Mimi Katano ’93MS: A Wheelock Family Theatre “Homecoming”


This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of the Wheelock Magazine.

Mimi Katano

Mimi Katano ’93MS calls what will be her return to Wheelock Family Theatre (WFT) to direct A Year with Frog and Toad from April 15 to May 15 a “homecoming.” Mimi, who is now the artistic director at Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN) in Seattle, planted roots with WFT 29 years ago during her freshman year at Emerson College in Boston, where she earned a degree in General Performing Arts. She played Eliza in The King and I, and two years later — as a junior — she played Josie Pye in Anne of Green Gables. And this was just the beginning.

While a graduate student at Wheelock, where Mimi earned a master’s degree in Child Development, she continued to be a WFT actor and also took on the roles of dance teacher, choreographer, and education coordinator until she moved to Seattle in 1999. Her most notable of the 16 roles she played as an actor were Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man, Genie of the Lamp in Aladdin, Margalo in Stuart Little, Gollum in The Hobbit, and Trinculo in The Tempest.

Mimi Katano ’93MS, resting her chin on the foot of an alligator costume
Mimi Katano ’93MS, resting her chin on the foot of an alligator costume

When Mimi first arrived in Seattle, she was a freelance teacher artist for companies including the Seattle Children’s Theatre and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. At YTN, where the mission is to nurture “the intellectual, artistic, and personal development of children and youth through drama education, performing opportunities, and live theatre experiences,” Mimi works with children ages 3 to 18, producing 12 productions per year of all youth cast. (To be on stage, the child must be at least in first grade.) They have 12 productions per year, she says, to try to appeal to different-aged and -skilled actors as well as different audiences.

Mimi, who hopes to have the opportunity to “give back” to WFT during her venture in Boston, will leave Seattle for just under four weeks to direct A Year with Frog and Toad. WFT gives this description of the production: “Waking from hibernation in the early spring, the perky Frog and the worrywart Toad celebrate … the differences that make them unique. … These two best-friends plant gardens, swim underwater, rake leaves, go sledding, bake cookies, and learn to appreciate each other’s distinct qualities. Part vaudeville, part make-believe, all charm, A Year with Frog and Toad tells the whimsical story of a friendship that blossoms … through all the seasons. A delightful story based on the picture books by Arnold Lobel, this musical adaptation is a treat for children and the child within.”

Mimi is happy to report that three of the people she helped cast in A Year with Frog and Toad were colleagues and friends during her time in Boston: Larry Cohen, who will play Toad; Merle Perkins, who will play Ladybird and Mother Frog; and Gary Ng, who will play the Snail and the Mole.

“I like to joke that I use both of my degrees every day in my job.”

Along with making various Equity theater appearances, Mimi was a member of the award-winning Beau Jest Moving Theatre in Boston, where she performed at a number of theater festivals including South Carolina’s Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Aside from her work for YTN, she was a member of Living Voices. A Japanese national, Mimi has done a variety of cultural work for organizations such as Seattle Children’s Museum and Book-It Repertory Theatre, and she co-wrote the play Justice at War about Japanese-American internment during World War II, which was published in the book And Justice for Some in 2005.

A Year with Frog and Toad runs April 15 – May 15, 2016. Reserve your seats today!