Kelsey is Toronto based performer and since graduating from Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre program, she’s had the opportunity to work on stages across the country. She most recently became the first Asian actor to play the role of Anne Shirley in the historic production of Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival. Other select credits include: Kelly V. Kelly (Musical Stage Co), Gaslight (Vertigo Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Shaw Festival), The Antipodes (Coal Mine Theatre), Life After (Musical Stage Co.), and Adventures of Pinocchio (YPT). Kelsey is very passionate about speaking up against racism and is grateful for her peers in the theatre community that have helped her find her voice. Kelsey loves spending time with her dog Kola and he’s sure to fall asleep at her feet no matter where her career takes her!
Share a time that you had to deal with racism in the course of your career
During my time at theatre school, I was once told by a teacher that I would never be in the production of Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown, PEI because so many Japanese people go to the island to visit and they wouldn’t want to see one of their own on stage. This comment was horrendous for several reasons, one being that I’m not even Japanese.
The teacher then proceeded to sing a song from the show in an Asian accent, and said “I would pay to see you in a red wig”.
I remember feeling extremely embarrassed. At that point in my life I didn’t have the courage to speak up to that teacher and tell them how hurt I was.
I ended up confiding in the Associate Dean of the program, and they helped me deal with the situation and made sure I didn’t have any more tutorials with that teacher. That was a pivotal moment for me in realizing that speaking up can really make a difference.
Share something that you are proud of achieving as an Asian Canadian working in professional performing arts;
In the summer of 2022 I was fortunate to play the role of Anne Shirley in the Charlottetown Festival’s history production of Anne of Green Gables, the show that my teacher said I would never be cast in. I was the first woman of colour to be cast in the role that has been played by 19 other actresses. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve put into my career to get to that point.
What does it mean to you to be an Asian-Canadian working in the performing arts?
I remember never having a “dream role” like a lot of my classmates at theatre school, and I wonder if it was because I never really saw myself represented on stage. Thanks to the support of my community and the people I love, I have been able to defy barriers, make change, and support and uplift other Asian artists in the theatre community. More and more I’m seeing shows that highlight Asian stories being told and it’s extremely exciting. It’s so important that the younger and newer generations are exposed to art that represents their experiences, and I’m very passionate about continuing to push boundaries to help create spaces where everyone feels seen and heard.