Kearsley Park Players Bringing Stories to Life



This summer marked the 10th year of the Kearsley Park Players’ Theatre in Our Parks presentations. Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing was this year’s work of choice, and the park players gave six performances of the classic comedy, three of which were held in the Kearsley Park Pavilion, with a performance at For-Mar Nature Preserve, Clover Beach at Linden County Park, and Flushing County Park each.

Theatre in Our Parks is provided by a partnership between the City of Flint Parks Department, the Genesee County Parks Commission and the Ruth Mott Foundation. Kay Kelly of Flint has served as director of Theatre in Our Parks since its inception. She holds an MFA in acting from Wayne State University and a BA in Theatre from U of M-Flint. She has long been impressed by the potential of Kearsley Park. Kelly says, “The first time I saw the magnificent pavilion in Kearsley Park, which was built in 1925 by the renowned architect Wesley E. Bintz, I realized what a wonderful performance space it could be.”

Each year, Kelly is challenged to select the right play and the right performers. She knows for certain that she will present one of Shakespeare’s comedies each year, but the selection of the right play even just from among the comedies can be tricky, and the final choice is often contingent on the upcoming company of performers. “I look at the talent in the current company and if I know that some of them are going to be available the following season, I will look at a script that could include them.” Kelly says that casting is always the most difficult and challenging part. “I never know the cards that will be dealt to me. Sometimes, someone new and wonderful walks into auditions and stays for years and sometimes I have to scramble and send out the word that I need someone for a certain role.” Kelly’s creativity at selecting the best play given her performers doesn’t stop there. She often finds herself having to overcome major obstacles set up by societal changes from Shakespeare’s time to now. “As you know, Shakespeare’s plays are full of men; even the few women’s roles were played by men, and my problem is that I always have more women than men at auditions. I now change some of the men’s roles into women’s roles, thus Corrine the shepherd becomes Corrine the shepherdess, and Antonio the man becomes the Lady Antonia, etc.”

Kelly sees her work with Theatre in Our Parks as an effort to continue fostering the arts in her home town. Kelly says, “Flint is my home. I grew up here and I know that our cultural experiences are available because of those who have gone before us. Facilities are in place that allow for an enriched life – the Whiting, the Flint Symphony, the Flint Institute of Arts, the Sloan Museum, Flint Youth Theatre, the Flint School of Performing Arts, all in an incredibly vibrant Cultural Center.” Kelly works tirelessly to also continue the nearly forgotten tradition that Kearsley Park was originally part of the Cultural Center. “There is a wonderful old map in the Sloan that depicts [Kearsley Park] right up there with the rest of those established entities of the Cultural Center.”

Kelly explained that the community can look forward to the Kearsley Park Players keeping a large inner city park safe and welcoming, offering the opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to perform in theatre, and allowing audiences the chance to be impressed by local talent in their city. She says, “Being able to see a story come to life before my eyes is the real reason for theatre.”


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