Five Minutes With…A Thespian |

Five Minutes With…A Thespian

China Kwan

Note: Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “Chicago” runs from Nov. 6-9 and 13-16, 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Aspen District Theatre. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for children for night shows and $16/12 for matinees. For more information: visit or call 920-5770.

Name: China Kwan

Lives in: Glenwood Springs (originally from Novato, Calif.)

Character in “Chicago”: Go-to-Hell Kitty, a wealthy heiress, who shoots her two-timing husband.

Occupation: Works at the Colorado Mountain College bookstore, runs Distinctive Catering by Indigenous, with her husband, Kelly. An actor, singer and dancer, she’s had her Screen Actors Guild card since 1979.

Some of her favorite movie and theater roles: Her first film was “The Right Stuff,” and she also got her first close-up in it. In the play “Equus,” she was a horse. In the musical “South Pacific,” she was Liat, and got to play in front of thousands of people. A dancer since she was 5, she took up community theater at 18 and was even accepted into the California Institute of the Arts. Out of 3,000 allowed to audition, she was one of 10 chosen.

What do you think it is about acting that made you want to stay with it. I mean, what do you love about it? “It’s a chance to be. You know. It’s a chance to play. I love being able to remove. Remove from life and every day-to-day. I think it’s like having a chance to be a child again, in the sense that, playacting ” everybody likes to playact. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are. You need to be able to playact. It’s tapping into your imagination. It’s keeping that creativity alive. And it’s just really cool, because everything sort of disappears. When I’m on stage, everything disappears. …A director described it this way: You’ve got this electrical charge coming out from the actors to entertain. And you’ve got the electrical charge coming from the audience that wants to be entertained and when it fits, and that spark just jazzes, it’s a heady, heady feeling. It’s very cool. When it just kind of goes “zap.” It’s one of the neatest feelings I’ve ever had. And I guess that’s why we do it. (Laughing)

Why did you want to go for “Chicago?” Why did I want to do it? Because I’d done it before. And I wanted to try. And I’d never auditioned up in Aspen, and I wanted to see if I still “had it.”

Do you think you’ve still got it? I feel like I’m holding my own. (Laughing) I don’t know. You know, performers have a very frail ego. You never know. You’re always doubting and questioning yourself as to whether you still have it. And you always want it. You find other things to do, especially if you’re not on a professional level anymore. You still carry a professionalism, for sure. It’s there. Your training’s there, and it will always be there. And you find a way to keep hold of it, and keep exploring and trying. And enjoying. So, I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do it. And you know, I’m holding my own.

You do identify with Kitty? Yes and no. You always have to find some part of a character that ” I find you have to know her motivation. … Kitty’s a brat. I mean, she’s an heiress, so she’s incredibly wealthy. She just finds herself entitled. She just thinks she’s so entitled, and she’s a brat. So I love being able to be a brat, because, being a little more mature and being a mom, I don’t get those opportunities to be a brat. I really enjoy letting that go. And I get to scream and yell and spit and kick. So, yeah, those are things that I identify with. They’re things that have been necessary to smother. Well, not smother, keep controlled. So I think it’s good. It’s like therapy. It’s my therapy, being able to let that out.

Why do you think people should come out and see the show? Oh, it’s great. It’s absolutely fantastic. The set designer, Tom Ward, is amazing. It’s huge. We’ve got a band on stage, on the set. It’s a gigantic set. We’ve got jails that come in and out. The talent up there is phenomenal. We’ve got a lot of players from Crystal Palace. It’s very cool, very cool. It’s professional caliber theater. And a lot of talent that is up there is from professional theater. They’re mountain folk now, so they’ll find a way to keep doing what they were trained to do. We have players who have performed on Broadway, in New York, around the world, across the country. They’re here now and they’re on this stage. How can you not?

If you had to describe your experience working on the play in a word, what would it be? Fabulous. Fabulous, fantastic, exhilarating. And that’s before we open.


Movie character: Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard”

Theater character: Caliban from “The Tempest”

Place to perform: Mount Tam Amphitheater

Costume she’s worn: The large, platform “hooves” and tall horse head from “Equus”

Line from a play: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” ” Prospero in “The Tempest.”

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