From memorizing hundreds of lines in 12 days to learning a German accent for her upcoming role in this spring’s musical, “Pirates of Penzance,” Kelsey Blackstone is no stranger to the challenges of being a student artist. That’s what has earned the sophomore theater arts major her place in this week’s Student Artist Spotlight.
“Being an actor takes a great deal of empathy and understanding of human nature,” Blackstone said. “I have always enjoyed gaining new perspectives through the eyes of whatever character I may be playing.”
Blackstone transferred to UM from the University of Hartford in Connecticut last semester and, already, she’s played a lead role in a UM production. Last week, she starred in the play “This is Our Youth” by Kenneth Lonergan, which explores adolescence and family in 1980s New York City. Instead of having months to prepare, Blackstone was asked to fill in for one of the leads less than two weeks before the performance date.
As a lead in a play with only two other characters, Blackstone was concerned about learning her lines in time.
“The preparation process was quite rushed compared to how it usually is,” Blackstone said. “In order to be ready in time, we had rehearsals every day, and sometimes two per day.”
However, after many late nights and even more cups of coffee, the play “This is Our Youth” was a huge success. Students and faculty filled the seats, and by the end, the actors were met with roaring applause.
Blackstone begins rehearsals for her next show, the comedy “Pirates of Penzance,” next week, which is the theater department’s featured spring musical. Once again, she will have a lead role as one of the pirates.
“I have been asked by the directors of that show to prepare a German accent,” Blackstone said. For her, this will involve carefully researching German dialects and general speech patterns.
Before rehearsals begin, Blackstone is trying to catch up on homework and sleep, both of which were very difficult to manage in the two weeks leading up to her previous performance in “This is Our Youth.”
When discussing past roles, she explained that one of the most interesting involved playing the sarcastic, poker-obsessed male character Speed in “The Odd Couple,” which Kelsey performed as a senior at Manchester High School.
“I had to learn how to act more masculine in order to stay true to the character,” she said. “I had to borrow clothes from some of my guy friends, and it was so funny to them to see me on stage wearing their clothes.”
For this role, Kelsey had to learn how to play poker and properly deal a deck of cards, two skills she still uses to this day.
“You’d be surprised the interesting things you can learn from playing a certain character,” she said.
Along with theater, Blackstone is passionate about music, music business and environmental preservation. Specifically, when discussing her interest in the environment, Kelsey said, “I love nature and being outdoors…I want to do my part in helping to preserve existence.”
As a sophomore, Blackstone may not know where life will take her in the future, but she definitely wants to keep performing.
“I can see myself leading a band and traveling to different places to perform for all different kinds of people,” she said. “Including those who may not normally be able to see regular performances due to location or socioeconomic status.” Kelsey wants to share her music experience with others and hopes to create an outreach program to bring arts education to students who would not normally have the opportunity.
When discussing her motivations for this outreach program, Kelsey said, “I want to give people the experience that I was so fortunate to have with music.”
Although she has not yet sorted out the specifics of her future, she has a concrete goal in mind that she has already begun working toward.
“I want to share my art with the world,” she said.
Don’t miss Blackstone in the roaring comedy “Pirates of Penzance” April 19-28 at the University of Miami’s Ring Theatre. Visit http://www.as.miami.edu/ringtheatre/ for tickets and more information.
Student Artist Spotlight is a new Edge feature that will run every Monday.