MCCC’s Artistic Director Kitty Getlik Maps Out the Future During Kelsey Theatre COVID Closure

Updated on 5/15/20

West Windsor, NJ – Right now, discussions among legislators across the U.S. may be broadly focused on when and how to reopen America during COVID-19, but for Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre performers, stagehands and subscribers the big question is when can they get their Kelsey Theatre back?

On March 12, all non-academic activities at Kelsey Theatre, including rehearsals and performances, were suspended for health safety reasons. Even though live events have been cancelled, the good news is that the Kelsey is brimming with behind-the-scenes activity while the MCCC campus remains off limits. Kitty Getlik, Artistic Director for the Kelsey, spoke candidly about her career at the Kelsey and what is happening now and what is in store for the future.

Getlik, a 41-year veteran at Kelsey, always knew the theatre was a rich source of employment and entertainment for the Mercer community, but she didn’t realize just how much the Kelsey was beloved until she was forced to postpone all productions. Getlik and her small staff of theatre professionals have been peppered with emails almost daily from subscribers and well wishers alike. “Today I got one from a subscriber,” said Getlik, “I will read it to you: ‘Thank you for the expertly executed theatrical treasures we revelled in at the Kelsey. We will always be loyal supporters.’”

“The whole thing has been really heartbreaking,” said Getlik. “It has been hard on everybody.”

Getlik and her staff work remotely from home dealing with ticket issues while trying to rearrange two seasons at once. At this point, Getlik's assistant, Amy Bessellieu, has shifted her focus to future planning. Bessellieu explained, “Instead of focusing on the production companies’ needs as far as rehearsals and stage for this season, which was forced to end prematurely, I am focusing on next season’s needs.”

Getlik also has the additional responsibility of teaching performing arts through a remote platform. She explained how her online “Intro to Theatre” class just isn’t the same. “Theatre people are extroverts,” explained Getlik, “I am using Zoom to teach and my students are saying things to me like ‘I hate this, I miss you guys, I miss everything.’ They miss rehearsals and they are crushed,” she said.

As the Artistic Director responsible for “everything Kelsey,” Getlik is taking the postponement of the live shows very personally. Over the telephone she sounded heavyhearted as she went through a litany of productions — how far along the rehearsals were, the time and effort put into each show, the cast and crew members who have worked so hard. Getlik recalled, “’33 Variations’ was supposed to open the Friday night that the closure notice came down. Of course, ‘Parade’ was supposed to come right after that and was almost completely ready and ‘13 the Musical’ …. all the teenagers …. you can’t wait too long because the boys’ voices will change,” she explained.

Practically in tears, Getlik described how it pains her that the senior citizens, who make up a significant portion of the subscribers, were being denied the shows they so look forward to seeing. “A lot of our people — our subscribers — are senior citizens, and a lot of them say to me that they live to come to the Kelsey ….  and how it is the most important thing in their lives and it is keeping them alive. I feel really bad that we are letting them down,” she said. “We have 90-year olds; people who live by themselves. It’s hard on me personally because for 41 years — no 41-and-a-half-years — almost every day of my life I went to the Kelsey Theatre. Now I can’t go to the Kelsey Theatre,” said Getlik.

The set-up at the Kelsey is quite unique when compared with other colleges and community theatres. In part, because of Getlik's creativity and steadfastness.

Before Kelsey, Getlik was a professional stage manager working at an outdoor summer theatre series in North Carolina. The dean of arts and communications who had started the Kelsey was in need of a new stage manager and was holding interviews at a convention in New Orleans.

“I remember we had a Sunday night show and we got out of the theatre at about midnight,” explained Getlik. “Five of us got into a little Volkswagen beetle — me and four actresses. We left from North Carolina and got to New Orleans literally just in time to take a shower and go to the interview, and I got the job in New Jersey. Considering I was from Philadelphia, it was perfect,” said Getlik.

Getlik worked as a stage manager for 15 years and for a number of different artistic directors. “It got to the point where I was training the supervisors,” said Getlik. “Finally after about the fifth supervisor I said, ‘Can I just apply for this job?’” said Getlik. “That was about 25 years ago. I got the job!”

Since that time Getlik has made the Kelsey unique. Originally set up as a regular community college theatre, there would be a couple of student shows a year, a couple of self-produced community theatre shows and a series of booked-in cultural events that were pre-paid. “You can’t make it worth your while with the booked-in cultural events,” explained Getlik. “The college told me for every dollar coming in the Kelsey was spending $6.80. I had to get the spending closer to one-to-one.”

So Getlik started beating the pavement. During the summers Getlik had worked at the Open Air Theatre at Washington Crossing State Park where she made some connections. “I met with some different production groups,” said Getlik. “I asked Yardley Players and Pennington Players if they would like to do a box office split. They said yes and I just kept adding groups and groups came to me,” explained Getlik.

Eventually, the Kelsey was averaging one dollar in for every dollar going out with Kelsey Tomato Patch kids’ summer workshops giving a boost as well.

In March, Getlik sent an email to subscribers laying out how she sees the remainder of the 2019-2020 season playing out and which shows will be moving to the following season. But as long as COVID-19 parameters stay in place, however, Kelsey is required to keep the curtain down.

“All shows previously scheduled will be rescheduled as soon as we can reasonably ensure the safety of the audience and the performers,” Getlik said.

Despite the temporary closure, the artistic director remains hopeful. “We are calling the 2020-2021 season “Deja Vu,” Getlik said with a little chuckle. “Expect some real blockbuster shows to be added.”

For more information about performance dates, ticket purchases, credits and donations, send email to or visit the Kelsey online at

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Mercer County Community College's Kelsey Theatre has been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus health crisis.


 Kelsey Kitty Getlick in Love Letters

Kelsey Theatre's Artistic Director, Kitty Getlik, in a 2013 production of “Love Letters” with Walter Smyth in background. Getlik has been working behind the scenes rearranging and planning the remainder of the 2019-2020 season should the venue reopen this summer.