What's Eating Katie? musical focuses on teen eating disorders
"What's Eating Katie?" is a powerful musical first written in 1996 by Atlanta psychologist Dina Zeckhausen. The musical focuses on 13 year-old Katie Cromwell, who develops an eating disorder after repeated exposure to the “perfect skinny girl” vision of Americans as portrayed through social media, television, and her peers. The musical unfolds throughout two acts, where we become familiar with ED, otherwise known as Katie’s eating disorder. Teens in the Alliance Theatre Summer Camp- ranging in ages from 7th to 12th grade- put the play together in merely eight days, performing on June 15 and 16, 2012 in the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage. These teens aimed to send a message about loving yourself to their target audience, 8th graders, according to www.whatseatingkatie.com.
I saw the musical on opening night and was impressed with the teens’ talent in singing, acting, and their remarkable work in accurately and emotionally portraying the message. They all did a good job of projecting their voices so even those in the back could easily hear, and they sang with emotion, which really allowed for a convincing performance. Similarly, the teens did an amazing job with getting into and staying in character, especially with such a short preparation time!
Inserted into the plot line were “commercial” breaks in Katie's story that were introduced and performed by some of the cast members. The commercials inserted into the musical did their job of poking fun at the real life diet, fitness, food, and fashion commercials that teens are exposed to every time they turn on the television. These commercials also effectively lightened the mood of the heavy topic of eating disorders.
Also, although there were minimal props and costumes, I feel this truly helped the audience imagine these situations occurring in their own environments, and see that these are real teens, not just adults trying to connect to their viewers by dressing as though they were middle schoolers. The musical was performed in a blackbox theater in the Alliance called the Hertz stage. Even though the space was minimal, and there wasn’t a raised stage like in larger theater spaces, I think this created an element of audience-to-cast involvement. The teens did a wonderful job of using the space to their advantage, getting close to the audience members by utilizing isles, chairs, and a table on their “stage.”
Overall, the play, “What’s Eating Katie,” had a great impact on teens and presented a positive message about being comfortable in the body you’re in. It does an excellent job of combining a musical production with a sense of humor to ease the stress of teens about their eating disorders. Overall, I would recommend teens to watch this play, because it brings awareness to the stress factor of having an eating disorder and the trying to mold to a perfect body image. Just remember, not having a perfect body image does not mean that you’re not beautiful.
Photography and additional reporting by Brianna Curtis, VOX Staff
For more information on “What’s Eating Katie” and how to bring the musical to your school: www.whatseatingkatie.com
To read a blog by Jo-Jo Steine, teen actress and rising senior at Pope High School, on playing the starring role of Katie in “What’s Eating Katie?” http://www.voxteencommunications.org/blog/culture/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10388930