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 named BEST FLORIDA FILM by the Bonita Springs International Film Festival.
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 is an actor, singer, host, and award-winning filmmaker. Born in Sarasota to performing parents, her theatrical disposition was ensured at a young age. The short film Kathryn wrote, produced, and starred in, 50 WORDS, was an official selection of the 2018 Sarasota Film Festival and won BEST FLORIDA FILM at the 2019 Bonita Springs International Film Festival. She was also producer/host of CULTURE COAST on Facebook Live for the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. On stage, she’s worked at Florida Studio Theatre, Asolo Rep, St. Petersburg Opera, Players Centre, Venice Theatre, and regularly with FST Improv. Stage credits: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (Maggie), VIOLET (Violet), and KING AND I (Anna). Her voice has been called “sparkling” by Scene Magazine while the Bradenton Herald has described her as “portraying genuine star power”. She was also recognized with a Handy Award by the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Kathryn has a BA in Theatre Arts from University of Miami and now studies voice with Carlo Thomas and Sharon Ohrenstein. She is a Senior Communications Specialist for Michael Saunders & Company. Her husband, Jonathan Parks AIA, is an award-winning architect. 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.