Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
When Kelsey Leigh Ervi graduated from Baylor University, moving to Dallas would've been an obvious choice. Quite a few alumni of the theater department land in Dallas, fine tune their mechanics and fly away to a bigger city. And local theaters are happy to be used as a launching pad for the careers of these aspiring actors, comedians, director. But moving to Dallas was a redirection for Ervi, but one she says gave her a home base she plans to keep for quite some time.
Just a few years into her career, she's made her professional directing debut at WaterTower Theatre, where she also has a day job as the Assistant to the Producing Artistic Director. More important, she's found a community. She's adding a fresh perspective to the theater scene here and proving that young people can get jobs -and good ones! - in the theater.
How did you land in Dallas? After graduation I flailed a little bit. I applied to grad school for acting, didn't pan out. I went to New York very briefly and knew immediately that it was not for me, I felt like a tourist there. Then, I did an internship for six weeks with Shakespeare Dallas, which is where I met Rene Moreno and built a good working relationship with him. Went back to Waco, was there for a few months. Basically it was that six month period that happens after graduation that was like what were these four years? What was I spending all of that money on? Then, I got a call from Shakespeare Dallas to AD a show in May, so I moved up in February to look for a job.
Moreno offered me an assistant director position at August:Osage County later that year. And that's what has been nice about Shakespeare Dallas, a lot of people get their start there and then they stick out their neck for their people.
If you were going to explain directing to someone, what do you do? Cast well *laughs*. I've heard some people say it's 90% of the job. But then I think it's having a vision and seeing it to fruitiion. You have to take all these eclectic artists down a winding road, which might be a broad way to look at it.
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What is it like to be an assistant director? (Is it like being a director's bitch?) I'm a really good AD, and I don't mean to say that to blow smoke up my butt, but I adapt well to people which makes me a good assistant to Terry, I just adapt well to different situations. Every director I work with is different. With Rene, he knows exactly what he wants and I'm on board with it. With him, it's almost more of a mentorship, which is wonderful. Conversely when I was working on Tom Sawyer with Emily Scott Banks, it really felt collaborative and maybe that's how that show is, because it's ensemble based and for her, it was more asking me for suggestions and staying on our feet. I think every director's different.
What's different here? I think for me, it's community driven here. New York is just bigger. Here, there's enough work to go around for everyone. There are very few people I know here who are not working, from the Dallas Theater Center, to smaller companies, to guerrilla theater. People here are doing work. There is an artistic buzz here that makes it hard for me to leave and good work. The fact that it's happening is great. I don't love everything but people are taking risks. Now I tell all of my friends who are about to graduate who are thinking New York or LA, I say You're missing something, come to Dallas.
You're growing up artistically in Dallas, is there enough work to sustain you? Or now that you're already directing at professional theaters will you have to seek greener pastures to find fulfillment? For me, two things are really important: identity and building an artistic home. I feel like I've found that home at WaterTower when it comes to my routine and the relationships and work it's provided me. I think you can continue to grow, whether it's working at other theaters or working with new people and creating work I want to do for myself. I foresee myself being here for a while. But I have other aspirations as well. I'd like to go back to school and teach someday. There will be an eventual point maybe in 3 years, maybe in 10 years, and I'll have to go back to school and train. And then I'll have the experience to back it up.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia