During the past 15 years, Kelsey Crawford has been a fixture on Birmingham stages, directing and performing at theaters including at the Virginia Samford Theatre, Terrific New Theatre, Theatre Downtown and Birmingham Festival Theatre.
Her shows have included “Circle Mirror Transformation,” “Small Mouth Sounds,” Taming of the Shrew” and “Plaza Suite.” (She starred in the latter with her husband, Nick Crawford, who is in VST’s “Peter Pan” right now).
This week, her latest show as a director opens. It’s “Boy” at Birmingham Festival Theatre, running June 23 through July 9, and she took the time to field a few questions about it.
Q. How much have you directed, and how did “Boy” come your way?
A. Shows that I have had the pleasure of directing include “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play” by Sarah Ruhl, “Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer-Trash Housewife” by Del Shores, “Wonderland Wives” by Buddy Thomas and “Puffs” by Matt Cox. I had read “Boy” by Anna Ziegler a few years back and had the opportunity to direct a staged reading of the play with students at UM. Birmingham Festival Theatre approached me last year with directing the show as a part of their 50th anniversary season and I jumped at the chance to stage the story.
Q. Can you tell me about the show?
A. The premise of “Boy” is based on the Joan/John case of the 1960s. Adam, the protagonist, was born a boy but after a terrible accident during circumcision when he was a baby, Adam’s parents find themselves placing faith in a doctor that offers them hope by suggesting that they raise their child as a girl. This play touches on so many topics like nature vs. nurture, gender identity and doctor/patient relationships/ethics, but I think the most important topic is love. This play shows that even the best intentions motivated by love can have dire consequences —consequences that haunt every character. It is fascinating to see how these characters deal with their trauma and learn to heal, forgive and overcome. On a side note there is a more optimistic ending than (the real) story.
Q. Who is in your cast?
A. I am so fortunate to be working with such a talented and cohesive cast. I have worked with some members of the cast like Chuck Duck, Stephen Mangina and Julie Meadows, but this is the first time I have worked with Jackson White and Hannah Rice. Jackson is a sophomore theater and creative media double major at the University of Alabama. Hannah received her BA in theater from Samford University and an MFA in performing arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is currently working at Red Mountain Theatre as the education coordinator. Stephen Mangina was recently seen in TNT’s production of “Circle Mirror Transformation” and in BFT’s production of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Chuck Duck is no stranger to the stage, but I do believe this play marks his return since the pandemic, and I am so happy he chose to audition for “Boy.” Julie Meadows was recently seen in Birmingham Festival Theatre’s production of “How I Learned to Drive.” All of these folks are incredibly passionate and gifted. I also have the pleasure of working with Matthew Whaley. He graciously stepped in as my assistant director and has been so supportive of this cast and this entire process.
Q. Do you like both acting and directing?
A. Earlier this year I performed in “Circle Mirror Transformation” with Terrific New Theatre. Once that show closed, I began focusing on pre-production work for “Boy.: I would definitely say that I act more than I direct, but every now and then an opportunity to direct comes along that I can’t say no to. I hope to have other opportunities to direct shows in the future. I enjoy shaping and guiding a story that speaks to me, whether it is a comedy or drama.
“Boy,” at Birmingham Festival Theatre June 23 through July 9. Buy tickets here.