Get to Know this year’s Mary Doctor Fine Arts Scholarship Winners: Multi-talented Seniors Kate Woodcook and Gabby Laatz

May 14, 2024 / Blog
By Liz Rothaus Bertrand

Blumenthal Arts recently announced the two recipients of this year’s Mary Doctor Fine Arts Scholarship: Kate Woodcook of Ardrey Kell High School and Gabby Laatz of Central Academy of Technology and Arts.

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Both young women are outstanding students, multi-talented theater artists, and share a passion for serving their community.

The $10,000 award, which can be renewed for up to three additional years, goes to high school seniors with financial need who demonstrate a strong interest and talent in one or more arts disciplines, potential for a future career in the arts, a strong academic record, and school/community involvement.

Here’s a look at this year’s exceptional winners and how the scholarship will help them on their journey.

Actor, writer and director: Kate Woodcook wants to do it all

Kate Woodcook’s interest in theater started early, after watching one of her older sisters perform in an elementary school musical. It didn’t take long for Kate also to get in on the action. From about third grade on, Kate was hooked and often performed in two shows at a time.

In high school, her interests in theater began to expand, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made performing temporarily impossible. As a distraction, Kate started writing plays in her room…  and she hasn’t stopped yet.

To date, she has written five multi-act plays, with more in the works.

Last year, she was able to direct and perform in one of them at her high school. She has continued to excel as a performer, too. Kate was part of Ardrey Kell’s state qualifying production at the NCTC High School Play Festival her sophomore year with the play, “Digging Up the Boys,” and recently starred as Anya in the school’s spring musical, “Anastasia.”  


She also leads several school organizations. She’s the yearbook editor and serves as president of the International Thespian Society. In addition, Kate is president of Girls in Charlotte, an organization with an activist mission. The group raises awareness about menstrual inequity and has organized several community drives to collect and distribute feminine hygiene products to people in need.

Kate has maintained a 4.3 grade point average while juggling these activities, plus summer volunteer efforts and, until recently, after school jobs at a gelato shop and movie theater.

Although her schedule is busy, it’s now manageable, she says.

“I definitely learned the hard way that you should not do too much at once,” she says. “My junior year, I was on the boards for all these clubs. I was in all the shows at school. I was writing and directing things. I was in a bunch of AP classes and then I was working two jobs on top of that…

“It was a really overloaded schedule and that definitely took its toll on my own mental and physical well-being. And so what I sort of learned and have taken to account this year is you have to really prioritize what matters to you and what you want to devote yourself to and put your all into those things, instead of trying to do everything.”


How she will use her scholarship

When she found out she had received the Mary Doctor Scholarship, Kate says it was a “magical” moment.

“I started sobbing. … I was very grateful and I was so honored… it's not a privilege that I take lightly.”

She says it gives her hope knowing there are people who care about the arts and are willing to make a difference for others. It was also a huge self-esteem boost: “It's really nice to know that something you put out in the world has come back to you in a really nice way,” she says. “That was really powerful.”

Qualifying for the award gives her the chance to express her gratitude to her parents for their hard work and, particularly, for the sacrifices her mom has made over the years.

“My lovely mother — she's a second grade teacher — and she has done her best to just give me every possible opportunity she can, whether it be, like, voice lessons or dance lessons or driving me to and from all these millions of rehearsals… She was planning to take all of my debt in her name so that I would be able to go off in the world without any of that.

“I didn't want her to have to make that sacrifice when she's already sacrificed so much for my passion and my love. So knowing that this is less on her, especially, has just meant —oh my gosh—so much. It is immeasurable.”


Kate will use the scholarship to attend Savannah College of Art and Design, where she will double major in BFA programs for Acting and Film\Television with minors in Music Theater and Dramatic Writing.

It’s a combination that she hopes will help her to attain her dream of writing, performing and directing productions for stage or screen and using her art as a form of activism.


