Spotlight on Kelly Farrar

interview

{All photos by Angie Fiedler Sutton.}

Note: this article will be published in the September 2010 issue of KC Stage Magazine (link no longer active).

Music has always been a big part of Kelly Farrar’s life. “I love to sing,” she says with dancing eyes. “It’s just something I do because I love to do it: it’s not something I would ever in a million years dream of doing as a career.”

But music has been a part of her career, whether she realizes it or not. In fact, the production she saw that made her realize she wanted to do theatre was the musical Grease. “It was one of the matinees that they do just for the school field trips. Before the show started, they brought us all up on stage, and they had this little dance party for us. And I remember standing up there and looking out, and I was like, ‘Yeah. This is where I’m supposed to be.'”

Born in New Haven, Conn., she moved to Des Moines when she was 12. At 19, her mom got a job in Kansas City. “I wasn’t quite ready to leave the nest yet,” she says with a laugh, and so she moved here as well. Having done some theatre training at a small community college in Des Moines, she wanted to continue the process and signed up with Andy Garrison’s Actor Training Studio.

“This sounds really bad,” Farrar says when explaining why she chose Garrison, “but he was the first one in the phone book.” She’s quick to continue, “I’m glad that he was the first person in the phone book, because I learned so much from him. He’s a genius.”

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Garrison suggested Farrar join the Independent Filmmakers Coalition, and six months after joining, she became a board member. Being a member of the IFC led her to several bit parts in area films, including her latest, Jack in the Box, which the producers plan to submit to the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia.

Music has a part in one of her films, too — she was part of the documentary Ten Songs. “It was a really cool premise, where if someone was making a movie out of your life, what ten songs would be on the soundtrack?” She takes a moment, then admits with a laugh, “I couldn’t tell you what ten songs were on the soundtrack at that time. I’m sure it was really, really bad late ’90s, early 2000’s crappy pop music.”

It is a good bet, though, that at least one of the songs was a Billy Joel one, as Farrar is a big fan. In fact, in one of her part-time job as a karaoke DJ, she sings “New York State of Mind” a lot. “That’s a song I can sing in my sleep. I could be getting over strep throat and my voice be all scratchy and I can still nail it.”

She aces another Joel song in karaoke — “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. In fact, part of her ‘other skills’ is the boast that she knows all the words to it. “It’s my default song when I can’t sing or lost my voice.”

Singing is part of her current production, as she plays Balthasar (as well as a couple of other roles), who sings the “Sigh No More” song in Shakespeare in the Parking Lot IV: Much Ado About Nothing, which opens September 11 at the Alcott Arts Center. Full disclosure: I am the stage manager (and married to the director) of this year’s production, and I directed Farrar in last year’s SITPLOT (she was one of the Dromio twins in Comedy of Errors). In fact, Farrar has been in or a part of all four SITPLOT’s — she stage managed the first one (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and got the role of Kate in Taming of the Shrew, the second year’s production.

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For the first year, she says, “I went and auditioned, and Kim Hentges — who directed — sent me an e-mail asking me to stage manage. I was like, ‘Hey, why not? I can learn more this way.’ I think they had a year break, and then the second year I showed up and that was when we did Taming and that was my first ever role in any Shakespeare, minor or the lead. So, I kind of came out of the gate with Shakespeare like insanity, but it was a blast.”

For last year’s Comedy, the Dromios are men. Farrar says of playing a man, “That was awesome. You know what’s funny? I remember going to the first rehearsal and being really, really pissed off because I didn’t get Adriana. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I take the script home and I read it a little more thoroughly, and I was like, ‘Wait a second. I got the better part!’ It was something I’d never done before, and so it was fun. ”

As for why Shakespeare, Farrar doesn’t even have to think about it. “I love Shakespeare,” she says, “and I feel the same way about the Greek plays. It’s very raw and cut down, and there’s not a lot to hide behind. You kind of have to be out there, doing it, you know? In more modern plays, you have a little bit more luxury and a bit more leeway, and if you mess up a line, it’s kind of easier to flub your way until you get what you want. You can’t do that with Shakespeare. I can’t speak in iambic pentameter by myself. You’d think at this point I’d be able to,” she says with a laugh, “but no. It’s more of a challenge, because you actually have to figure out what they’re saying.”

Music has another part of her life, as she is one of the hosts of an internet radio show called The Big Dumb Fun Show. Described on their website as “a drive-time style format”, the show broadcasts live on the website and through affiliate radio stations on Mondays from 7 – 10 pm.

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“I got on because I was my ex-boyfriend’s ride,” she says with a laugh. “I would just drive him there every Monday. There were three hosts at the time: Aaron Gnirk, Venkman, and Frank. And Frank and Venkman were both gone, and my guy at the time was going to be one of the fill-in hosts. The Big Dumb Fun girl didn’t show up that day either, so I just sort of ended up being on a mike. And then six or seven months later, they gave me my own entertainment trash segment where I come in and talk about Hollywood for a segment or two and then I leave. And then it sort of morphed into me being there all the time.”

Farrar plans to move to New York in January, and major in theatre and elementary education. “I want to do theatre, but I currently work,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t like to have a backup plan, because that makes me feel like I don’t have enough faith in myself, but it’s something I can do to pay the rent, you know? I do before and after school care for the YMCA. The first thing since acting that I’ve felt a real passion for is working with the kids. I would like to continue working with the Y while I’m paying rent.”

Farrar knows theatre will always be a part of her life. When asked why she does it, she’s brutally honest. “I’m not qualified to do anything else. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I mean, I’ve done film, and film’s okay — I like doing it. I like the experience of it. But no matter how many movies I do, I’m always going to go back to theatre. There’s something about being on the stage and then being right there. That’s a rush.”

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot IV: Much Ado About Nothing runs September 11, 12, 18, and 19. For more information, visit the Alcott Arts Center’s website.