By Elisabeth Monaghan
There’s a saying, “when you want something done, ask a busy woman.” Considering Katie “Deletta” Hartkopp’s jam-packed schedule, she may be one of busiest – and best – women for just about any task.
Although she has lived all over Colorado, including Steamboat Springs, Westminster, Grand Junction, Grand Lake and Arvada, Hartkopp has spent much of her life in Wheat Ridge. Her father graduated from Wheat Ridge and her grandparents lived just down the street from the Wheat Ridge Dairy. When it came time to attend high school, Hartkopp was living in Arvada. With her mother’s permission, Hartkopp opted for open enrollment and went to Wheat Ridge High School. It was in high school that she met husband Blu, whom many in Wheat Ridge may know for his work as a photographer of local activities like the Carnation Festival.
As a child Hartkopp discovered theater be a great respite from the tension between her parents, who divorced when she was young. “Theater was my ‘anti-drug.’ It was my community and place to belong,” said Hartkopp. She remained involved with theater, studying fashion design to do costuming, working on student films and playing bit parts along the way.
In the early 2000s, Hartkopp auditioned for a comedy improv group called “But Seriously,” which landed an invitation to join the crew. As she worked her way to become what the group leaders considered “stage ready,” Hartkopp paid her dues by assisting with lighting and sound. She had just performed two shows for But Seriously, when the group’s founders moved from Colorado.
Discovering a strong affinity for improv comedy, Hartkopp did not wish to give up the work and teamed up with fellow performer Jeff Chacon. The newly-formed troupe did not yet have a name, so after hearing others repeatedly make comments like “Oh, you are still around …” and continuously responding with comments like, “Yes, we do exist,” Hartkopp and Chacon selected “Rodents of Unusual Size,” inspired by the film “The Princess Bride” as their name.
Chacon left the group a number of years ago, but the Rodents have continued to thrive. Today there are seven Rodents in the core group. The Rodents performed at various venues, but they did not have a location they could call home. When she was at a community event in Wheat Ridge, Hartkopp ran into Dominick Breton, with the Grange in Wheat Ridge. Upon hearing the Rodents were looking for a new spot, he suggested they give the Grange a try. The Rodents have performed there ever since.
While they are available to perform paid gigs at comedy clubs, private parties and corporate events, the Rodents have committed to at least one free, family-friendly show each month. The suggested donations for the Rodents’ Comedy for a Cause shows are $5 per person or $15, maximum, for families of three or more. All funds received go to that evening’s designated charity.
The Rodents came to focus on these charitable performances after participating in a series of shows they did to benefit Smile Train. Appreciating the unifying power of laughter and the ability to raise awareness through these shows, Hartkopp and the Rodents launched Comedy for a Cause. As Hartkopp explains, “We all really love the idea of doing the benefit shows – just focusing on reaching out to the community, saying, ‘this show is for everyone. You can bring your kids. You can have a family date night and go to something that’s happy.’”
Among the organizations to benefit from the Rodents’ Comedy for a Cause Shows are Smile Train, Redefined, the Green Mountain High School Marching Band, Bailey and Warm Hearts, Warm Babies.
When it comes to full plates and a heavy responsibility load, Hartkopp is no slouch. She is a mother, wife, actor and improv comedy performer. During the day, she works full-time as a personal assistant. In spite of that schedule, Hartkopp also finds time to write children’s books. She already has published two books and is working on her third. Add to this the historic home she and her husband have owned for about nine years and opened to the community to commemorate the home’s 100th anniversary.
It may seem with so much on her plate, Hartkopp would be too busy for anything else, but that busyness is the reason is one should ask for Hartkopp for assistance because she would be among the first to jump in and complete the job with maximum efficiency.
For more information about the Rodents of Unusual Size, or to learn how your organization can benefit from Comedy for a Cause, visit www.coloradoimprov.com.