Today’s guest is Catherine Gaffney, and my parents met Catherine through Christian Performing Arts Fellowship and the Masterworks Festival over in the US when they were living there in the US. And then when Mum and Dad moved back to Tassie, Catherine and her husband Sean came to visit us in Tasmania. And that was amazing because like we met them for one evening and it was just one of those friendships where you just get along so well. So I just want to say how grateful I am for social media because we stayed in touch. And it means I can chat with Catherine. And Catherine is an actor and a voice actor, which are two different things.
Maybe we’ll talk about that. You can tell me about it a bit. And she’s in the middle of a play, which I’m thinking is called Holes right now. And it seems to be with the children’s theater. So we can talk about that, too. And I just wanted to tell you this quote from the Facebook page, which says, ‘Joy is making your director fall out of her chair laughing in rehearsal’, which really makes me want to come and see the show.
But I always do, and I haven’t seen any yet.
That was a fun moment.
I reckon it was
It’s great to be here.
All right. So we’ll start we’ll start at the beginning. So how did you become a Christian?
Well, I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home. And when I was seven, my parents were missionaries in Mexico for a year. And it was at that time that I just began to understand God is a provider. Jehovah Jirah. We would have groceries show up from nowhere. And yeah it was a whole different experience than living in suburban … just south of San Francisco. And that’s where I officially gave my life to Christ and then did it over and over again because I’m a perfectionist and I wanted to do it right.
So that was I mean, really the start of my journey and then blessed to continue at that church. I commuted from home for college and then a year out of undergrad. I joined a company in Seattle, a theater company, and they were all graduates of Seattle Pacific University and wanted to bring hope to the world of theater. And so merge those two things. Yeah, that was another formative in merging my faith and my art. And I still refer back to that. And we live this crazy adventure of faith and art.
Absolutely. Really want to talk about that. Yes. So. So you’re a voice actor and an actor. I mean, we all know what an actor is. But what does a voice actor do?
So being a voice over talent uses all of the acting skills because you’re still telling a story with your voice. But depending on the genre, you might use more of your craft. Voiceover is literally voicing over anything where there’s not a mouth moving. So it might be the actual character with his narration going on, but it could be a commercial where you don’t see it on television, on radio, the phone system where you call, I don’t know, the airport, you know, ‘press 1 for reservations, press 2’ … e-learning and online learning is huge now. So there’s so many genres, most people know commercial or animation. But, you know, we’ve all also gone to a museum and had the little earphones that’s narrating our way through the museum tours. So all of that, it’s it’s a big, wide world.
So did you always you always wanted to be an actor? Was it always on your mind?
No. My mom put me into drama class when I was in seventh grade because I was so shy. She honestly thought I was never gonna be able to speak in front of people. And so my first play in middle school, I was the narrator, which now I look back and go, ‘ah starting the voiceover work early’. But I began to do more in high school and majored in it at San Francisco State, at which point my parents freaked out.
‘No, we didn’t mean for you to, like, be an actor full time. And don’t you know, 98 percent of all actors are unemployed.’ But they were public school teachers. I said, ‘did you do that for the money?’ ‘No.’ So it’s what I love.
And I’ve been so enormously blessed to have done it … I’ve been in the arts, employed in the arts since graduating undergrad 20 … so many years ago.
That’s gotta be a miracle, really, doesn’t it?
Honestly, it does. And it’s been a variety of things. I’m an organized – creative split brain, so I’ve worked in the box office selling tickets for events, but it’s still in the arts. You know, I’ve coached I’ve taught classes. I managed a performing arts studio. And then, of course, the narrating audio books or performing in plays. It’s all a mishmash.
There’s so much so much variety there. But you’ve got to look for it don’t you? You can’t get focused on, ‘I’m going to only be in movies’ or whatever. You’ve got to be open.
Yeah, you’ve got to see the doors that fling open in front of you and sometimes stop banging so hard on the door that won’t open.
That’s a lesson for us all, I think.
