Theatre of Western Springs Spotlight: Vera Kelly

Vera Kelly | Submitted by The Theatre of Western Springs
Vera Kelly | Submitted by The Theatre of Western Springs

Get to know the community of Western Springs with our Theatre of Western Springs Spotlight feature!

This week, we meet Vera Kelly of Chicago Ridge who joined TWS in 2013.

Background:

I grew up in Ireland and in 1986 I moved to London, England, and lived there until I moved to Chicago in 1994. When I was in Secondary School (this is the equivalent of high school here in the United States) I performed as a mime which really didn’t have a great effect on me. I never went near the stage again until I moved to Chicago.

Q. Why did you join TWS?

A . To gain more experience in the “workings” of a theater.

Q. How did you find out about TWS? 

A. Two friends, Debbie Ryan and Leon Briick, who are Actives at Western Springs, and are also members of the Gaelic Park Players in Oak Forest, have always spoken highly of the Theatre of Western Springs. I had wanted to take Studio 1 for a couple of years but, due to work and other commitments, I had been unable to do so until last fall.

Q. Go back in time. When did you discover you had an interest in theatre/drama?

A. I was involved with a Gaelic football team, St. Bridget’s, on the south side. One of my team mates, Aine Morriarty, was involved with the Gaelic Park Players, the resident theater group at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest. She asked me if I was interested in being in a one-act play. I told her I couldn’t learn a poem to save my life when I was in school, but I was willing to give it a try. I had myself all psyched up to do the play even though I was very nervous about it. Well, Aine came back to me and told me that they had someone else for the role. I was disappointed, but figured it was not meant for me. A couple of days later she came back again and told me the person who had been cast in the role was unable to do it and would I be willing to step in. The play was called “Settled,” and I played the role of Mrs. Clark. Therein began my love of theatre.

I have performed in many productions over the years with the Gaelic Park Players. Some of my favorite roles are Freeda in “The Year of the Hiker” which won the John B. Keane Spirit of Ireland Award at the Acting Irish International Theater Festival in Milwaukee, Wis.; Eva Kishock in “The Chastitute” for which I won my first individual acting award, for Best Supporting Actress at the AIITF that year. Both plays were directed by my good friend Josephine Craven, a fabulous director. In 2000 I won an adjudicators’ special award at the AIITF in Toronto for my portrayal of Bridie Lavin in “Thy Will be Done.” At the AIITF in Florida in 2003, I won Best Actress for my portrayal of Maggie in “Dancing at Lughnasa.” I was part of the ensemble that won Best Play, “A Mislaid Heaven,” in 2005 at the AIITF here in Chicago. In addition, I was an Irene Ryan nominee in 2008 for my portrayal of Detective Beck in “Boy Gets Girl.”

In the fall of 2012, I directed my first full-length production, “Philadelphia Here I Come” by Brian Friel with the Gaelic Park Players.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with other groups and directors outside of the Gaelic Park Players. I have had the pleasure of working with Rich Cotovsky who directed “The Tavern” with the Shapeshifters Theater of the Irish American Heritage Center; Brad Armacost who directed “Juno and the Paycock” and “Dancing at Lughnasa;” Kevin Fox who directed me as Maggie Mae in “Portia Coughlan;” and Michael Patrick Thornton who directed the staged reading of “Brooklyn,” the One Book One Chicago choice for Spring 2010. I’ve learned something new from each director with whom I worked. I tripped across this whole acting thing, but boy, has it given me joy over the years. I plan on continuing with it in some capacity or other for a very long time to come!

Q. At TWS, have you worked on a crew, backstage or lobby?

A. I was on the costume crew for the main stage production “Unnecessary Farce,” and I assisted with House Management for the Forum 2 production “Beautifully.”

Q. At TWS, do you (or do you hope to) act on stage? Why?

A. Yes, I hope to act on stage. I would love the opportunity to perform at Western Springs as it’s such a wonderful space.

Q. What is your impression of TWS thus far?

A. It is mind boggling that the crews on the shows are all volunteers. It is a very friendly and nurturing place, and I have been made to feel very welcome.

Q. TWS has flourished for 85 years. Can you tell why?

A. From what I can see, it is because it’s such a unique place. Any aspect of theater you want to learn – from lighting design to directing – and everything in between, you can learn at TWS. You get hands-on experience. Classes are offered in various aspects of theater as well, so one can continually update and improve his or her skills. It seems to me that the institution of TWS is like a second family. Gaelic Park Players will always be my first theater family, but I can see that I am going to have to make room for another theater family, that of TWS.

Q. List three things you want to give TWS.

A. My time, my energy and my creative talents.

Q. List three things you hope TWS will give you.

A. Wonderful experiences, wonderful new friends and an opportunity to direct.

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