Actor Spotlight

Dallas actress exposes her many talents, from Simpsons to Shakespeare

Dallas actress exposes her many talents, from Simpsons to Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare in the Bar in Dallas
Kelsey Leigh Ervi as The Wall in Shakespeare in the Bar's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Leigh Ervi
Dallas actor Kelsey Leigh Ervi
Dallas actor, director, playwright, and photographer Kelsey Leigh Ervi. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Leigh Ervi
(sic) Echo Theatre
Dan Schmoker, Ervi, and Ian Ferguson in (sic) at Echo Theatre. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Leigh Ervi
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play at Stage West in Fort Worth
Paul Taylor, Henry Greenberg,  Ervi, and Ian Ferguson in Mr. Burns: a post-electric play at Stage West. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Leigh Ervi
A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare in the Bar in Dallas
Dallas actor Kelsey Leigh Ervi
(sic) Echo Theatre
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play at Stage West in Fort Worth

Sometimes she's onstage, sometimes she's guiding the action behind the scenes, and other times she's capturing productions around Dallas-Fort Worth with her camera. Kelsey Leigh Ervi can certainly be called versatile, as she's proven her many talents time and again.

Next up, she's participating in another Shakespeare in the Bar production, The Tragedy of King Richard III. One performance is December 7 at The Wild Detectives, and the second is December 14 at Small Brewpub.

Before she assumes her queenly duties in the royal play, Ervi took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: Kelsey Leigh Ervi

Roles in Richard III: Queen Margaret/Brakenbury

Previous work in the DFW area: As an actor, I was most recently seen in Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play at Stage West, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Shakespeare in the Bar, and Echo Theatre’s production of Melissa James Gibson's play [sic]. But most know me as a director. I recently directed Precious Little for Echo Theatre and The Spark [which she also wrote] for WaterTower Theatre in the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. You might also know my voice from the Little Big Scene Podcast.

Hometown: Waco

Where you currently reside: Dallas

First theater role: Lydia in All My Sons, back when I was blonde and a few pounds lighter.

First stage show you ever saw: Not sure if it was my first show, but I remember seeing the tour of Cats when I was very young. Kind of have a soft spot for that show now. 

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: Senior year of high school. I grew up playing sports and wasn’t really involved in the arts until I was in high school, after which I completely immersed myself in theater. I knew I was never going to find a career that made me feel as alive and as true to myself as theater would.

Most challenging role you’ve played: Probably the role I just played in Mr. Burns at Stage West. It felt like three different plays in one. The first act was an overlapping dialogue-heavy retelling of a Simpsons episode, there was a 10-minute long a capella pop medley in the second act, and third act was a full-fledged operetta. The memorization alone was very difficult.

But it was also challenging because the playwright didn’t give much backstory on the characters, so we had to develop and create our characters’ lives from very minor details that she had written. In the end though, this was one of the most rewarding shows I’ve ever been a part of as an actor.

Special skills: I can make a really good Grumpy Cat face. I’m also really good at spinning my phone on my finger.

Something you’re REALLY bad at: Resisting the urge to eat chocolate.

Current pop culture obsession: Hamilton … obviously.

Last book you read: Currently reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

Favorite movie(s): SO MANY. I love movies. I love going to movies. I love re-watching movies at home. All-time favorite would have to be The Hours. But recent favorite is Room. Go see it. Brie Larson is incredible in it.

Favorite musician(s): Lots. Brandi Carlile, PigPen Theatre Co., Hozier, Adele, Kodaline, Sara Bareilles, Gavin James, Amos Lee, the list goes on.

Favorite song: Right now it’s “Sweetest Devotion” off Adele’s new album.

Dream role: Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods.

Favorite play(s): How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, The Christians by Lucas Hnath, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Favorite musical(s): Into the Woods. I grew up watching the recording of the original Broadway cast, so it’s been a long love affair.

Favorite actors/actresses: Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes, Ryan Gosling, and Ed Harris. Locally: Garret Storms, Jenny Ledel, and Ian Ferguson.

Favorite food: I’m in an open relationship with Thai food.

Must-see TV show(s): Game of Thrones and Orphan Black.

Something most people don’t know about you: I sing! Since I’ve moved to Dallas I haven’t had much of an opportunity to showcase my voice. I did get to sing in Mr. Burns and I received so many comments afterwards from people saying, “I had no idea you could sing,” which I felt was best responded to with, “Surprise!”

Place in the world you’d most like to visit: I’ve never traveled outside the United States so there are so many places I want to visit. Ireland tops the list right now.

Pre-show warm-up: It varies for each show. There’s typically a section of my lines that I go through. I stretch, do a vocal warm-up in my car on the way to the theater. For Richard III, I’ll probably drink some whiskey.

Favorite part about your current role: Queen M is a badass. What actor wouldn’t love spouting things like, “Hie thee to hell for shame, and leave the world, thou cacodemon!” Her text is definitely my favorite part.

Most challenging part about your current project: Learning lines! It’s much easier to learn lines in rehearsal when you’re running a scene over and over again. But with Shakespeare in the Bar, you get one, maybe two rehearsals (and the whole cast may not even be there) before the show goes up. So that means you’ve got to do your homework and get creative with learning your lines in other ways.

Most embarrassing onstage mishap: In high school I was playing Mercutio, as a man, in our one-act play version of Romeo and Juliet (enjoy that image) and during the big fight with Tybalt, right at the end when Romeo steps in between us and Mercutio gets stabbed, the actor playing Tybalt head-butted me right in the nose. My next line, “I am hurt” was painfully and sincerely delivered.

Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: Probably something in marketing or digital media. 

Favorite post-show spot: In general, my bed 'cause no pants. But more specifically, in Fort Worth, The Bearded Lady for the fried leeks. In Dallas, Bryan Street Tavern for the pizza.

Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The people. Hands down. I have really found a second family here. And the people here are so talented! The ideas that are buzzing around this city are exciting and inspiring. I’m constantly hearing about a new project or new company or new version of some old play and I get so jazzed about the possibilities. This is a booming region in so many ways. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

Most memorable theater moment: This is tough. This year especially has been full of wonderful moments. But as an actor, I’m going to go with the final Friday performance of Mr. Burns. The previous night’s performance had been kind of a dud; the audience wasn’t very responsive and the whole cast was exhausted and already feeling blue about the impending closing performance, so I think we all went into that final Friday hoping for a good show.

But we got a great show. The audience was incredible, by far the best audience of the entire run. They were laughing at every joke, enjoying all of the music, and intently listening to every word we spoke. It was so much fun. Every one of us had this look in our eye of “can you believe we get to do this?” I will never forget how good we all felt when the curtain closed on that performance. Pure joy.