When people asked Sue Katz what she was going to do when she retired from the state nine years ago, she didn't have to think twice for the answer.
"I can't imagine my life without theater," said Katz, a lifelong Clifton Park resident who is part of the large ensemble performing in the Schenectady Civic Players production of "The Madwoman of Chaillot," opening Friday and running through Oct. 21. "My husband and I have been involved at Schenectady Civic for so long and we have met some wonderful people and made some great friends. I was one of the lucky ones to retire from the state when I turned 55 nine years ago, and I've had a great time in the theater, whether it's in the show or volunteering backstage. All of it is very fulfilling."
Katz plays the Countess Josephine in "Madwoman," and is part of a cast that includes a number of longtime community theater stalwarts from the Capital Region. Lucy Breyer plays the title character, the Countess Aurelia (the Madwoman). Among those joining her on stage are Robert Hegeman as The Prospector, Alan Angelo as The Broker, Robin MacDuffie as The President, Steven Leifer as The Baron, Melissa Brown as Countess Constance and John Quinan as Little Man. Chris Howard is directing the show.
"It's always fun performing at Schenectady Civic," said Katz. "It's a large cast and I kind of feel like the actors are ships passing in the night. But I'm having a great time. This place really feels like home."
"The Madwoman of Chaillot" was written in 1943 by French playwright Jean Giraudoux and first produced in Paris in 1945. In December of 1948, it made its Broadway debut and earned a Tony Award for Martita Hunt in the title role. In 1969, Hollywood produced the film version starring Katharine Hepburn, and over the years there have been various stage productions, including new English adaptations in 2016 and 2017.
The story centers around the Countess Aurelia, a benign but rather eccentric woman who fights developers and local officials whose aim is to tear down the neighborhood and rebuild.
"It's a very interesting, quirky little show, but it's also very relevant," said Katz. "Given the political climate and yes, the general climate, it's extremely relevant."
Katz is coming off a highly acclaimed production of "Men In Boats" at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in Averill Park. She was one of 10 actresses who played male characters in the Patrick White-directed project, which re-creates the Powell Expedition down the Colorado River in 1867.
"Things went very well and it was well received," said Katz, who, along with the nine other actresses, participates in White's Saturday morning acting class. "I've been taking his class for two years now, and it's a lot of fun."
Katz is a Shenendehowa High School graduate who was involved in the drama club but then moved away from the theater for quite some time.
"I did a couple of shows in high school, I was singing quite a bit, but then I was away from it for quite a while," she said. "Then I got back into it because my husband got involved with a Schenectady Civic production. I worked the ticket booth, and then I started doing some other things. I think I got back involved in the early 1990s and have done a lot, on stage and backstage, since then."
She says she has two dream roles and has yet to play either one.
"My dream role has changed over the years, and in my younger days I would have loved to play Dulcinea in 'Man of LaMancha,'" said Katz. "Well, I'm too old for that one, and I haven't sung that much in years. The one I'd really love to do now is [Vivian in] 'Wit.' It's a story about a woman dying of cancer. It's a challenging, interesting role and a really great play. I have some friends who have battled cancer, and some of them have lost that battle. To play that role would be really important to me."
'The Madwoman of Chaillot'
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 S. Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Oct. 21; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 518-382-2081, www.civicplayers.org