Behind the Scenes with North Palm Beacher Kate Katzman

Palm Beach Gardens resident Kate Katzman opens up about her life on and off the big screen and invites us to explore the Wick’s latest exhibit.

Kate Katzman wears a suffrage suit originally made for Palm Beach Opera.
Opposite page: Katzman’s emerald green dress was worn by Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002.
Photography by Nick Mele

In the 2015 indie biopic Walt Before Mickey, real-life bubbly blonde Kate Katzman transforms herself into an unassuming brunette named Lillian Disney. Katzman portrays the young wife of the fabled theme park and animation genius at the dawn of his career, requiring her to be quietly supportive of her on-screen husband. During intense conversations—on the front porch of their home, in the car, and at business meetings—the actress’ eyes reflect the heart of the scene, conveying hope, optimism, and strength.
That ability to capture the subtle traits of a character, along with her stunning looks, are what caught the attention of legendary actor Burt Reynolds, who encouraged Katzman to audition for his master acting class at the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre in North Palm Beach. “He had a great love of teaching and he helped me see the tiny things in a script where you could make an impact,” she says.

Growing up, Katzman didn’t dream of becoming an actress. The only child of a nurse and a mounted police officer spent her early years in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, until the family moved to Palm City, Florida, when she was 7. “Throughout my life, I’ve always had people trying to get me into acting, but I was really shy when I was younger and never in a million years thought that I would become an actress,” she says. In fact, the animal lover wanted to be a veterinarian.

But in the few years since she discovered what has become her passion, Katzman’s racked up an impressive list of credits. Following the debut of her first film, Walt Before Mickey, she’s worked on four more that will soon hit theaters, including a role as a movie director in The Comeback Trail, scheduled for release in early 2020 and starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Tommy Lee Jones. The others include the neo-noir drama Adverse, the half-animated remake of the classic Snow White, and Santa in Training, which Katzman describes as “a cute family comedy.”

When she’s not acting, Katzman’s life revolves around her own family. She married Scott Katzman, a surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, 10 years ago and likes to spend as much time as she can with her 3-year-old daughter, Keira, and 7-year-old son, Dylan. Their home in Frenchman’s Reserve in Palm Beach Gardens is just one neighborhood away from her mother, whom she calls her “major grounding force.” The two are extremely close, sharing a bond that was solidified when her father died shortly after they moved to Palm City. “It was difficult for my mom and me in Florida, with the rest of the family in Pennsylvania,” explains Katzman. “It took a while to get acclimated, but now I love Florida.”

While the state’s laid-back lifestyle is appealing, Katzman’s personal style is that of a self-described girly girl. “I’m not really a sneakers-and-jeans person,” she says. Whether embodying the persona of Lillian Disney during the 1920s or Megan Albert (her Comeback Trail character) in the 1970s, period costumes appeal to her sense of drama and love of clothes. The 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s is her favorite, she adds, because “Audrey Hepburn was just exquisite.” Playing the part of a suffragette or a flapper for a new 1920s-era exhibit at The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum in Boca Raton was a natural fit for Katzman, who’s come a long way from the bashful girl who never considered acting. “It’s my art and my passion and something that emotionally fills me,” she says. “Acting is what I do for me.”

The 1920s Come Alive at The Wick

To mark the dawn of the 2020s, The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum has mounted an exhibit that harkens back 100 years, to the decade encompassing Prohibition, suffragettes, flappers, and jazz music. “The economy was booming in the 1920s,” says Kimberly Wick, museum curator and associate producer. “People were more frivolous, and it was an interesting time of freedom of expression.” The fashion of that era, she adds, reflected the mood with looser clothing and the elimination of restrictive corsets.

“The Roaring Twenties” is on display through May and features approximately 140 costumes, some of which come from the collection of Marilynn Wick, executive director of The Wick Theatre and founder and CEO of Costume World, the largest holder of Broadway costumes from more than 85 original shows. Highlights of the exhibit include Angela Lansbury’s outfits from Mame, bathing suits from No, No, Nanette, and vintage pieces that pay homage to major events and notable trends, such as Prohibition, the Nineteenth Amendment, and ragtime music.

Tours are by appointment and include a 1920s-inspired luncheon at The Tavern restaurant and a backstage tour of the 333-seat theater. Outside the museum, The Wick will host its New Year’s Eve Great Gatsby Party, starring an 11-piece jazz band that, as Kimberly Wick notes, “does a bang-up job with that era.” «

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