The youngest player in Hoboken's renowned Actors Shakespeare Company, Kelly is rehearsing for his role of "the boy" in the play Much Ado About Nothing, scheduled for September.
For the role, Kelly is training with classical Shakespearean actors and is learning diction, stage presence, language techniques and method acting. After seven years of acting, Kelly, 14, is confident about his skills and prepared to accept bigger stage roles.
"I really love Shakespeare and the response from the audience to his work," Kelly said in an interview. "There's a magic involved when you do Shakespeare. You connect with the people."
Born and raised in Hoboken, Kelly was very active in the drama program at the private Mustard Seed School, from which he graduated in June. Already his acting credits with the Shakespeare Company include a small role in Midsummer Night's Dream in October of last year, and Merry Wives of Windsor in June of this year. He played the role of William Page.
"Preparing for the character was tough because I needed to really look at the text and find his motivation and background," Kelly said. "I really need to know the characters I play so I can be prepared for the show."
Kelly has also been part of the DeBaun Family Theater Series at the Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology. He has appeared in the productions of The Wizard of Oz, Children of Eden, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the Sound of Music. His favorite play so far has been Jack and the Beanstalk, performed September of last year. Not only was he the title character, but the performance was held immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City. Kelly said he felt he had an obligation to put on the best possible show for the audience.
"I mean, they came out to see the play after what happened. That was special and it meant a lot to me," he said.
For Kelly, the world of acting is very exciting and filled with possibilities. He has appeared in small roles in a few motion pictures, like 1997's "The Object of My Affection," starring Jennifer Aniston. In the film, he played a child in a school performance.
In the fall, Kelly will enter the Collegiate School in New York City, a private academic institution noted for its performing arts program. Throughout school, he has been involved in the choir and over two dozen holiday performances. Kelly does not focus on the trajectory of his career, right now he wants to learn everything there is to know about acting, he said.
"I know I'm just a kid. I want to study all kinds of acting and be the best I can be. I want the audience to truly enjoy my performance," he said.
The Actors Shakespeare Company (ASC) is launching a major educational outreach program this fall. Kelly has become the prototype for ASC's Youth Intern Program, which affords area youth the opportunity to learn classical stage acting techniques alongside professional stage actors, according to ASC Artistic Director Colette Rice.
ASC provides specialized training in Shakespearean diction and acting techniques reported to have been used when Shakespeare wrote his plays through its Conservatory. By using text from the First Folio, the first written account of Shakespeare's plays in 1623, ASC benefits from firsthand accounts of Shakespeare's direction.
Kelly's performance in Much Ado About Nothing will be held in September. The play will be the opener for ASC's 2002-2003 season.
For more information on the Actors Shakespeare Company visit www.debaun.org or call (201) 216-8947. q