DJ Q&A: Catherine Traceski | Culture & Leisure


DJ: You live in San Mateo now. Where did you start?

CT: I was born in Honolulu, where my father was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy. When I was 2 years old he was posted to San Francisco where we lived until he retired from the Navy in 1995. My parents then thought it best to move to the suburbs and that is how we landed in Foster City. I attended St. Timothy Elementary School in San Mateo and Mercy High School in Burlingame. I currently work as a Vendor Management Specialist at Provident Central Credit Union in Redwood Shores and reside in San Mateo.

DJ: How did you become an actor?

CT: I got my first taste of acting in freshman year. Each summer I participated in Kidstock Summer Productions at St. Timothy and St. Matthew Elementary Schools in San Mateo. It was a summer camp filled with theater-loving elementary-aged kids performing mini-musicals filled with well-known songs that parents could also enjoy.

DJ: What was the first piece you saw?

CT: Even though it wasn’t an in-person play, I vividly remember when I was 7 and my parents made me watch a VHS copy of the musical’s 10th anniversary dream cast Wretched. It changed me forever. I was totally blown away by Lea Solanga, an amazing Filipina actress who looked just like my mom and my titas. When she performed her rendition of “On My Own,” she invoked so much heartache that I couldn’t help but cry — even though I was too young to understand what was going on on the show. For me, whatever she did, sign me up immediately, because that’s what I want to do!

DJ: What was the first show you took part in?

CT: My first legit show was the one I stumbled upon when I was 8 years old. At the time, my parents (as part of the Foster City Lions Club) volunteered to help with the Hillbarn Theater building repair project in Foster City. The executive director at the time, Lee Foster, encouraged me to audition for their upcoming production of The Miracle Worker. So, I shined my shoes, auditioned, and got cast on the show.

DJ: Did you take acting lessons?

CT: I went to Cal State Fullerton to study acting over 10 years ago. Other than that, I haven’t taken any acting lessons. I have found that being in shows and watching my fellow actors do what they do best both in the rehearsal process and in the actual shows are amazing teaching tools. When I was in the 2019 production of Sweeney Todd at the Hillbarn Theatre, watching Keith Pinto (Sweeney) and Heather Orth (Mrs. Lovett) perform with our director Joshua Marx was truly a masterclass in itself. I really have to thank the Tri-School program (Mercy, Serra, and Notre Dame high schools combined) for nurturing my love of theater when I was in high school. My teachers (Geninne Harrington, Jay Jordan, Kristin Pfeifer and Pam Matthews) are all truly top notch and just some of the best teachers around. I am incredibly grateful to them.

DJ: Memorable auditions?

CT: During my freshman year of high school, I auditioned for the Tri-School musical “Footloose.” It was the first time I was called back for a leading role. To say I was a nervous wreck would be a gross understatement. When it was my turn to sing in the encore audition, I completely kept my face in the music binder, not once looking at the casting jury as I sang the first half of the song. But then, when I felt myself shrinking into a shell, I quickly realized that if I really wanted this role, I had to do something right now. So immediately I lifted my head, closed my binder, threw it across the stage, and let myself be totally rocked for the rest of the song. Well, that moment worked and I got the part!

DJ: Tell us about South Bay Musical Theater’s “On The Town” and your role in it.

CT: SBMT’s production of “On The Town” is a spectacular love letter to New York and celebrates all the wonderful things that make it special. I play the role of Hildy Esterhazy, a New York taxi driver who wants to have a good time. One day, she’s in her cab looking for an adventure, and to her surprise, she makes eye contact with a cute, outgoing sailor named Chip. And the rest is history. I really enjoy the process of tapping into the boldness and confidence that oozes from Hildy’s fingertips. Plus, singing some of musical theater’s most iconic songs, such as “Come Up to My Place” and “I Can Cook Too,” was a treat. A HUGE thank you and thank you to Christine Capsuto-Shulman and Jad Bernardo for helping me prepare to take on the role of Hildy!

“ON THE TOWN” FEATURES: “On The Town” is the energetic WWII musical featuring music by Leonard Bernstein with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Presented May 14-June 4 by the South Bay Musical Theater at the Saratoga Civic Theater, 13777 Fruitvale Ave. in Saratoga. First nights are invited to stay for a champagne toast after the show. Evening shows begin at 8 p.m. while matinees (Sundays and closing Saturdays) begin at 2:30 p.m. Adult tickets cost between $24 and $54. There are $2 discounts for seniors 65 and over and $24 tickets for students and children. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (408) 266-4734.

Susan Cohn is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle and the American Theater Critics Association. She can be reached at


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