Gabby Laatz found her calling in creating immersive theatrical experiences

When Central Academy of Technology & Arts senior Gabby Laatz got a call from Blumenthal Arts’ Education Director Andie Maloney, it put her in a state of grateful shock. She remembers trying to hold back her tears on the phone so she could convey her deep gratitude with a series of thank yous.

“The call ended and I looked at my sister and I was, like, ‘Did that actually just happen?!’”

Her parents, on the other hand, couldn’t stop the tears from flowing when she shared the happy news.

“I’ve never seen my dad cry like that,” Gabby says. “He was like, ‘Good job!’ He was so grateful.”

Receiving the Mary Doctor Fine Arts Scholarship makes Gabby’s dream of attending Emerson College to pursue a BFA degree in Theater a reality. When she started the application process, Gabby says her parents were honest with her that they could not afford the cost of tuition at a school like Emerson.


Gabby understood but knew that getting into a good school was a value she and her parents shared. She decided to apply to all the programs that interested her to see what would happen.

As she prepared for her interview for the Mary Doctor award, Gabby was very nervous. She says she’s never been good at interviews but she knew this was a moment where she needed to give it her all.

“I was like, this is just one of those chances where I have to put myself out there. I have to let them see the potential that I have.”

She wanted them to see her hard work, how as an artist she pours her heart and soul into her projects.

“It just feels so worth it,” she says. “I feel just incredibly rewarded and incredibly grateful that I have a community, like Charlotte… like, the Blumenthal specifically that wants to give opportunities to people.

“It's beyond words just how this is all coming true all of the sudden.”


How she fell in love with theater and community building

Gabby’s journey with theater began at Matthews Playhouse when she was only a kindergartener. “My mom said I was really dramatic, so she put me in theater classes,” says Gabby, who thrived in that community theater organization.

She made friends from all over Charlotte through years of performances and camps at the non-profit. This summer, she will work for her third year as a camp intern, helping teach a new generation of young artists a wide range of theater skills.

One of her most meaningful experiences was serving on the board that created Matthews Playhouse’s biggest fundraiser, Haunted Trail. The spooky outdoor event takes place just before Halloween on Four Mile Creek Greenway, behind the Matthews Community Center. For Gabby, the experience introduced her to the power of immersive theater in an outdoor setting.


It’s a memory she comes back to now, looking back on her development as a theater artist. For years, she focused on acting. But in early high school, Gabby branched out into set design and started taking tech theater classes at school. She thought that would become the focus of her  college studies.

“Then I got the chance to direct my senior year and it was like everything made sense,” Gabby says. “...I was able to try all of these different things…  I knew I liked tech and I knew I liked acting, but because I was able to be a part of any opportunity that came my way, I found this kind of, like, all-encompassing passion of mine, which is directing.”

A straight-A student with big dreams, Gabby remains hopeful and positive even in the face of big challenges.

Her mom, a teacher, was recently diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Her dad who works in the hospitality industry also battled cancer in 2019 and 2021. The cost of treatment has taken a heavy toll on family finances.

“We are fighters,” she says of her family. And Gabby is determined not to let financial matters get in the way of her goals.

“I just work as hard as I can so that I'm able to do anything,” she says.

Outside of school, Gabby has spent the last four years driving a tractor, serving up ice cream and assisting with other projects at Wise Acres, an organic strawberry farm in Indian Trail. She says working alongside the owners, Farmer Cathy and Farmer Robb, in that outdoor setting has also taught her about building community and loving people.

“They care so much and their passion is just inspiring,” she says.

She’s looking forward to exploring city life in Boston, where she knows there is a thriving theater community, and establishing herself as a respected director. But her “top dream of all dreams”  is to one day combine her love for nature and theater by establishing her own outdoor theater company.

She’s already imagining the possibilities and the joy she can bring to others through her art.

Click here to learn more about the Mary Doctor Fine Arts Scholarship