Kelsey Artistic Director Kitty Getlik
Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award


West Windsor, N.J. -- In her 31 years at Kelsey Theatre, Kitty Getlik has performed just about every job one can possibly carry out at a theater. From actor to stage manager, from directing to lighting -- even to selling tickets -- she has done it all with the passion of a true theater lover.

Recently her commitment was rewarded by the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters (NJACT) with its Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the coveted Perry Awards the association hands out annually.
Getlik had no clue she was a candidate for the award and was taken completely by surprise when her name was announced at the ceremonies, which were held Sept. 20 at the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset with 730 in attendance.

Though thrilled, Getlik acknowledged that "it was kind of scary because it's a 'lifetime achievement' award, and it made me realize how long I've been here," she said.

According to Getlik, winning any Perry Award is tough, as there are more than 150 member theaters in the state that put on more than 220 eligible productions. She notes that it's actually more difficult to win a Perry than a Tony Award, since there are many more New Jersey community theater shows produced each year than Broadway shows.

Proud award-winner Kitty Getlik

Getlik, a Philadelphia native who attended Penn State and Temple universities, began her career at Kelsey as stage manager after gaining experience at various theaters in New York City and in the South. After several years at Kelsey, she also became technical director of the Open Air Theatre at Washington Crossing Park. It was there that Getlik became familiar with various community theater groups performing in the area, which in turn planted the seeds for what the public now enjoys each season at Kelsey.

Originally known for hosting expensive specialty shows featuring performers like William Shatner and The Amazing Kreskin, Kelsey Theatre was better suited for community theater, Getlik believed, a shift that would be more cost-effective and beneficial for the college and the community.

"It seemed like a win-win situation for us. The idea is to get people to visit the campus and become interested in theater and everything else MCCC has to offer. And it's very important to me to keep ticket prices low for the community," Getlik said, who has been the theatre's artistic director since 1992.

Getlik also emphasizes the many opportunities that Kelsey Theatre provides for both experienced and fledgling actors. "In a given season, more than 1,000 community members appear on stage and assist behind the scenes, and they vary in age from 4 to 86," she says.

The involvement of young people is particularly important to Getlik, because she believes that children should be exposed to live theater at a young age, especially if they spend a lot of time watching television and playing video games. One of her favorite moments is when a five-year-old declines help in finding her seat because she's a subscriber and already knows where to go.

"There's nothing like the magic and energy of live theater. No two performances are ever the same," Getlik said.

While her award may have been for lifetime achievement, Getlik has no plans for slowing down any time soon. The theatre's 2009-2010 schedule includes 19 adult and family performances and 13 shows in its Kelsey Kids Series.

"There's always something different and always a challenge," she says. October includes "Hollywood Arms," an autobiographical drama about Carol Burnett to be presented by Maurer Productions OnStage from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, and "Bus Stop," a drama about eight characters stranded in a diner during a snowstorm, presented by The Yardley Players Oct. 16-25. "The Three Pigs," a children's classic turned musical, will be presented by Kaleidoscope Theatre Oct. 17.

"When people come to Kelsey Theatre, I hope they realize the professionalism and quality that goes into every performance. I also hope people realize what a unique and multi-level resource the college is, how much there is to experience and enjoy at Mercer."

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