I was born and raised in sunny Sarasota (but with my ginger complexion I choose to stay out of the sun). My mom is a singer / actress and my father, a pianist. Given my upbringing, a path in the performing arts was pretty well set. In my youth, we spent our summers in upstate New York where my parents performed as “The Fabulous Ohs” (last name is Ohrenstein). If you’ve seen Dirty Dancing, you can envision my bohemian existence.
Since obtaining a BA in Theatre Arts from the University of Miami, I’ve performed professionally and in community theatre across southwest Florida, including places like Florida Studio Theatre, American Stage, St. Petersburg Opera Company, Players Theatre, Venice Theatre, and Asolo Rep.
I am also very involved in the film scene, where I was recently featured in the latest from filmmaker Kevin Smith. I also wrote, produced and starred in a short film, 50 Words, shot in Sarasota, Florida and featuring over 100 actors and extras. It’s was an official selection of the Sarasota Film Festival in 2018 and nominated for Best Comedy at the Rendezvous Film Festival and Best Comedy or Musical by the Prince of Prestige Academy Award.
When I am not on stage, you may find me hosting a weekly video, The Saunders in 60, on behalf of Michael Saunders & Company, the top real estate brokerage in southwest Florida. I also write for the MSC Blog. Some fun facts:
- I’ve tossed a football with Dan Marino (Pappa John’s commercial)
- I’ve hiked across the country of Israel (really, from one side to the other).
- Graduated 6th in my high school class (smart too!)
- My brother, Abe, is a 4th degree blackbelt in karate
- I’ve danced in a McLaren convertible across Sarasota’s Ringling Bridge at sunset (see my “Get Happy” video)
- My husband, Jonathan Parks, is the most amazing architect in the world. Check out his website: Solstice Architects.
Kathryn Parks has established herself as one of Sarasota’s recognizable leading ladies. A singer, actress, and dancer, she is a regular in the region’s musical theater scene. Kathryn has starred in productions of My Fair Lady, Carousel, and The King and I, receiving acclaim for her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle, Julie Jordan, and Anna Leonowens respectively. She has appeared on numerous stages including the Florida Studio Theatre, American Stage, the Players Theatre, Venice Theatre, and with the St. Petersburg Opera Company. Also known to the concert and cabaret scene, Kathryn performs with the trio Vocal Vixens. A native of Sarasota, she graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in musical theater and now studies with Carlo Thomas and Sharon Lesley. Her voice has been called “sparkling” by Scene Magazine while the Bradenton Herald has described her as “portraying genuine star power”. Born into a musical family, her father is a professional pianist and her mother, a singer. Beyond performing, she is constantly blogging and also enjoys working on film and in print. kathrynparks.com
1 When did the acting bug first bite you? I’m fairly certain I was born with the acting gene. My father, David Ohrenstien, is a professional pianist, and my mother, Sharon Lesley, is a professional singer. During my childhood, they performed all around the country as “The Fabulous Ohs.”
2 Did their careers influence your desire to be a performer? Definitely! Growing up, the performing arts were really all that I knew. I thought it was perfectly normal that dinner parties turned into performances, dads played the piano to accompany their daughter’s ballet classes, and all moms had dozens of sequined gowns in their closets.
3 What was your first acting experience? My first play was in the fourth grade, and it all came very naturally to me. It was like discovering that I was fluent in another language and other people were speaking it with me. After that, I performed constantly and went on to study musical theater.
4 Do you plan to pursue a career in theater or film—or both? My goal is to continue doing challenging work, no matter the medium. I tend to throw myself in any project, whether it’s film, theater, or modeling. My only obstacle is finding time to sleep!
5 Who are some of you artistic heroes? Julie Andrews: I still want to be just like her. Sutton Foster: she can sing, dance, act, and entertain like nobody else. George Gershwin: his melodies transport me to another place. My parents: now that I’m older, I marvel at how they could make money with their art and still raise three children.
6 How do you approach your characters? Once I have the script, I break down my scenes to discover my character’s objectives. Then, I do all sorts of research about the creation of the show, iconic performers who’ve played the role, and factual details about the script’s time and place. If I’m doing an accent, I spend a lot of time learning the dialect. And, finally, I’ll work with my voice teachers on the music. I record all my sessions and practice with them at home ad nauseam. My cat hates singing!
7 Advice to young people contemplating a performing arts career? I think you can follow your dreams wherever you are. It’s not about expecting fate to intervene or believing that one path is the right way. It’s about challenging yourself every day, working with dedication and integrity, and investing in the people you care about. When you do that, the doors leading to your dreams start opening all on their own.