She’s an award-winning actress, a director, and a teacher. She’s a Richmond resident, a VCU grad and a certified yoga instructor. However, today, Katrinah Carol Lewis is working as the stylist and model for the cover of RiverCity Magazine. “My earrings are the Adinkra symbol for ‘Gye Nyame,’ [which means] ‘except God.’” she says after I ask her about her dangling pieces of artwork. “As in, ‘There’s nothing except God.’ And they’re a good reminder of that.”
Without a doubt, Katrina is effortlessly beautiful. Her skin appears to be delicately bronzed by the sun. The kinks and curls of her hair crash upon her forehead and down around her neck like the waves along the Caribbean shoreline. Today, she wears a knee-length, feminine, bohemian, black dress, donned in floral print. The simplicity of her attire serves as evidence in the case of her natural appeal. If beauty is an art, she has mastered it. Outside of today, however, Katrinah is not a model. Instead, she’s an actress, dedicated to the performing arts.
The acting bug bit Katrinah when she was around 12-years-old. “I got into theater when I was in middle school.” she explains as we wait for the photographer to prep the set of the shoot. “I felt so at home on the stage.” Since then, Katrinah went on to earn a degree in performance theatre at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2016, she won a Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. That same year, she joined The TheatreLAB as their associate artistic director, leading a series of productions geared towards up-and-coming actors, directors and playwrights. Currently, she is the associate director of the Virginia Repertory Theatre’s production of Once, a play based on the 2007 film of the same name. For all intents and purposes, Katrinah is much more than a rising star. She’s a Richmond celebrity.
Nevertheless, today we sit together in the VA Rep rehearsal studio to discuss her role as Cleo in the theater’s upcoming production of Atlantis. Katrinah holds an enviously strong relationship with VA Rep. This is made clear by her picture standing tall on the outside marquee. Anyone driving along West Broad Street can see her. So, when it came time to cast for Atlantis, the powers-that-be knew who they had in mind,especially since the script is also, quite frankly, still in their minds. “They’re still in development,” Katrinah explains about Atlantis. “The script is still in process. The story is still in development and can change at any moment.” Her statement reminded me of the film Casablanca. Legend has it that actress Ingrid Bergman asked writer Howard Koch “Which man should I love more?” To which he replied, “I don’t know. Play them both evenly.”
What we do know thus far about Atlantis is rather intriguing. According to the presentation script, the production will tell the story of a brilliant, intuitive yet awkward girl named Maya, whose natural curiosity is discouraged in a civilization whose prosperity relies on maintenance rather than growth. Katrinah will comprise the role of Cleo, the mother of Maya’s best friend. Like Maya, Cleo is a complex character with a wide range of emotions and ideas. “[Cleo] is a part of the Air clan.” Katrina shares. “She is a mother. And she’s a wife. She’s married to a woman, which I think is a really interesting aspect of this piece. What I’m seeing in her is that she’s committed to her family, which puts her in a conundrum because her son is a first born and he’s getting ready to ‘ascend’. And there’s this mystery about what that means. And it comes out in the play- what it does mean.” In a nutshell, Cleo is torn between her love for Atlantis and the love she has for her son. And today, Katrinah has no idea which love Cleo will chose. So, like Ingrid Bergman, she will have to love them both evenly. “It’s really exciting to know that the writing team is still getting things together at this moment.”
I agree. It is exciting. I look forward to seeing which love she decides.
Atlantis: A New Musical will show at Virginia Repertory Theatre from April 12-May 5 in The November Theatre. Ticket pricing starts at $36 and can be purchased at www.Tickets.VA-Rep.org.