Wellesley POPS Senior Profile: Kate Taplin, An Unforgettable Presence on Stage

Special to The Swellesley Report courtesy of the Wellesley High School Bradford and Parents of Performing Students (POPS). This is one in a series of POPS Senior Profiles we’ll be publishing.


Actors often spend years fine-tuning their skills to best bring characters to life, but Kate Taplin ’24 doesn’t need a script to create a worthwhile presence. She is her own character. 

Taplin has been involved in drama for all four years of high school and participated in musicals all throughout middle school. Alongside acting, she is also a leader of one of the a cappella groups at the high school, A Cappella Anonymous; an Improv Troupe leader; a Rice Street singer; and a choir and metals intensive.

The first thing you notice about her is her authentic personality. Her body language speaks the words she tries to convey. Talking to Taplin is like watching a theatrical production itself. 

Whether talking about her mom, her role models, her friends, or her own involvement in drama, Taplin sure makes the conversation engaging. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s her hand gestures modeling the grandness of the stage or the way her voice perks up when she talks about her Letterboxd account (similar to a Pinterest board but for movies). Her passion for acting is apparent to even those who have not seen her on stage. 

Kate Taplin hamming it up on stage as part of Robot and the Ready Readys, WHS Improv Troupe.
Kate Taplin hamming it up on stage as part of Robot and the Ready Readys, WHS Improv Troupe (photo courtesy of Jen Taplin)

 

Taplin’s first interaction with theater started at a young age. Sitting in the front row seat at the Boston Opera House, her inspiration began with the musical Wicked. “I remember sitting there, just staring, being so fascinated by people performing live on stage right in front of you. I think that was really one of the first moments where I was like, I need to do that. That’s what I want to do,” said Taplin.

Now, Taplin takes on the role of both actor and student director. She often helps Ms. Kara Sullivan, the drama and theater teacher at the high school, with directing by giving input. Among her fellow actors, Taplin takes on a strong leadership role. “She is a phenomenal leader. She has the crucial talent of anticipating a need and responding to it, and her energy in doing so is unwavering,” said Eva Meraw ’25.

“Kate is an exceptional actress who loves to do the work that it takes to bring her characters to life,” Sullivan said.

While Taplin enjoys having her moments on stage, she experiences the most pride and joy when she can see other actors engage in theater and have their “moment”. “It’s just moments when you see something click for another actor, and it transforms a whole scene and I fall back in love with theater. Seeing someone have a moment makes me realize why I love it,” said Taplin.

Although theater can be a test of self confidence for many when they perform, Taplin’s courageousness makes her stand out. “It doesn’t matter if she’s  performing a vocal jazz riff or delivering complex prose in old Victorian English: when Kate is on stage, she has the confidence and skill to just go into the zone and deliver,” said Eoghan Kelley ‘24.

One of the keys to Taplin’s success has been that shyness was never an obstacle. “This is silly to say, but my mom always told me I was never embarrassed. You can’t embarrass me. Which I think has totally been a tool, but also a weakness in some ways,” said Taplin. 

Taplin explains that, by definition, acting involves portraying characters that are different from oneself. So much of it comes down to risk-taking. She reports she is taking risks all the time. Whether she is auditioning, singing a solo on stage, or doing improv, she has found the confidence to take the risk and jump in fully. She goes on to point out that because she is so used to jumping in 100% of the time, she had to learn that in some settings, it is not always appreciated.

”Like in a class discussion for example, it is not always appropriate to raise my hand every time a question is asked just because I have something to say and I live ready to jump in. Sometimes, in certain settings, it is better to hold back. I am not used to holding back, it is not in my nature to hold back, so I had to learn when and how to do this,” said Taplin.

Kate Taplin plays a one-armed captain in the WHS production of Men on Boats.
Taplin plays a captain in the WHS production of ‘Men on Boats.’ (photo courtesy of Jen Taplin)

 

Taplin improves her acting by watching films, just like how a writer might read more to become a better writer. Oftentimes, Taplin pauses and rewinds movie scenes in order to understand how an actor is portraying a specific moment. 

“Her pure enthusiasm and knowledge about all sorts of media never fails to astound me. Beyond showing me some of her favorite movies that soon became mine, she can dissect a whole scene and it’s as if she was there when they filmed it. While the rest of us watch a movie to be entertained or just take in the plot, Kate sees artistry and craft in every scene. Her profound appreciation of film is remarkable,” reports classmate Kelley.

A second stage that draws Taplin’s attention takes place on ice with the props being sticks, skates, and pucks. Taplin is a huge hockey fan and closely follows the Bruins. She was also a hockey player when she was younger and loved the performance opportunities that participating in sports gave as much as acting.

Taplin will continue to pursue Drama and Film studies at New York University’s Tisch school this fall.


Article written by WHS Bradford’s Fiona Zhou ’24.

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