Passion and dedication are the driving forces for success in the performing arts, and Kelly Pleva is no exception to the rule.
As a senior musical theater major at Wilkes University, Pleva has strived for excellence in the arts ever since her first experiences on a stage.
“My first concert was in preschool,” Pleva said. “We did a medley of ‘Surfin’ USA’ and I stood on stage with my eyes closed. I was terrified of being in front of people.”
Pleva said she remembered the excitement for the show all around her from classmates.
“The choreography was us supposedly surfing,” she said. “I had it in my head that if I can’t see them then they can’t see me. So I did the entire number with my eyes closed,” she explained with a laugh.
After that, Pleva explained that her parents perpetuated her involvement on stage in order for her to get more comfortable with being in front of an audience.
“Ever since then they’ve been very persistent in getting me back on the horse and trying it out and I’ve just come to love it,” Pleva said. “I’ve been singing ever since.”
Pleva credits her father with being the most influential person in her life regarding her passion for the arts.
“My dad is easily my number one because he’s always been there,” she said. “He’s always been the driving force.”
Pleva added that the influence of the faculty and students in the program were also monumental in developing her personal craft in the arts.
“I’m inspired by the people that I work with here because all of them bring something so wonderful to this theater that I don’t think any one of them could be replace,” Pleva said.
Pleva highly endorsed Wilkes University’s performing arts program for individuals who have a serious interest in getting involved professionally.
“Everybody is involved with everything,” Pleva said. “You won’t just be taking classes in acting and singing. You’ll be making costume, running the lights, building sets and painting them. There’s a lot that goes on.”
It depends on the person and what they want to do and what they want to learn, she explained.
“For me personally, I’m very happy that I have the background in stagecraft and lighting and design that I have.”
Pleva elaborated, saying that studying at Wilkes has helped prepare her for the stiff competition she will face during her career persuits in the performing arts.
“When it comes down to it, if I end up going head-to-head with somebody, I’m going to have the credentials over them,” Preva said.
Pleva explained that the greatest one faces in performance is creating a multitude of diverse characters in many different productions.
“My biggest challenge in preparing for a role was probably when I did Amadeus,” Pleva said. “I was Constanze, Amadeus’ wife.”
She explained that though the story itself was fiction the characters and situations were based on historical facts.
“Researching that role and understanding where she was at that certain point in time and the ideas and themes of the time were my biggest challenges because it’s Mozart,” she said.
Pleva said that because Mozart is one of the most commonly recognized names in music history that she had a duty to be true to the character of Constanze while also trying to explore it and create something new and unique to her own performance.
“In my head, I didn’t want to screw it up. I didn’t want it come off differently from what people are used to seeing or hearing.”
A second challenge, Preva found was in playing roles that possessed certain qualities that were very far removed from her own nature and might even take her to darker places of the mind and spirit.
“In one of my songs as Mrs. Walker in the Who’s ‘Tommy,’ I basically had to throw my son into a mirror and get really hostile in the situation.”
Pleva explains that you can only put yourself in another person’s shoes so much, and that grasping a way of thinking that is so different from your own has always presented the biggest challenges.
As a sophomore at Wilkes, Pleva competed in the Kennedy American College Theater Festival, where she was nominated for the national acting scholarship.
The festival involved 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide and works toward improving the quality of college theater throughout the United States.
Pleva said that she aspires to continue her education and earn a masters degree in classical vocal performance. She hopes build a career focusing on opera performance and even one day teach others to hone their vocal skills as singers.