There will always be actors that other actors dream of working with. They have one of a kind talent and watching them onstage is like watching magic unfold before your eyes. I am so excited this week because there is one actor I have been dying to sit down with since Behind the Curtain was launched. Kerry Simpson, who is currently portraying Aunt Rosemary in The Christmas Spirit, was gracious enough to give me some of her time and discuss how she came to be such a hot commodity in the Dayton theatre community.
Ms. Simpson, who was born in Blanchester, got her start in theatre as a Sophomore in high school when friends encouraged her to audition for the fall production of Who Done It?, where she was cast as the narrator. She remained active in theatre throughout school but lost touch with the arts in her early adulthood while raising her son Alex. Almost thirty years later a family friend, Marybeth, pushed Kerry to audition for Carousel at Dayton Playhouse and in the two short years since that fateful day Kerry has been a passenger on the Titanic, a suicidal alcoholic headed over Niagara Falls in a barrel, made her ex-husband incredibly jealous with a much younger man, and strolled down main street in her Sunday clothes. She has been cast in or crewed twelve shows, four of those at BCT, and this year alone she has both won a DayTony award of excellence for acting in a leading role and performed with the cast of The Last Lifeboat at OCTA state. Speaking from experience, not only do other actors wish to work with her but directors are begging her to attend their auditions and are willing to rearrange their rehearsal schedule in order to cast her in their shows. In addition, she has gained quite a following with an audience that will come and see her in anything. Through all the hustle and bustle and localized fame, Kerry remains true to herself. She is always quick to give praise and reluctant to accept it. She insists that she is “nothing special” and is just lucky to have the opportunity to do what she loves. She is humble and kind, during our interview she made sure to mention every cast and crew member by name as well as their individual attributes and contributions to the production.
In her current role, Kerry has the opportunity to play a character that is not at all like herself. Aunt Rosemary is, as the script refers to her, a “cantankerous old witch”. According to Kerry, Rosemary is “a very bitter woman. Life has not turned out the way she thought it would and yet she thinks she needs to rule her life and her house. She is bitter, she is caustic, and she’s a sad woman. And so she lashes out at others, her sister, her husband, her entire family who are all really good people. She’s just a bitter old pill.” She plays opposite Don Cordes who has been cast as Uncle Bernie. The two throw a slew of insults across the stage at each other in this hilarious yet heartfelt Christmas comedy. Although Kerry and Rosemary are vastly different people, Kerry can still find things that they have in common. She says that both she and Rosemary have insecurities, however, Rosemary chooses to lash out at others and that is where she differs from the character because her insecurities manifest themselves in other ways. All in all Kerry is having a blast and is excited to get to become someone completely different from herself and say things she would never dream of saying in real life.
When asked what she hopes people take away from this show she was quick to respond “time is very short, time is fleeting and the things that matter are the people and the times you spend with them. We all need to focus on those people and those relationships because in the end, those are the only things that are going to last. I would not allow a rift to come between Anne (her younger sister) and I like the one between Julia and Rosemary and it just makes me crazy”. This show revolves around the idea that we are each capable of doing something good that will be lasting and that’s what we get to leave behind. In the eight weeks that this cast gets to spend together they have each been committed to making this a something good moment packed with memories to last a life time.
To get more of this amazingly talented woman look for more here, this coming January when I follow up with Ms. Simpson who is part of the directing team for next year’s season opener. Foxfire directed by Saul Caplan.
Until next time, from behind the curtain