“I took my junior year abroad in England,” remembers Claire Shannon Kelly, “and as fate would have it, I arrived in the season of the tube strike. Lots of people couldn’t attend the theater because they had no way to get there, and as a result tickets were cheap. I had the opportunity to see ten of Shakespeare’s plays, including As You Like It with Fiona Shaw as Rosalind. Her performance opened my eyes, and changed my life. That was when I fell in love with William Shakespeare.”
Following her epiphany in London, Kelly continued her theater studies, finishing a master’s degree at New York University, and following her bliss through stints as an actor, producer, director and arts manager. She has worked with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the Roundabout Theater in New York and the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey, among others. She has taught theater to students from pre-school through high school, and served as Director of Drama at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire.
Marriage and then family intervened in her career trajectory, as Kelly moved to Darien in 2001, and settled in New Canaan seven years ago. After seeing a friend helping out onstage with Shakespeare on the Sound at a performance several seasons ago in Rowayton’s Pinkney Park, Claire had an inspiration.
“It occurred to me how much I would love to be involved with that organization. Here was a group making Shakespeare come alive to modern audiences of all ages. It seemed to me to be a dream job.”
Shortly thereafter, her dream came true; the same friend contacted her about an opening for the group’s Director of Youth Programs. It was a perfect fit.
Now, two years after taking on and expanding the organization’s offerings for children (including a pre-schoolers’ theater camp this summer), Kelly was tapped to direct this season’s production of As You Like It—as it turns out, her favorite of Shakespeare’s works.
As the troupe’s first local director, Kelly’s love for the play and enthusiasm for its themes informs her approach. Players wear modern dress and, with its stage set in a real-life Forest of Arden, she believes that the play will resonate with its audience. Performances are free, so they attract a diverse crowd from throughout Fairfield County.
“We’re focusing on transformation. This play is really about a journey, one that we all take at one time or another. It’s about feeling trapped and then breaking free to become who we really want to be. “
Kelly smiles. “And it has a happy ending; if you know the play, there are five weddings in the final scene.”
For more information: http://www.shakespeareonthesound.org/