The award-winning and popular Kelsey Theater celebrates its (50th) anniversary

THEATER MAGIC: “We take pride in what we do, which is to provide you and your family with a convenient, high-quality alternative to Broadway theater in New York and other theaters in New Jersey and Philadelphia,” says Mr. Kitty Getlik, Artistic Director of the Kelsey Theater, located at Mercer County Community College. “Our semi-professional theater center offers musicals, plays, comedy, plays, children’s theater, dance programs and music concerts year-round. And we strive to keep it all affordable for your budget.

By Jean Straton

Jhe’s playing is the thing’ at the Kelsey Theatre!

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the 399-seat theater, located at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), 1200 Old Trenton Road, prides itself on delivering high quality productions.

Much of the theatre’s success is due to the longtime involvement of artistic director Mr. Kitty Getlik, who joined Kelsey’s operation a few years after its inception in 1972-73.

First as a stage manager, she saw him become an important resource for theater lovers.

Directory companies

Originally established as a community and student theater, the theater is named after philanthropist and benefactor Henry C. Kelsey.

“Initially, we did two to four shows a year in addition to presenting a few cultural events and speakers,” recalls Getlik. “The theater was losing money at the time, and I had had side jobs over the summer, including being general manager of the Washington Crossing State Park Theater. I got to know a lot of great directory companies.

“I approached the Yardley Players to come to Kelsey, they agreed, and then other groups came too. theater and dance, the Kelsey Players, as well as a modern dance ensemble and tribute band.It is a mixed semi-professional and professional operation.

“This year we are collaborating with Playful Theater Productions, Maurer Productions OnStage, the Yardley Players, Theater To Go, MTM Players, Pierrot Productions, Shakespeare ’70, Broken Legs Productions and K2K Entertainment. For our 50th anniversary, we have 17 full productions and 11 different one-hour shows for kids.

Getlik’s passion for acting began at an early age, she reports. Growing up in Philadelphia, she was introduced to theatrical performances by her parents.

“My mother loved theater and my parents performed in the church theater. They also loved Gilbert & Sullivan, and I was exposed to many different types of theater. I loved it!”

“Make Me Believe”

Live theater is a unique and magical experience, she believes. The anticipation and excitement just before the curtain rises, when the audience is about to be taken to a new world, a new adventure or a special magical moment, is palpable.

“There’s nothing quite like live theater,” she says. “Every show is different. The energy that comes and goes with the actors and the audience is unique. Theater requires a voluntary suspension of disbelief from the audience, so that they can be transported into the world of The audience expects actors to “make me believe.”

The actors must bring all their energy, their enthusiasm and their talent to achieve this, she underlines.

“I worked in other companies when I needed it. Some people give 100%, some don’t. In the theater, each person gives 100% all the time. They are there because they want to be there. And it’s also everyone behind the scenes. It’s all production related.

She looks forward to an exciting season ahead, with the full program of shows for adults and children.

“It will be a great season. We have something for everyone. We also have new seats, new curtains and a new T-Coil assisted listening system for the hearing impaired. People also appreciate our secure parking and enlightened.

Another highlight

Among the feature films, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees, Once upon a time there was a musical fable is scheduled for September 23. Other upcoming productions
to understand something rotten, Come blow your horn, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, children’s time, Romeo and Juliet, Sing-Along White Christmas Movie (with public participation), The Fantastic, Hello Dollyand A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

The hour-long children’s shows are another Kelsey highlight, and this season offers some wonderful choices.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is set for October 15. So A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail arrives November 26 and 27, followed by It was the night before Christmas, Nutcrackerand next year, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Movie Sing A-Long, The ugly Ducklingand The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobeamong others.

Kelsey also offers free concerts with the MCCC Jazz Band Winter and Spring Concerts and the MCCC Winter and Spring Symphony Concerts.

In addition to productions, Kelsey offers Saturday morning creative theater classes for K-6 during the school year, Getlik points out. “This summer we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tomato Patch Workshops – the longest running and most successful multidisciplinary summer program in theater, dance, vocal music, visual and video arts in central New Jersey.”

Getlik’s experience includes involvement in nearly every aspect of theater production. Over the years, she has acted not only as a stage manager, but also as a lighting, sound and set designer, and performed on stage. As artistic director since 1992-93, she oversees all artistic operations.

Many honors

“I am compiling an exciting and varied season collaborating with our resident theater companies and MCCC Theater and Dance Program Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person,” she explains. “I then fleshed out the season by producing events and bringing in professional theater companies to present hour-long events for children.”

She is proud to have received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters, and equally proud of numerous theater honors, including three awards in 2018, seven in 2019, and four in 2020. No awards were awarded in 2021 due to theater closures in 2020.

Kelsey is nominated for 11 awards this year and was also honored as “Best Local Theater and Best Performance Venue” in the Trentonian’s 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards.

Keeping theater affordable for everyone is a top priority, and Getlik is committed to making Kelsey’s productions as accessible as possible. Single tickets for musicals are $24, $22 for plays and $12-$15 for children’s shows. Various subscription series are offered, including 13 shows for adults for $183, shows for kids for $75, or opportunities to create your own series. Discounts for seniors, students and children are offered. Tickets can be ordered by phone or online.

Quality and Variety

Audiences have responded enthusiastically over the years, and Kitty Getlik is happy that after the COVID shutdown, they’re coming back. “They come from all over the region, including Princeton, but also from further afield. We have subscribers from Staten Island! They really appreciate our quality and variety, as well as our reasonable prices.

She also points out that audition opportunities for actors are available, as well as positions for lighting, sound and set design.

“I can’t wait for more young people to get involved in all ways. As spectators, actors and behind the scenes as stage managers, lighting and set designers, etc. There are so many wonderful opportunities in acting.

“I’m really encouraged. It’s a wonderful live entertainment resource, and more and more people are discovering us. People will always want to see live theater. There is nothing like it!”

FFor more information and to order tickets, call (609) 570-3333 or visit the website: www.kelseytheatre.org.

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