A Radio Redux member since 2009, Kim Donahey has performed roles ranging from Gracie Allen to Toto.
You know it’s a powerfully good show when a Radio Redux actor gets so engrossed in the story that she forgets she’s actually in it.
That happened to Kim Donahey in a 2012 performance of Princess O’Hara, an episode of the Damon Runyon Theater, at the Wildish Theatre.
“I was so involved in the story, listening so attentively,” she recalls. Then silence. And more silence.
“I was waiting for the next line. Then I realized it was my line! Fortunately, the show was a comedy, so we were able to make it work,” she recalls. “The audience just roared.”
Donahey, a cast member with Radio Redux since the very beginning in 2009, initially shunned acting despite, at her mother’s urging, having commercial and modeling opportunities after high school in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t see the social value in it,” she recalls. “I didn’t see how that was going to make the world a better place.”
As a young teen, Donahey embraced volunteer social service work with her high school youth group in projects like reading to children in Watts and visiting nursing homes. She was so serious-minded that even reading fiction for her own pleasure held no appeal.
Instead, she focused on making a positive difference in her personal decisions and community activities.
To complete her undergraduate degree in psychology, she arrived at the University of Oregon in 1978. Shortly after graduating she began her work as a parent, a parent-educator and a pre-school teacher.
“I loved reading to children,” she recalls. “I discovered that literature was rich with meaning.”
She enrolled in a community Oregon Repertory Theatre (ORT) class to become a better reader. In the class she realized she had unconsciously been speaking with the voice of a child for years. An instructor suggested she change her voice for different characters because a change in voice can create such a different effect for the listener.
“It really helped me to grow and see that theater and the arts have great impact and can uplift and inspire,” she says.
The skills she learned through the ORT class continued to serve her after she earned a master’s degree in arts administration, counseling and mediation. She worked for several years in local parent education and child and family outpatient therapy programs.
Simultaneously, she became an actor in Eugene’s community theater scene.
“As an actor, I need to have compassion for my characters and, of course, ultimately for myself and others. When I can see the good and bad in each character I play, the character becomes real — and so do I,” Kim says.
“My intent is to find the humanity in each character. We can learn about ourselves this way.”
Here’s Kim in her excellent-for-cast-parties back yard with Bohdi (foreground) and Bella, “who is Bohdi's therapist," Kim says. Photo by Bub Bishop.
Initially Kim shunned acting despite, at her mother’s urging, having commercial and modeling opportunities after high school in Los Angeles. Here she is in 1970, looking like she could double for Mary Tyler Moore.
When Radio Redux hit the scene in 2009, Donahey was an experienced hand on stage and a good fit for the new troupe.
Radio Redux founder Fred Crafts invited her to audition and, subsequently, to join the company.
“Kim is an extraordinarily gifted actor, with a wide emotional range and a gift for creating compelling characters that are vastly different from show to show,” Fred says. “Plus, she has that special charisma that draws the audience to her. Her enthusiasm and kind spirit lifts every show for us. We’re so fortunate to have her with us.”
For her part, Kim finds the other actors a source of never-ending energy and inspiration that help keep the spark fresh.
“I am so entertained by my fellow actors in Radio Redux,” she says. “Every night there’s something new, and I'm so excited to see it.”
Fred says Kim eagerly engages with each show, contacting him weeks prior to the first rehearsal to suggest ways her character can best be portrayed. Sometimes that involves developing an intricate backstory for a character that the audience will never know about, and “sometimes it’s just a question about which hat might best suit,” Fred says.
By the time the complete Radio Redux troupe arrives on stage, Kim says, it’s like a basketball team taking the court.
“It’s teamwork. You make the other people look good. If a line is dropped, we all cover,” she notes. “You never put people down in a show. You always support one another. We’re there to lift each other up.”
That sense of mutual support extends from the stage into the audience, she says.
“The audience is part of the team. I see them as part of our company. As actors, we are in a relationship with our audience.”
When Kim isn’t working or acting she volunteers her time reading poetry and singing ’40s tunes at assisted living and memory care residences around Eugene. She’s also helping with legislation to better safeguard elders in care facilities.
And once a year, she serves as stage manager at the Oregon Country Fair. Her personal back yard, with its whimsical art and secret spaces, could serve as a stand-in for sites at the fair. Because of that, she’s hosted Radio Redux rehearsals and cast parties after performances.
As do many Radio Redux actors, Kim speaks of the company as a family, a sense that Kim attributes in large part to Fred’s approach to casting and directing.
“Fred is wonderful. He really listens to us as important parts of the team,” she says. “Fred works hard and could probably get even more done faster if he didn’t listen to us, but he does.
"The company has grown because of that, because Fred wants that feeling of family. And he wants the audience to be part of the Radio Redux family, too.”’
Story by Bub Bishop. Bub, now retired, was a longtime reporter for The Register-Guard.
Kim Donahey and Dan Pegoda in Radio Daze. Photo by Scott Kelly.
“Kim is an extraordinarily gifted actor, with a wide emotional range and a gift for creating compelling characters that are vastly different from show to show,” Radio Redux director Fred Crafts says.