A Conversation with Deborah Yates
May 17, 2000
Lincoln Center Theater's Platform series presents conversations with artists working at LCT before an audience of interested theatergoers. Admission is free and open to all. Platforms are held in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The following is a transcript, edited for clarity, of the May 17, 2000 Platform with Deborah Yates:
THOMAS COTT: Welcome everybody to the final Platform for this spring. I'm Thomas Cott, Director of Special Projects at Lincoln Center Theater. For those of you who missed the earlier events this spring, we do make transcripts of these events. They are available on our website, if you have access to the computer. We also sell copies at our lobby shop during performance hours. These Platforms are a chance for you to go behind the scenes and meet the folks who make the magic happen every night.
Tonight, we have with us a very special artist, about whom The New York Times wrote: "From the moment she enters in that siren's dress, it is clear that what is happening is not just another striking theatrical performance. It is the uncommon but unmistakable emergence of a star". Please welcome Deborah Yates! [audience applause]
Deborah, let's start with a bit of your history. You grew up in a small town in Texas?
DEBORAH YATES: I did. I grew up in a small town called Jacksonville, Texas. We call it the Pine Woods of East Texas. East Texas is a lot like Louisiana, actually, because there's lots of pine trees. Lots of lakes, lots of hills. It's very different if you just drive a few hours west, it becomes very desert-like and flat. Where I grew up is a very lovely part of Texas.
TC: You started dancing at age six, but you didn't really get serious about ballet until you were a teenager.
DY: Where I grew up was a very small town. There was only one dance studio. I took all the classes they had to offer, which was once a week: ballet, tap and jazz. I did that all through junior high and high school. Then, when I was in high school, my family moved to Austin, Texas.
That was the first time I ever got exposure to high quality, professional training. I went from being a big fish in a little pond to just being algae! [she laughs] It was quite a shock to me. But I was just as infatuated with ballet as ever, and that's really when I started getting serious about any sort of training. I found one teacher there who sort of took me under her wing, and for the two years that I lived there I studied very intensely. We ended up moving back to East Texas for my senior year of high school, and I ended up driving to a nearby town-Tyler, Texas-which had some comparable dance training; there wasn't any available in the town where I grew up. I didn't really get serious about it until I was about fourteen. So in a sense I came to dancing late, although I've been doing it since I was a little girl. I didn't actually get serious about it until I was into the teens.
TC: You studied dancing in college at Southern Methodist, but your degree is in Communications. Did you have thoughts about going into the business world?
DY: I did. I had always loved the arts. I had always been fascinated by the arts. But I never