When we were in LA, I thought I would be more TV and film while I was there. And no, I did a lot of administrative arts work and then started audio book recording which was brand new to me.
Yeah. I’m big on audio book reporting because, you know, there are people talking about audio first now and how everything should be recorded and done in audio, so I’m sure that’s an absolutely growing field for you as well.
Yeah, I’m thinking of recording my own audiobook.
Yes. Yes. I’ll try
For Deadly Misconduct?
No. No. For My Year of Saying No. The one that’s, you know, totally my voice. So my story, right. Gosh, now I’ve said it on the podcast. That’s going to have to happen now isn’t it?
That should be fun. Why not?
Okay. How does your faith show in acting? So I mean, you could always only act in Christian productions, but I it doesn’t sound like you’ve done that. So how do you show your faith as an actor? How does it come out?
Well, Madeline L’Engle has an amazing quote in her book, Walking on Water, which I highly suggest for anybody involved in the arts who is a person of faith. And she says, ‘there is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred. That is the message of the incarnation.’ And that’s what I look at it like. I get to literally become an incarnation of these characters, take a character that’s on just on the word, on the page and make it flesh and live it out. And in that moment, I bring humanity to it. And yeah, like now I’m playing that the warden in Holes and she’s the evil villain. But if we didn’t have bad, we wouldn’t see the light of good. So sometimes I have to be the foil and I have to see what makes them what other people would call bad. I can’t view my own character as bad, but I can see where she’s hurt. I can see, you know, things that that didn’t end up the way she expected. And so now she takes it out on others. And then I make a more well-rounded character.
But especially in well, in U.S. politics, which are quite divided right now, the entire country is divided. It became so clear to me last spring while I was doing a play that for two hours people were sitting in one room together listening to different points of view, not screaming at each other, but to simply seeing people walk out their, you know, life choices.
And it developed conversation. It it increases empathy, which is missing in a lot of places. So I find I couldn’t do this job without faith, just knowing that God has a plan for me because it’s such a crazy freelance career.
We’ve been reading the kids.
So just a couple hours ago I was at church doing an after school reading program and I’m reading The Tale of Despereaux, which is the little mouse story. And in today’s chapter, he’s down in the dungeon and this jailer says to him, you know, ‘tell me a story because stories are light. And that’s what I need in this dark place.’ And the story ends up saving his life. And I think that that is … that’s what I do.
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Not to mention Jesus spoke in parables. And sometimes I think that’s how we we figure it out is through story.
I couldn’t agree with you more as a writer. It’s exactly the same. Exactly the same story.
Trying to get my villains to be villains who believe in what they’re doing and have a purpose for what they’re doing. And as much as my as much as my good guys do, if you don’t have that, you don’t have a good story.
So yeah, that’s where conflict exists. Yeah.
Right. And you must have conflict to have a story. And for someone who’s big on conflict avoidance that’s been big lesson for me.
Me too. Big time.
And I’m thinking too, like so you talked about God providing for you in that year in Mexico and now you’ve brought that together with how he provides for you in your life now. Do you have some stories of God’s provision in terms of your freelancing?
Yes, amazingly. Today I just got an email from a toy company saying, ‘do you want to revisit this little spot, six second online spot.’ Six seconds for online.
But yeah, that came out of nowhere right at the same time that I’m getting some new demos done like, oh, that’s gonna pay for that. A lot of provision has come through my very hardworking husband who will be on the podcast soon.
And over and over. Goodness. When we moved to L.A., we didn’t know exactly what’s going to happen. And we spent the first night in a motel hotel and got our voicemail from Seattle where we had moved from. And he had an offer of writing a Larry Boy book and that was goodness, we moved there 16 some odd, let’s see, 12 plus six … 18 years ago. And just last month, they’re turning that Larry Boy book into an episode because it’s relaunching. Yeah. It’s like, how did this come back around?
