel life is a big ‘I don’t know,’” Fritz said, “but everything feels incredibly possible.”
Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at email@example.com or ext. 124.