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As well as a successful author, Kay Williams is a professional actress. She earned her Actors Equity card in San Francisco where she played many roles, including the title role in Miss Jairus, Cybel in Great God Brown, Rosalind in As You Like It, and Amelia in The House of Bernarda Alba for the nationally famous Actor’s Workshop. She was with the Pittsburgh Playhouse for two years, and from there moved to New York City, living in a 6-floor walkup (a women’s residence that provided free breakfast!!) while she made the rounds. She was hired by the Jackson, MS Theater Center to replace Mercedes McCambridge as Regina in The Little Foxes and stayed on to do several other plays including originating the role of Queen Elizabeth I in a new play, Masquerade, that opened off-Broadway. She has also acted in TV shows and in movies, but finds stage acting more challenging and rewarding.
A lucky break landed her a job with a prize-winning independent filmmaker and that gave her flexible hours to audition and rehearse. She was cast in a number of new off-Broadway plays (it was an exciting time for theater in NYC).
When acting roles began to dry up, it seemed natural to gravitate to writing, and she’s surprised to find she doesn’t miss acting all that much (although she still has occasional nightmares of being onstage and not knowing which play she’s in). A big plus with fiction writing is: you can play all the characters!
The author’s move into the crime-ridden, sleazy Hell’s Kitchen of 1977 provided the catalyst for the award-winning thriller, Butcher of Dreams, co-authored with Eileen Wyman. Kay’s wide ranging acting credits and theater experience gave focus to this character/plot driven mystery that centers around the struggling 42nd Street repertory theater where much of the action takes place.
Kay’s years with the filmmaker gave her production credits for two films, respect for the courage of independent filmmakers, and took her to the Cannes Film Festival, where for a month she shared a villa overlooking the Mediterranean with cast and crew. She traveled with the filmmaker to Leningrad in 1991 where she received the idea for The Matryoshka Murders. Anything could happen here, she thought, in this city at this desperate time (just a few months before the USSR broke apart).
Eileen Wyman, Kay’s writing partner, helped organize photos and notes collected from the trip, and together they drafted a plot and wrote this thriller that begins in Russia and jumps across an ocean to New York City.
Eileen, known to friends as Jo, an amazing, talented woman, tragically passed away on Sept. 6, 2013, just after The Matryoshka Murders was completed, but before the book was published. She is deeply missed by family and friends.
Kay is also a co-author of the comic romance One Last Dance: It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love, started by her journalist father Mardo Williams, and finished by her and her sister Jerri Lawrence. One Last Dance has won several awards, including an Ohioana Award (to Jerri and Kay) for writing and editing excellence.
Coming next (dedicated to Jo) will be a series: New York City, Collected Letters, 1956-57: Were We Ever That Young?, the hilarious, heart-breaking and hair-raising adventures of two starry-eyed girls from the Midwest (Kay and Jo) who arrive in New York City with big dreams of success. Part Two will be San Francisco, Collected Letters, the Sixties.