Burnaby’s Kelly deals with Heroes
Terry Kelly caught the theatre bug at Burnaby South secondary. More than 50 years later, he still hasn’t shaken it.
Along the way he graduated from the National Theatre School in Montreal, appeared in stage productions from Stratford to the Vancouver Playhouse as well as countless roles in TV shows like MacGyver, Neon Rider, The Commish, DaVinci’s Inquest and films like Star 80, Walking Tall and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies.
But Kelly’s biggest professional challenge may be corralling the talents, experiences and egos of three fellow senior actors as the director of Heroes, a new production of Tom Stoppard’s award-winning play about three cantankerous First World War veterans being put on by FOG Theatre at the Performing Arts Lodge in Vancouver from Sept. 6 to 30. John Innes, William Samples and Michael Dobbin have more than 100 years experience between them. That’s a lot of craft, and a lot of bad habits to tame.
“As you get further along, you get crustier,” says Kelly, 68. “So you have to find a way to drive around that. Actors gather tricks over the years but we can see each other’s tricks. It can get a bit fiery.”
Kelly and his troupe formed FOG (which alternately stands for Four Older Gentlemen or “Fond of Gin,” he jokes) as a vehicle for older actors who haven’t yet given up on their profession even though it may have given up on them.
“There’s not as many roles for older actors,” says Kelly, who grew up in Burnaby, attending McPherson Park junior high and Burnaby South before heading to local community theatre groups like the Vagabond Players in New Westminster and the White Rock Players and then on to formal training in Montreal. “We’ve still got our knowledge, our strength, to do something. You don’t quit until they drive a nail into your coffin.”
When roles dry up and agents stop returning their calls, some older actors fall on hard times. Some end up on the streets. Some find their way to the Performing Arts Lodge where they can live out their retirement years, surrounded by other like-minded creative people, flexing their acting muscles in the upstairs recreation centre that’s also a 150-seat theatre.
In a way, says Kelly, their experience mirrors that of the characters in Stoppard’s play, who refuse to languish quietly in a military retirement home. While plotting their escape they talk about their lives and loves, their triumphs and missteps.
“It’s liberating,” says Kelly. “There’s a habit in our society of ignoring seniors, that life only happens when you’re young. But they still have life, they still talk about a whole world going on, they still laugh, they still feel. You’re never old inside.”
Kelly is hopeful this will be the first of many productions for FOG. Eventually he’d like to bring younger actors into the fold to mentor them, show them the way to a lifetime in theatre.
“It fires the furnace again,” says Kelly.
For information about performance times and tickets, go to www.brownpapertickets.com.