Jill of all Trades

Between playing, composing, recording and touring, Kelly Kennedy finds time to star in Barksdale's "The Crucible"

No, what really blew me away is when she sheepishly showed me a blue-and-white watercolor of an iceberg that, while small and simple, showed unmistakable compositional skill. After already spending an hour talking about her three decades of work as an actress, singer, musician, composer and, oh yeah, a dancer, I had to wonder, is there anything this woman can’t do? “I have a marginal facility for a lot of things,” Kennedy responds modestly. “I keep my fingers in a lot of pies.”

At least two of those pies will be available for public consumption soon. “The Crucible” reunites Kennedy with another local stage vet David Bridgewater, her co-star in Theatre IV’s 1992 production of “The Rainmaker.” The two will portray John and Elizabeth Proctor, a devoted couple in 17th-century Massachusetts whose lives are shattered when a scheming young girl accuses Elizabeth of being a witch. The classic play has always been one of Kennedy’s favorites. “It’s a play that speaks to me,” she says. “I’ve felt that way since I first read it back in high school. But I’m glad I’m in it at this point in my life. Now that I’ve been married 21 years, I can understand where this character is coming from.”

This month will also see the release of a CD called “18th Century Mother Goose Songs,” Kennedy’s latest collaboration with Dean Shostak. Kennedy and Shostak tour together regularly, playing authentic early American tunes, often using period instruments, including the lute and the harpsichord. As you might expect, the two performers make regular appearances at Colonial Williamsburg.

But Richmonders may be more familiar with Kennedy as the lead singer for 39 Fingers, the popular Irish band that plays regularly at Legends and other local venues. Kennedy also plays solo dates; she put out a CD called “Wicked Polly” in 1998 and is formulating plans for another solo effort. But that might have to wait until she’s finished composing the score for a world premiere play”Songs from Bedlam,” that the Barksdale will produce next May. Though she has all this work going on, Kennedy claims she still has days when her confidence wavers: “I wake up sometimes and say, ‘what am I doing?'” Being married to another artist may not help, even though her husband is well-known sculptor Paul diPasquale, creator of Monument Avenue’s Arthur Ashe memorial. “Maybe once a year, we’ll look at each other and say, ‘Is it your turn to get a real job?'” Kennedy jokes. “But there’s a lot of work here if you’re willing to diversify.”

Kennedy is not only willing, but also more than able. Heck, if the performance work ever dries up, she could even give painting a try. S

“The Crucible” opens at the Barksdale Theatre, 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, on Friday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m., continuing Wednesday – Sunday through Nov. 3. Tickets cost $24-$30. Call 282-2620.


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