Kristen Cerelli, visiting assistant professor of acting, came to OCU last year, after living in New York for 16 years. Her career credits include touring as Peter Pan, acting in The Sopranos, and coaching student and professional actors.
Q: How did you come to OCU?
A: Ironically, in January of 2015, I had a friend who was the head of the theatre department at Oklahoma Baptist University. He asked me to teach an audition class for his students’ winter-mester. While I was there, we came to OKC for dinner, and he drove me to the OCU campus and said it would be a good fit for me. I never thought I’d come back to Oklahoma, but about a year and half later, I had been thinking about transitioning into teaching full time. I saw a posting for a position here, and I guess the rest is history. It was very fast. I came for an interview, taught a demo class, had dinner with Lance, and got an offer the next day. I liked the students so much in the demo class that I felt I had to come.
Q: What was the most influential part of your training?
A: I think it’s the people more than the training. The most influential moments are when you have a really, really passionate teacher. The best teachers are somehow able to give real lessons and also instill confidence. Gene Lesser and Barbara Poitier were my biggest influences.
Q: What is your favorite production you’ve ever been a part of?
A: The New York premiere of Spring Storm. It was an Off-Broadway contract. The show is a Tennessee Williams play that rarely gets done and was unearthed at the Tennessee Williams archive at University of Texas at Austin. We finally got the rights in 2004 and produced it in New York. I felt a special affinity for the character, Heartha.
Q: What is the weirdest production you’ve ever been a part of?
A: I don’t know if it was weird so much as crazy, but when I was working in the New York City Fringe, the weirdest was a production of Kaboom, where our set had to fall on top of us at the end. It was really stressful and weird they accepted that show, knowing the “get in, get out” structure of the Fringe.
Q: What is a show you’d love to direct at OCU?
A: Maybe Belleville by Amy Herzog. I tend to want to do shows with smaller casts, which doesn’t always work well here. I like Big Love by Charles Mee a lot. I find it intimidating as a director. Maybe that’s a reason to go toward it.
Q: What is your least favorite show?
A: I’m not a huge Neil LaBute fan.
Q: I hear you’re a singer/songwriter. Tell me about your albums.
A: Around 2006, I made an EP, just to see what the process was like. I had been playing in New York with a rotating cadre of musicians. I knew I wanted to make a full-length album, so I found a producer who bought a church and put his software there. I knew that’s where I wanted to record. It took me about two years to get in there and finish 11 songs. It was a special time. I’m sentimental about upstate New York. I formed a relationship with the producer and his wife, who did the art for the album. It was a unique experience. There is something very cocoon-like about being in a studio, and I was in upstate New York during the winter. To finish the financing, I had to raise money. I raised $9,000, which was only about half the cost, believe it or not. Learning about music production and the legality of co-written songs has been incredibly taxing, but I think I can finally get it on iTunes. It’s got some Americana, country, rock and roll influences on it. It’s lyric-driven.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of the performance world?
A: Travel, when possible not by plane. I prefer to drive or take a train. I like to see other places, including other places in this country.
Q: What is a special skill you wish you had?
A: I wish I had mastery over an instrument or a foreign language.
Q: What is your greatest career dream?
A: To be part of a really exciting collaborative, cutting-edge group of artists, maybe in a place where there’s a real need for theatre.
If you’d like to suggest someone for the next Feature Friday, comment below.