I feel so lucky to have worked with Ms. McKinnon during the NYU Tisch High School Summer Program (2017) and in private coaching sessions. She has not only inspired me to be a better actress but to also be a better person. Her teaching is very tailored and catered on a student by student basis. Her compassionate nature and ability to listen makes the challenging and complex work assigned ahead much easier. Her emphasis on the actor’s healthy self analysis is a technique I still use to this day. She teaches actors to take the personal initiative even while coaching to ask questions like “What do you think the piece needs” or “What do you think you need to work on?”. Her discipline made me push myself both inside and outside of the classroom. Her teachings of making bold choices whether it be in a monologue or in everyday life will stick we me as I further my career in acting.
Kelley has inspired me to be a better actress and an understanding director. She coaches me with metaphors and anecdotes. She just doesn’t stimulate my curiosity for external theater knowledge but curiosity for my inner habits and choices. Our whole Shakespeare course ( during the New Studio on Broadway in the summer of 2017) was based on making powerful, specific and personal choices in every word delivered from our scenes. Her love for teaching and acting is so powerful that she still coaches and prepares us in our auditions even if she is miles away. I hope she is chosen for this job and young actors have the possibility of working with such a talented and caring woman.
Kelley remains to this day one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had. I met Kelley when I attended the NYU New Studio Summer High School in 2015. While I had taken many acting classes prior to this, I always had taste aversion to Shakespeare. Kelley completely changed that. From the start she told us that her way was only one way to look at Shakespeare but it made everything click. She forced me out of my comfort zone with difficult scenes and altered the way I thought about text by saying “if you keep messing up a line it’s because you haven’t made a choice!” She made Shakespeare my friend and helped to reveal the actor I am today. Even outside the classroom, Kelley is willing to do anything to help. She coached me through my college audition monologues, and always makes herself available when you need someone to talk to. I could go on and on about what a magical gift Kelley is. To work with her is a dream and I promise you it will change your life.
I have had the privilege of working with Kelley McKinnon on several occasions and I can honestly say that every minute with her is a masterclass in everything from her personal journey to professional guidance. In the summer of 2017, I had Kelley as an acting instructor at the NYU Tisch High School Summer Program and have privately coached with her since then. Each moment working with her is filled with personal growth and discovery. That is one of the things that is so remarkable about Kelley; she gives the perfect amount of instruction while still nurturing and celebrating the skill of self analysis and discovery within every one of her students. She is the true embodiment of passion for the craft and on top of that, this woman knows her stuff. Another thing that makes Kelley so special is her teaching style. She sacrifices herself entirely to the lesson of the moment, showing her students what lies far beyond a textbook or lecture. She encourages playing, getting messy, getting weird and real, allowing every student to explore through her love and understanding of the material. Some of the things I love most about her are the little details I can’t quite find the words to describe. It’s things as simple as that vivid energy she brings to the room… so unique, so raw, so inspiring. It is clear the instant you meet Kelley McKinnon that she would be an incredible asset to any acting program through her fiery wit and deep-rooted passion. It takes a person who possesses a very real type of magic to be a leader in such an exceptional place. Kelley McKinnon manifests that magic not only as a teacher, but as a genuine human being.
Kelley is an unbelievably committed teacher and director. She has no ego in the rehearsal room. Her stake in the game is the improvement and growth of actor. Kelley encourages growth through allowing actors to fail proudly. The only choice is to MAKE A CHOICE. I learned so much more by making bigger choices. Kelley encouraged those choices. While making choices is a huge element of Kelley’s teaching, the biggest element is that she is there. If I needed help with something, she made time to help me. I have worked on countless monologues with her. When I have had questions about a show I was in, she always helped. Sometimes though, the best help she gave was not helping. I needed to trust some of my own decisions as an actor. She would still show up and watch, but would ask me what I thought. Often, I knew what needed work. Kelley is a determined and student-oriented instructor. I participated in her yoga sessions as well. I always appreciated that she approached each student where they were at on that day. It made everyone give their all. I have worked with Kelley in a variety of atmospheres. As a student, actor, yogi, teaching assistant, and friend. I envy any student that gets to work with her daily. Having someone that is completely dedicated to your growth in your corner is too infrequent of privilege, and Kelley is completely dedicated to student growth.
