‘Worm girl’ works for a greener theater | News, Sports, Jobs

CHAMPION – Kathalina (Kat) Thorpe plays many roles, including mom, graduate student and assistant, technical designer, researcher and philanthropist.

However, one character created the happiest of times: Worm Girl.

It was in 2020 at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference when someone pointed it out and said: “You’re the worm girl!” » And Thorpe worked hard to gain recognition for this beloved character, which spurred a movement.

As a graduate student and teaching assistant at Kent State University, she was also the technical designer for Kent State Trumbull Theater’s Summer Stock production of “Lease.” But she agreed to participate, when approached by assistant professor and theater manager Eric Kildow, on one condition: she could build the set using sustainable and green strategies.

After all, it’s his passion. Thorpe, aka “Worm Girl” is dedicated to green research and improving waste reduction within the theatre.

“Theatre is inherently wasteful because sets have to move up and down quickly”, she explained. “The crew and cast literally take a sledgehammer to everything that’s created, then we drive through three or four dumpsters and eventually that trash ends up in landfills. The theater cannot survive like this.


Prior to coming to Kent State, Thorpe became involved with the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA). According to its website, this industry-wide initiative educates, motivates and inspires the theater community and its patrons to implement more environmentally friendly practices on Broadway and beyond.

For “Lease,” Thorpe and his assistant, Kent State undergrad Kenzie James, planned to create a set that used 25% green solutions. However, they estimated that number to be over 50% by the time the show opened.

She used wood from another piece and screws instead of nails, so they could easily take each piece of the set apart. She took foam bricks from another set and used leftover paint and sawdust to create the mortar. The cast will wear ’90s-style pagers made from painted scrap wood.

“It’s just trial and error”, said Thorpe. “It’s fun to create these things that not only save money, but help protect the environment.”

She hopes theater departments can use the money saved on buying energy-efficient necessities, like washing machines and light bulbs.

To fully commit to the BGA, Thorpe needs a department head, and she hopes it will be Kildow. They first met while she was working on her associate degree at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

“Eric was my mentor in North Carolina, and he kept me going and gave me the opportunity to create my first set,” she says. “I took a lot of my cues from Eric and he inspired me to teach acting.”

After graduating, Thorpe plans to teach. As a graduate assistant, she enjoys working with undergraduates and teaching them the discipline of theater coupled with the rewards of environmentalism and community service. In one of her recent classes, students learned to sew and, in the process, sewed more than 50 stuffed animals to give to local adoptive children.

Thorpe has studied the effectiveness of earthworms, also known as Red Wigglers, in breaking down the remains of costumes. Its ultimate goal is to see if they will break down the synthetic fibers.

She has already discovered that these worms compost fabric waste into natural fibres. Last fall, his research earned him a “Fan Favorite Audience Award” at the Kent State showcase. And she plans to continue her research and share her findings with the theater department and fashion school.


Thorpe was born into a military family in Jacksonville, North Carolina. She grew up in Richlands, North Carolina, and graduated from high school in 2006. Her mother is a farmer, and her father and stepfather, who raised her, are both U.S. Marine veterans. Body.

Her family raised sheep, horses and other animals, and she describes herself as a 4-H girl. After graduating with an Associate’s degree from Coastal Carolina Community College in 2015, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Valdosta State University in Georgia in May 2021. She is about to start sophomore year a three-year program in scenic design at Kent State University in Trumbull and plans to graduate in May 2024.

She is a single mother of two children: Anwynn, 4, and Georgie, 11. Georgie has severe autism, which has opened up opportunities for Thorpe to learn more about the neurodiverse population.

“Being a single mother is a challenge” she says, “but I grew up looking for ways to improve the lives of everyone around me. We get tunnel vision and forget those little things.

Thorpe explained her philosophy as a mom, teacher, tech designer and now famous “Worm Girl” as “the scenic route.”

“My innovative and creative drive is one of the fun things about being me,” said Thorpe. “Raising a child with autism teaches me to grow, overcome and think outside the box, which has inspired me to keep looking at the little things I can change and affect.”

Thorpe said his set design for “Corktown” at KSU Trumbull this fall will also be at least 25 percent green.

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