Kristen Tripp Kelley


Sea Marks

Runs through November 1. The show was filmed on the Andrews Theatre stage; tickets are $15-$25 available by calling 853-ICTC.

What’s your relationship to Sea Marks?

I saw this play when it opened in the Irish Classical Calumet space [twenty-seven years ago]. I found out about it through my first acting teacher at UB, [former ICTC Artistic Director] Vincent O’Neill. It was my first time seeing Vincent and Josephine Hogan on stage and I was struck by their chemistry, and still remember being drawn in by the language and the love story. I feel so lucky to come back to it decades later with my trusted acting partner and friend, Chris Kelly, and under the guidance of the original director, Fortunato Pezzimenti. It’s a great choice for this moment as it’s focused on isolation and loneliness and keeping love alive from a distance.

What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?

I studied Meisner Technique for a semester at UB and then more intensively in graduate school. It changed my approach to acting because it shifted my focus from myself to my partner. The ferocious listening that’s encouraged through this technique gets me out of my head and into the moment.

Also, Stephen McKinley Henderson, my first Meisner teacher, was assigned as my mentor through the Honors Program at UB. I went to him totally defeated because I hadn’t been cast in the Shakespeare in Delaware Park season. I asked him to recommend other summer theater programs, but he encouraged me to just live my life outside of theater that summer. He argued that I’d have a hard time bringing life to the stage truthfully if I hadn’t experienced it outside of a rehearsal hall or acting studio. I share that advice with my students all the time.

What’s your best “the show went on” moment?

Ah, Wilderness! at ICTC. The sound board went down. The director, Greg Natale, brought us all together before the run to tell us we would be creating all the sound effects live that day. We popped paper bags for fireworks, sang live, etc. It was scary to do without any rehearsal but so exhilarating.

What’s the role that got away? 

There was a period of time in which I really wanted to play Catherine in Proof. The opportunity never came up when I was in the right age range.

What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?

The only one that comes to mind right now is “Sir, spare your threats: the bug that you would fright me with, I seek.” I think it survived because of drilling and repetition. I played Hermione in Winter’s Tale and used the speech for studio work and a bunch of auditions. 

What “against type” role are you dying to play?

I’d like to play Prospero in The Tempest someday. A woman in that role helps audiences to consider the struggle for power in a new way. Also, Marqueil Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. I don’t often get cast as the Machiavellian type who can bring the heat.

What’s your classic actor nightmare dream? 

Yeesh, I get chills when I think about it. I dream that I’m backstage in a panic because I’ve never rehearsed for the show I’m about to perform. I also have a recurring dream about being on a subway, unable to get off of it, just minutes before curtain. 

What audition would you love to do over?

My first professional audition was for Shakespeare in Delaware Park when I was nineteen [see above]. I wanted to start on the floor and my knees cracked when I knelt down because I hadn’t warmed up. I made some totally weird comment to the directors about wishing I had some unicorn oil. That was a wildly obscure reference to Cinderella; the stepsisters used unicorn oil to deal with creaky joints in some version I’d read. Anyway, they looked at me blankly and I just wanted to fly away. Still makes me shudder.

What else have you been doing during this strange theater time?

I worked with Diane Jones on a couple of Zoom recordings, directing and acting in two of her one-acts that were supposed to be read live at the History Museum before things shut down. Short videos and interviews for various theater companies working to keep their presence alive virtually. Preparing for hybrid school (I teach theater at Nichols School). Working with ARTA, Association of Regional Theater Artists, as a new co-president. I did get away for a week to the Adirondacks. Getting outside for a bit was so restorative. I’ve been trying to stay productive, but very much dream about sharing what I do with a live audience. While the audience won’t be in the room with us come October, I have so enjoyed being able to work safely in person with an actor and small production team. I didn’t understand the depth of how much I missed it until I was standing on a stage looking into someone’s eyes again.

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