Kelsey Ervi hasn’t been out of school for even two years, and already she’s stomping out a vintage with her young career in theater.
The Waco native moved to Dallas in 2011 after graduating from Baylor. Obviously, she just couldn’t get enough Waco. Yeah, right.
“I grew up there, which is scary for someone who is gay,” Ervi says. “I was like, ‘I gotta get out of here.’”
But despite the Texas town’s conservative rep, Ervi says she got a great education in the theater department there, which was very open-minded. It also taught her how to do almost anything in theater — in front of the footlights and behind.
“The theater department was so wonderful,” she coos. “I acted, directed, wrote.”
Ervi continues to work as a jack-of-all-trades: Her first play produced, Waking Up, debuted at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival last year. Set in a bedroom, with 11 characters, it explored pillow talk in the modern age. The success of that show landed Ervi a permanent job in Dallas, as assistant to Terry Martin, the producing artistic director at WTT.
Moving to Dallas has given Ervi renewed energy about the potential of doing good work in the theater. Martin, one of the most respected directors in town, asked Ervi to assistant direct WTT’s current show, The Grapes of Wrath.
“My education at Baylor was great, but the tactile experience [working here] is a whole world of knowledge,” she says. “Grapes of Wrath is such a massive show. Terry has worked with the [Joad family cast members] and I’m working with the ensemble.”
Grapes just adds to her resume. Not only has she worked with Martin, but her career already includes several stints with the dean of North Texas’ theater directors, Rene Moreno, as both assistant director or stage manager on August: Osage County, Twelfth Night and The Lucky Chance.
“It’s such a learning experience,” Ervi says. “Rene is a wonderful teacher; he’ll [do something] then whisper to me, ‘This is why I’m doing this.’”
Ervi is continuing to write (she’s working right now on a three-woman show about the trials and tribulations of love and sex; she hopes to finish it over the summer), and she’s open to auditioning to act in a show “if I feel like I’m right for it.” But mostly she’s just happy to be pursuing her passion professionally.
“I love Dallas — it’s such a booming theater community,” she says. “Classmates talk about moving to New York, and I say, ‘Come to Dallas! It’s great here.’”