I don’t want to be a cliché here and start off by saying that working with Kelley McKinnon changed my life… but working with Kelley McKinnon clearly, palpably, undeniably changed my life. I first met Kelley when I was attending Mary Baldwin College as part of its Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, in the middle of my freshman year at the age of thirteen. At the time, I was awkward even by teenage standards, and meek by virtue of being in a thoroughly weird situation. I knew that I wanted to pursue acting professionally, but the majority of adults in my life treated my goals as childish pipe dreams– in fairness, thirteen-year-olds don’t have a particularly good reputation for having their lives figured out. Kelley was the first person who I felt really listened to me, and taught me the way that anyone with a passion deserves to be taught. She presented me with dynamic scenes and characters that she knew would challenge me, and encouraged me to explore sides of myself that I had never investigated before. She showed me the importance of “making a choice”, which gave me a rare kind of freedom: up until that point, I had worked with a lot of very prescriptive directors, which had conditioned me to believe that I was always supposed to just wait and be told what to do. She taught me to approach acting with empathy and compassion, and to understand the characters I played without allowing them to absorb me. When we were offstage, Kelley showed me so much about navigating life as an artist and a human being: her bullshit meter is very well-calibrated, and she emphasized the importance of setting boundaries and standing up for myself both in the rehearsal room and outside it. Working with Kelley didn’t just make me a better actor. It made me tougher, smarter, kinder, and more confident, and helped me to realize why acting meant so much to me in the first place.
I currently live in Los Angeles, and am taking my shot at breaking into the film industry. Although I’ve worked some acting jobs here and there, I’ve discovered a new love for working behind the camera, and am now trying to secure a job in the world of production. My career aspirations have wavered several times, and I’ve reached out to Kelley in the midst of an identity crisis more than once. Through all of the hard parts, however, I’ve carried with me the most important lesson that Kelley taught me in college years ago: that, no matter what I end up doing, my passion and ambition are actually worth something. The thing is, Kelley doesn’t just teach her students how to act. She teaches them why they WANT to act, and that wanting to act is valid. If you have any interest in pursuing theatre, reach out to Kelley immediately. At the very least, you’ll get a fun and informative coaching experience with a fantastic teacher, and at the most, your life might be changed forever. Even before learning Kelley’s choice-based approach to acting, that seems like a pretty straightforward decision to make.
There is no one like Kelley McKinnon. I have worked with many talented acting teachers and directors and am reminded each time how lucky I am to have worked with Kelley, who makes all others pale in comparison. She has an incredible amount of knowledge on every acting technique and style in the book - and, even rarer, the ability to impart that knowledge in a fun and practical way to her students. She takes advanced, complicated concepts and breaks them down in the most straightforward way possible. I have seen Kelley work with a student for an hour and transform that student more than another teacher could do with an entire semester. What I absolutely love about Kelley’s teaching style is that she tailors her teaching to each individual student. When Kelley taught me, she came to know and care about me personally, so that each lesson was specifically designed for my unique strengths and weaknesses. Her ability to adapt makes her an excellent teacher for all ages, genders, or acting backgrounds. Kelley also encourages her students to develop self-awareness, asking them after each lesson: “What do you think you need to work on?” Kelley encourages actors to make big, bold choices and push past their own boundaries in a way that is truly inspiring. When Kelley saw actors getting tongue tied or nervous, she encouraged them to do a few quick jumping jacks and then begin their monologue. She used many creative techniques, always suited to the individual student, to tackle any problems. Her rigor and discipline made us commit to pushing ourselves: outside of class, we would run our monologues and scenes for hours, driven by our desire to make her proud. She was so invested in our personal success - we often said that there was no greater feeling than hearing Kelley yell for joy after one of our monologues. Her energy was infectious - she brought such a playful, vivacious charm to the classroom that made us always engaged and laughing along with her. Put it simply, she was not only an absolute joy to have in the room, she was also the greatest teacher I have ever had, in any discipline. I cannot even describe how much she changed my life: to list all her wonderful qualities would take too much paper. She is passionate, hilarious, practical, intelligent, inspiring, driven, dynamic. Suffice to say that anytime I perform, I use the tools that Kelley gave me and hear her voice in my head, guiding me. I contact her constantly for advice or for coaching sessions, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
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