Perhaps it is not surprising that Winkie Ballas Jamail, artistic director for the new Katy Town Theatre, sings “hello” when she joins a telephone interview. She has been a voice …
Perhaps it is not surprising that Winkie Ballas Jamail, artistic director for the new Katy Town Theatre, sings “hello” when she joins a telephone interview. She has been a voice performance coach for over 30 years.
Jamail grew up in Houston and moved to Katy seven years ago. She said within 24 hours she was in love with the community. Marrena Anderson, her business partner, grew up in the Midwest and lived in various places as she and her family followed her husband’s career. They spent nine years in Tyler, where she was active in the Tyler Civic Theatre. She and her family moved to Cypress in 2020, and was introduced to Jamail through associations with Cy-Ranch High School.
Jamail and Anderson hit it off and decided to organize a community theater, featuring lessons and acting, movement, and voice for performing in musicals. Lessons would also include training for how to audition for roles.
Yet they realized that to really incorporate “community” into their idea, they should work with Katy city officials. They met with then-Mayor Bill Hastings before the pandemic. His encouragement led to them working with Kevin Browne, the city’s parks director. The classes will be held at Woodsland Park, 443 Danover Road.
Anderson said the park has a big conference room where the classes will be held. It also has an outdoor pavilion should people want to move things outside. Eventually, the hope is that musicals can be staged there.
“There’s enough room inside the facility where we can house everyone for classes,” Anderson said. “We’re looking forward to our partnership with Katy.”
Jamail shares that excitement.
“It turned into, let’s do this with the city because there’s a need there,” Jamail said. “There’s a need for a well-run community theater with professional teaching, but at the same time, a community theatre. It should be fun.”
Katy Town Theatre is now accepting registrations for students, ages 8-15, looking for training in voice, stage acting, and moving about on a stage. More information is on the website katytowntheatre.com. But Jamail was quick to say that the theatre is looking for registrations, and not auditions.
When it was suggested that a singer might be afraid to apply because he doesn’t have the talent to sing as well as an opera star, Jamail was reassuring.
“I’m so glad you don’t sing like somebody else,” Jamail said. “We don’t need two (Luciano) Pavarottis. We need you. You can learn anything when you have the right tools. If you can talk, you can sing. I’ve been teaching for 30 years. There was a lady who came to me, and she was embarrassed that she couldn’t carry a tune. Six weeks later, she was singing in her church choir because that was her goal. If you are a person who wants to get up and sing, then get up and sing. The gift needs to be developed, that’s all.”
Expanding on her story about the lady who became a singer in her church choir, Jamail said she has had students who when singing contest over others with natural talent because they worked at it.
“I do not audition my students,” Jamail said. “If they’ve got the desire so strong, they find me, they pick up the phone, they show up for the lessons, and that’s all I need to know because they have the desire. So much of it is about what your belief in yourself. Do you see yourself up there? For that to happen, you need to be working with people who believe in you.”
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