Actress Kelly McAndrew '94 graduated from USD with a major in English and a minor in theatre arts. As an undergraduate, McAndrew performed in a number of mainstage plays, and when she wasn't in the cast she worked behind the scenes, directing, stage managing and even writing. Communication studies professor Kristin Moran, PhD, was McAndrew's college roommate, and assisted with McAndrew's productions in their senior year. "Kelly, of course, has natural talent and you could see her begin to develop it while we were in college," Moran said, "but she took that ability and studied hard to become a professional actor. I don't think there has been a time since she graduated that she hasn't been working and that is an amazing feat given the nature of the industry."
Tell us about your role in "August: Osage County," which opened May 7 at the Old Globe.
I play Karen Weston in August: Osage County. She is the youngest daughter of Beverly and Violet Weston and has just returned home to Pawhuska, OK for the first time in a long time. She now lives in Miami with her new fiancé, Steve, and is involved in real estate out there. When we first meet her she is talking (and continues to talk for many pages) about how happy she is. One can only imagine the curve ball that's most likely coming her way.
"If you love it, stick with it. If you love it, put yourself out there. Be willing to be rejected, because people will tell you "no" an awful lot in this business. And practice, practice, practice, practice. I learn new things about acting, about technique, about myself on every single job I do."
The play has won a Tony and a Pulitzer! Why do you think it resonates with audiences so well?
The play, simply put, is remarkable. It's a family drama, it's a tragi-comedy, it is gut-bustingly funny, and above all it resonates such truth about humanity. I adore this play. I was fortunate enough to read it, years ago, before all its accolades; before it came to New York, even. I sat alone for hours (the play's running time is 3 and a half hours—there is a lot of play there) laughing out loud and weeping. It's one part "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and one part "Long Days Journey Into Night." Then Tracy Letts mixed in his own magic and what he manifested is truly magnificent. I feel so lucky to be working on it.
"Unlike most jobs, actors have to have job interviews (auditions) ALL the time. Some will go your way, some won't. But if you've got the stamina and a thick skin, the payoff of the work can be so sweet."
How long have you been performing professionally? Did you perform as an undergrad?
I was very fortunate to get cast in a couple of amazing plays ("Skylight" by David Hare and "How I Learned to Drive" by Paula Vogel) at a wonderful Small Professional Theatre in Kansas City, the Unicorn Theatre, right after receiving my MFA in Acting at UMKC (1998). And I've been working professionally in New York and at regional theatres ever since. I am very lucky to have made my living solely as an actor for almost ten years.
And yes, I performed as an undergrad. It's all I wanted to do! I did the main stage shows and if I didn't get cast I would stage-manage or assistant direct. And when the main stage shows weren't going on, I would produce or direct or act in student-created productions. I even wrote my own one-woman show as a thesis performance. Marilyn Bennett, the head of the program when I was there, gave us the freedom and the confidence to try and make as much theatre as possible. Late nights rehearsing in Shiley [Theatre] with my friends are some of the best memories I have of college.
What is your advice to undergraduates who would like to pursue a career in performance art?
If you love it, stick with it. If you love it, put yourself out there. Be willing to be rejected, because people will tell you "no" an awful lot in this business. And practice, practice, practice, practice. I learn new things about acting, about technique, about myself on every single job I do. The learning, the hard work, it never stops. And there's really not a lot of, if any, security in this business, so you have to keep striving. Unlike most jobs, actors have to have job interviews (auditions) ALL the time. Some will go your way, some won't. But if you've got the stamina and a thick skin, the payoff of the work can be so sweet.
- Anne Malinoski ‘11
Scenic Designer: David Zinn