By Caroline Wigmore
HOWARD LAKE-WAVERLY-WINSTED, MN - The economy doesn’t discriminate, it affects the arts just as much as industry, Mike Kelley, a 2001 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted graduate who went on to work in theatre, found out.
The closing of one of Kelley’s favorite theatre companies, Tony award-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune, gave him pause, but it also gave him the chance to examine how the economic changes would affect him if he was to go on with theatre.
“The economy will change, people will change, and theatre will change; therefore the artist must change as well,” Kelley concluded.
He recently made the move to purchase a Twin Cities theatre company, 3AM Productions, which is a company he has been involved with for several years, but now has complete control of.
Kelley is excited about the endeavor, but realizes the difficulty theatres face in today’s economy.
“High school theatre, oddly enough, showed me that there was a way into this field, but that the path is hard,” Kelley said. “David Metcalf’s encouragement and mentoring helped me choose a school that was right for me and my journey in theatre,” he added.
“I think a lot of people look at theatre and say, ‘Oh, that sounds fun’ or ‘You goin’ to Hollywood?’ The answer is no. To me, it’s a job,” Kelley said.
Kelly ended up getting his theatre degree from Augsburg College.
“During my time in college I met many wonderful people who were actors at Jeune Lune, including Howard Lake’s own Luverne Seifert,” Kelley said.
“When I was 18, I took a tour of the Jeune Lune as part of a theatre class at Augsburg College and vowed to myself that I must act on that stage one day,” he added.
Kelley’s dream came true through an internship he was recommended for by one of his college theatre professors.
“I remember working 12-hour days, mopping floors ‘til midnight, making coffee, and smoking cigarettes with big theatre name, Dominique Serrand,” Kelley said. “This was where my love for theatre lied; with these people, doing this kind of work,” he added.
Kelley had taken a brief break from working for the Jeune Lune to work with another theatre company when he heard some very bad news.
“I was willing to give and hazard all I had to theatre, but then heard on Minnesota Public Radio that the Jeune Lune had closed. I cried,” Kelley said.
Kelley’s faith in theatre didn’t end with the Jeune Lune though, and he is taking what he knows about the economy, reaching broad audiences, just plain entertaining people, and putting his theatre marketing ideas into motion for 3AM Productions.
One of Kelley’s most creative ideas for promoting 3AM Productions is something he calls, “Shakespeare in the streets.”
“It takes a group of actors and places them in very busy areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul in full costume during rush hours, and then they act out a scene with the intention of getting people to stop and take in our work,” Kelley explained.
Other ideas include promoting visual artists at his shows through allowing them to display their work, and also bringing in live musicians.
Kelley has already begun production for his first show as the owner of 3AM Productions, which is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
Kelley plans to give a young feel to this classic play.
“Hamlet” will open Friday, April 10 and will run through Saturday, April 25. Shows on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays will start at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Performances are at the Old Oddfellows Building in South Minneapolis at 3003 27th Ave. S. For more information, visit www.3amprod.org.