I can’t plan it. And I’m a planner. So just to see God, weave his tapestry together. Now we’re in Kentucky, which was not on my radar EVER. I’m I’m a West Coast girl who dealt with the East Coast for five years and tried to figure out humidity with curly hair. But this moved to Kentucky has been a blessing.
And Sean and I don’t have biological children, but we find that everywhere we go, we end up adopting spiritual children and artistic children. And I I get put in positions where I can mentor. And now to be working at a children’s theater where there are 19 kids in the show and only four adults. And I go, OK, I can walk out how I live and how I perform and how I treat my craft. And yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
Yeah. Because I guess things get fairly tense in terms of performing in the theater on theater nights and stuff. You’ve got a real opportunity to show fruits of the spirit there.
Yes. Hopefully show them.
Yeah. I just want young performers hopefully to know the things that I know as a budding performer 30 years ago. It just that they are enough. They walk into the room and they are, you know, the only Catherine Gaffney that walks into that room. Because especially in theater school, you’re trained. I can be anything like, well, yes, within limits. And then we need to embrace what we do well.
And I’m starting to figure that out, that I have this wonderful gift of having a youthful energy inside a mature package. Well, maybe that’s my unique selling potential. You know? That’s what’s different. And for me, I think that’s the light of Christ’s shining through these old bones.
I don’t know what to say there. No, but yeah, absolutely.
And it’s working in that space that, you know, that’s unique to you is is what gives you the joy, I guess. You know, I guess that’s part of where Jesus said, ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ If you find your your thing and work through that. And I guess it changes over time as well.
What is that Buechner says? Finding where your great passion meets the world’s great need. That’s how you know your calling. And I think that, you know, when I when I read a story, people are glued to that. Oh, wow. Maybe that’s my gift.
Yeah. That’s so awesome.
When do you feel close to God?
Unfortunately, usually it’s at my lowest points, which I don’t want to say, because, you know, when you say, ‘God, teach me patience,’ you know, then you’re stuck and you have to start practicing it. So I think it’s in those times of …
Well, recently we rented our Virginia house when we moved to Kentucky, so we rented it for a year and the person moved out in June and it just closed sale today.
So there was four months of, ‘Aaaah Lord?’ And I think when we have to depend on him. Yeah, it actually is good for us as much as I don’t want to admit that and I don’t want something horrible to happen, but I don’t believe in Jinxes. I think that he strengthens us and keeps us humble sometimes.
And I think when I can reach out to somebody else in a similar situation, we’ve started just a time of prayer with some of the theater, especially women. The girls that are in theater. And I feel a calling to work with the seniors right now at the university where Sean’s teaching.
Seniors are in in Australian terms?
Oh, OK. Yes. Not old people. Fourth years.
They’re about to graduate next May and go out into the workplace. And I really want to work with those people that are in the theater and cinema performance degree just to say this is what’s gonna happen when you get out, you know? Where are your personal boundaries? What are things that you know now are weaknesses that we can be praying about? A lot of creatives battled depression and dare I say, on a podcast that’s something I’ve had to fight. And admitting that, that is where God steps in and says, well, when you’re weak, I’m strong. But to admit that to a group of young people and say, ‘it’s okay to be flawed, that’s how we’re used. God uses flawed people all the time.’ And here my job is, you know, voiceover I think of Moses a lot with a big old stutter. So that when I think ‘I can’t’ he says, ‘well, I’ve called you here. Do you believe that I can?’ ‘Well, yeah, I believe that you can’, you know, can he do that through me? Do I allow myself to be used?
And seeing that the partner God gave me, that’s when I just I can’t get over how good that is. I. Yeah, I love my husband so much. And we are this amazing match of goofiness and dreamy adventures together and then practical, you know, we just taught a stage management class together because we have those, ‘Oh let’s put it together and plan’ skills. Yeah to have this amazing partner is a gift.
And that must be just a wonderful witness to people around you as well. I mean, marriages there are a lot of not very strong marriages.
There aren’t a lot of actual marriages that you look at and say that’s that’s what I want to have.
