"Gotta Love Community College"
Says Theatre Alum Keenan Westcott

5/09


Theatre alum Keenan Westcott ('08), known in the theater world as Kyrus, does not believe in down time. During his years as a student at Mercer County Community College, he sought out every instructor, format and venue that would help him develop his skills in the performing arts.

A Hamilton resident who now attends the School of Fine and Performing Arts of Westminster College of the Arts (located at Rider University), Kyrus considers MCCC a vital stepping stone in his career and his life. "When I graduated from high school, I knew that I wanted to perform and entertain through any medium, but I really did not have the correct training. Mercer helped me clarify and solidify my dream, confirming in granite that acting is what I want to do. It provided an excellent academic foundation to continue my studies."

Kyrus credits three of his professors - Theatre Program Coordinator Jody Person, Kelsey Theatre Artistic Director Kitty Getlik, and adjunct faculty member Louis Wells - as key to his success. "Those three molded me into the person I am today," he said.

Kyrus performs at the
Parental Advisory Show.

He notes that he has had little difficulty with the transition to Westminster and that his professors there are often surprised by his depth of knowledge. "Even though I am a transfer student, I do not have much to catch up on," he explained.

Kyrus' commitment to his professional growth was evident from his first semester at Mercer. He immediately jumped in, performing in more than ten theatrical productions, including leading roles in community musicals at Kelsey Theatre and dramatic roles in student shows. He also tried his hand at directing and performed comedy at MCCC's Late Night Series, an open mic performance event held on the college's West Windsor campus. Eventually he began venturing off campus to perform stand-up in New York comedy clubs.

Nearest and dearest to his heart is the "Parental Advisory Show," a comedy showcase that Kyrus conceived with fellow student Josiah DeAndrea in 2006 and continues to host each January at MCCC's Kelsey Theatre. The 2009 show featured eight comedians and drew some 300 fans. Over the past four years, featured comedians have ranged from locally grown talent to professionals who appear regularly in New York and on television. "The idea is to give up-and-coming comedians a great place like Kelsey Theatre to perform. The show is inexpensive and the audience keeps growing, so I know we're giving people a great night," he said.

Kyrus also continues to perform with community companies at Kelsey Theatre. He had a leading role in the May 2009 production of "High School Musical," presented by Cheng/Ferrara Productions. In March he directed the Pennington Players' production of "The Wiz" at Kelsey. Performing in the company's shows for the last five years, he has developed a strong connection with the troupe. His first foray into directing was with Pennington's 2007 production of "James and the Giant Peach," followed by "Seussical" for Town and County Players Theatre (PA). "I've always had an interest in working on 'the other side' of a theatrical production," he explains.

"The Wiz was one of the biggest undertakings of my career and it was such a pleasure working with so many talented people," he continues. "I am still considered new when it comes to directing, so it is a big leap to go from directing 18-19 year olds in 'Seussical' to directing adults, many of whom were older than me."

With Wiz cast members seeking him out for advice on how to approach their characters, Kyrus notes that the lessons learned as an actor prove invaluable as a director. "We work on taking the two-dimensional characters on paper and turning them into three-dimensional people with emotions and natural feelings."

Trying to juggle school work, his directorial responsibilites, and the development of new projects, Kyrus admits that his life is very full. "It drives me crazy sometimes, but it is what makes me happy. Life is too short, you know? I want to do it all. I need to do it all."

Describing himself as a "skinny black guy from Jersey," Kyrus' website, www.kyrusonline.com, is infused with his special brand of exuberance. Under the umbrella of his production company, K2KEntertainment, the site gives him a place to publicize his upcoming appearances and to blog on a range of subjects from sports to politics. And, he gives an affectionate nod to MCCC - "Gotta love community college..." he says.

Kyrus' future plans are taking shape. He expects to finish his bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and Performing Art in 2010. "After that, I will be heading to London to get my master's in Text and Performance," he says. Given his progress thus far, MCCC faculty and staff may one day get to say they knew him when.

Read more alumni success stories here.

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