Visiting director Kelly Morgan understands better than most how strong the call of youthful dreams can be. Morgan first got a hankering for acting while growing up on a 850-acre cattle ranch outside Lander, Wyo. Film production crews shooting Westerns on location recruited the young cowboy for stunt work. Between takes, Morgan hung out with the actors who told him serious actors got their training in Hollywood or New York City.
Deciding his career couldn't wait, Morgan stuffed his pockets with his life's savings, about 300 bucks, stuck out his thumb and set out for New York. He was 13.
"It must have been my drawl," Morgan says with a smirk. "The guy dropped me off in Newark."
It took some doing, but Morgan figured out how to get to the Big Apple. Tall for his age, Morgan checked into a transient hotel and enrolled in the Actors Studio. He let his parents know he was safe, but not his exact location. After all, he wasn't even sure of his exact location; he moved from hotel to hotel, crashed at a friend's pad or sometimes stayed in abandoned buildings.
It was a year and a half before a truant officer caught up with the young runaway and hauled him back to Wyoming. His parents struck a deal. If Morgan agreed to stay and finish high school, they promised he could continue his education in theater. It proved to be a good deal.
Morgan went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in theater and acting; he trained at the Athens Institute of Dramatic Arts in Greece and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Morgan has performed in hundreds of stage, screen and television productions, in roles as diverse as Romeo on BBC-TV in London, Sean on ABC-TV's "All My Children," Jesus in the musical "Godspell" on a national tour, and Henry IV, I & II at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He has performed with Richard Harris, John Wayne and Charlton Heston, and has directed dozens of world premieres, including "Uncle Bob" starring Austin Pendelton ("My Cousin Vinny," "A Beautiful Mind") at the Circle Repertory Theater in New York City, Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and at Yale.
Morgan has taught over 40 master classes in acting around the world. He has served on the faculties at The National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Case Western Reserve University, and Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Vermont, Princeton University, and State University of New York.
In addition to acting and teaching, Morgan founded the Wyoming Children's Theatre, the Kelly Morgan Acting Studio in New York City and the Mint Theater in Manhattan. He also founded the AmeriCulture Arts Festival in Fitchburg, for which he received the Massachusetts State Senate Award of Commendation in 2000. Over the course of his career, Morgan has achieved more than many actors ever dream of accomplishing, while overcoming two bouts of cancer.
A glance at Morgan's extensive vita reveals the usual titles one might expect of a 30-year career in theater: actor, director, playwright, producer, professor. But nowhere in his 18-page resume does one find the title that best describes Kelly Morgan. That would be "Dream maker."
Having achieved his own dreams early on, Morgan has devoted much of his life to helping hundreds of aspiring actors, directors and playwrights realize their dreams in the world of theater.
This week, Morgan will play dream maker to a recent VCU graduate when he directs Anna Tulou in "April Morning" at the Theatre Gym at Theatre IV.
Anna Tulou met Kelly Morgan last spring when he was invited by the VCU theatre department to prepare graduating students for their showcase performances in New York City. Tulou had her heart set on performing a scene from "April Morning," an Appalachian drama of a young mountain woman caught in a turbulent love triangle. When plans fell through, a disappointed Tulou spoke of her longing to play the role of April. Morgan told the 22-year-old she should produce the play.
When others were inclined to say, "You can't do that," Kelly Morgan's response was, "Why not?" Morgan met several times with Tulou to explain how one produces a play. After their last meeting, Tulou told Morgan, "You should direct the play."
As it turned out, Morgan was invited back to VCU to fill a one-year position as guest artist in the theater department.
Fortunately for Anna Tulou, the dream maker is in town to help make her big dream come