Alumnus reflects on career and education before appearance in Chicago
By Toree Weaver
Temple University’s Department of Theater celebrates fifty years of pioneering education with their upcoming show Chicago: A Birthday Concert, featuring student and alumni performers. Among the talented alumni that have come back to participate in the show is Warren Kelley, TFM ‘79.
After graduating from Temple, Warren Kelley hit the ground running and has developed one of the most diverse careers on the regional theater circuit. With over 200 theater credits, his work includes acting in classics, contemporary plays and musical theatre. He has also worked in television and film projects such as Boardwalk Empire, The Blacklist, Law & Order: SVU and Birdman. Kelley has received a number of awards and nominations and continues to build his portfolio.
Contemplating his return to Temple for the celebration, Warren Kelley reflected on his time at Temple and how it propelled his career. He explained how his path would not be the same without the tools he received from the department. When describing his experience he stated that he appreciated the classes led by professors like Joel Freeman that gave him tools that helped him better understand the craft. “It did exactly what you want acting school to do,” Kelley said when defining his practices.
Following his graduation from Temple University, Warren Kelley immediately had offers and was able to put into practice all he had learned from the department. After participating in numerous productions both on the stage and in front of the camera, Kelley explained what he tries to accomplish when portraying a story. “I want art to be gratifying for me and the audience in some way,” he stated. “It’s not always attractive but it’s compelling because it’s human.”
Kelley also discussed how he is able to get into character and portray the story. He shared that the most important aspect is understanding the “why” and the main thing that drives the character. In his experiences he has noted that a character’s “why” often falls under four categories; validation, survival, love or winning. After understanding the motive, Kelley explained the importance of relating it to a personal experience to help produce an authentic depiction.
In addition to explaining his process of diving into a character, Kelley explained that there are certain roles he has turned down. “The ugliness that happens in the play is not a journey I want to go through eight times a week,” he said.
When asked what advice he would give other artists, Kelley explained the level of dedication required to perfect your craft. “Your work, your craft, your commitment, and attention, comes first before the business. The business will be interested in you based on your work.”
Warren Kelley explained that being true to yourself is equally important. “It is your authentic self that makes people pay attention,” he stated.
See Warren Kelley, '79 as Amos Hart in Chicago: A Birthday Concert, March 24 & 25 in the Temple Performing Arts Center.