We’ve been asked recently by someone close to us that couldn’t go to their parents and they reach out to me via Facebook, ‘Can I ask you a question about somebody I’m dating?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness. We’re in this parent mode.’ But it’s just because they had watched us silently, which is kind of scary. But yeah, people are watching and seeing. How do you love each other?
Yeah, absolutely. Can I ask you? I can obviously I can take this out if you don’t want to share it on a podcast. But I you I you biologically child free from choice or has this just happened to you?
We did not have fertility issues. But we also never felt called to have children. Yeah. So any time that I would feel like, ‘oh, my gosh, I’m supposed to be a mom or he supposed to be a dad.’ We realised it was peer pressure. Yes. And that’s hard. And we saw. Yeah, there’s just some things that we go, OK. We have 48, 45 something nieces and nephews. We now have over a dozen grand nieces and nephews. Sean is one of 12 children. Yeah. So there’s certainly enough Gaffney’s populating the world.
And it has allowed us to move. We didn’t know that when we were in our younger age. But since then we go, ‘oh, this is how we could move to Virginia when Shawn was called there. This is how I could go back to school and get my MFA at 47 to 50. This is how we could end up in Kentucky now. This is how we can invest in the next generation in a different way.’ Yeah. But yeah, it’s a hard thing. Especially in the church. I was just talking in Sunday school because people are like, ‘well, you haven’t filled your quiver’.
But I think, you know, to know that this is a calling is good. And now I’ve got the time and the energy to volunteer and read to kids this afternoon that sometimes their parents don’t have. And in some of these situations, the kids don’t have parents who are going to read to them. So it’s something I love and have time to do now.
Yeah, that’s absolutely wonderful. That’s really good. And I did want to talk to you about it, because I do think there’s there’s a huge amount of peer pressure to to have children. Especially in the church And I love to hear someone who has chosen as a calling to be childfree. And then I think people tend to say, ‘oh, it’s selfish’, but look at how you’re living your life and there’s just so much giving to people who who couldn’t receive it from other sources. It’s fantastic.
And we brought it to God too. You were like, God override our decision. You got the power to do that, you know? And he often does with people. They’re like, ‘We weren’t planning, but this is the best thing ever.’ So, yeah, I do have to say, because early, you know, like I think at our reception, people were asking, you know, ‘when are you gonna have kids?’ Yes. But a dear friend, a dear friend at our church said, ‘whenever somebody at church says that, ask, “how do you do that?” And they’ll stop talking.’
You need to put them on the spot a little bit.
Yeah, absolutely. I had friends who were having fertility issues. They said when people asked them, he said, ‘well, just tell them we’re bonking as much as we can. And nothing’s happened.’
It’s something that’s so personal.
No, that’s great. Thank you for sharing that with us.
What’s one thing about God in Christianity that you wish everyone knew?
I think a lot of it’s encompassed in that Madeleine like L’Engle quote. You know, whatever you do, whatever you eat, drink. Do it all to the glory of God. And I think that we want things, whether it’s music. And, you know, Amy Grant is Christian until she says, ‘Baby, baby.’ We’re like, ‘Oh no!’ You know, heaven forbid we look at the Bible and like, ‘oh, a song of Solomon talking pomegranates. Oh, no.’
You know that God is in it and that he has the victory. And praise God that we’re along for the ride. I want to invest. And I want to help be a good steward of the gifts that he’s given me, as well as the ones in other people that maybe I can nurture.
But yeah, I think I think it’s it’s not all about harvesting and it’s not all about having a separate society. Because it says, ‘be in the world, but not of it.’ You know, it’s like, ‘oh, something’s different.’ But let’s let’s be salt and light. You’ve got to be salt sprinkled on a piece of meat to be flavourful. And yeah, it might still go bad, but it’s gonna go bad, slower if the salt is there. You know what I mean? Like, we have to get out there and be salt and light.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much. Catherine, it’s been really great talking to you.