Overcoming a Faded Dream

Even with numerous challenges in her teenage years, Junior Emma Kelley’s childhood passion and dreams for theatre remain strong.


Amy Gazes

Emma Kelley as Cinderella in ‘Cinderella and the Substitute Fairy Godmother’ (2022).

 It’s 2015. Guilford Elementary is putting on its first theatre production, and 10 year old Emma Kelley is waiting behind the curtains for her big moment. It was her very first production that would start her career in acting. 


She could not understand why all the adults were stressed. All she knew was that she and her friends were about to have the time of their lives. As the director guided Kelley to the stage, she finally realized why her mom wanted her to do this. She was, in fact, a drama queen, and she was about to prove it to everyone. 


“She was very confident even when she was younger,” added June Lee, a Senior at Park View who was in Annie Jr. and Dreamers with Kelley. 

The play had characters with the same names as the actors, pranks that made no sense, and a sleepover for the ages. Dreamers was Kelley’s first production, and her introduction to the theatre arts. As she sat on the stage in her bright, colorful pajamas, Kelley had the chance to act and hang out with her friends, as an audience full of parents, siblings, and the community watched. The reactions to jokes and the cheers after scenes gave her a serotonin rush, before she even knew what the word “serotonin” meant. 


“That experience kinda just made me fall in love with theatre,” said Kelley. 


The summer of 2016 was her final show before middle school. As Kelley walked onto the stage, she didn’t realize this would be her last production until she went to Park View. She didn’t know how much theatre had impacted her until it was not in her life at all. However, her hiatus throughout middle school would bring more drama than theatre did. 



Kelley’s friendships took a turn for the worse when she became a student at Sterling Middle School. She started to get bullied and picked on by classmates. These situations made an impact on her personality and mental health, which led to a friendship that destroyed her on a different level. When her best friend stopped talking to her completely, the only thing she had left was theatre. 


“So, that was just the whole period where I was struggling to find who I was as a person, and when I got back to Park View, I was like, it was because I didn’t have theatre. That was who I was,” explained Kelley when asked about her middle school years.




Now, Kelley is a junior at Park View High School with a GPA of 3.75, three awards won at theatre districts (outstanding vocal work, fourth best actress, and fifth best actress), manager for track and field’s spring ‘22 season, and has been a part of the cheer program for the past three years. Kelley has also been accepted into her dream college, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), which has locations in New York and Los Angeles. She has been in four of Park View’s productions since her freshman year, all being successful until she attempted her fifth this year.


“Trying to deal with that while doing what I love wasn’t easy at all,” expressed Kelley. 


When Kelley’s last production, Geek!, got cut short, she decided to leave Park View’s theatre company for personal reasons. However, the situation made her more resilient and stronger than she was before. 


“I can definitely say now that if I have the motivation and will to finish something, I will finish it.” Kelley voices. 




Through all these hard times, Kelley’s motivation comes from famous celebrities within the theatre community. Some being Reneé Rapp, Mike Faist, and her biggest inspiration, Andrew Barth Feldman. Kelley has expressed her love for him thousands of times, and looks up to him majorly. She is inspired by Feldman because he was around her age when he had major accomplishments with theatre. Some examples being when Feldman won the Jimmy award when he was only 16, and then he went on to be the lead in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. His career is thriving at only 19, as he attends Harvard for theater, dance, and media, while getting ready to film a new Netflix romantic comedy titled “A Tourist’s Guide To Love” in Vietnam. 


When asked about Feldman, Kelley made another comment saying “yeah he’s great, and he’s cute.”


Kelley also recently went to see professional productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Mean Girls, where she remembered why she loved theatre. It inspired Kelley to continue to work hard, and gave her the motivation she’s been needing. 


“[Seeing Fiddler on the Roof] was a good reminder of how much theatre is a part of my life, and showed me the end goal that I’ve been struggling to see,” Kelley wrote in a message to Ruthy Froch, an actor in the show, after seeing Fiddler on the Roof. 


Despite these hardships, Kelley still wants to pursue a career in theatre. When she graduates from Park View in 2023, Kelley will be going to New York to be a part of the drama program at AMDA. Going to this school means she would study two years in New York and two years in Los Angeles, giving her experience in both types of media, theatre and film. Kelley has also expressed that if she is not able to get a paying acting job when she is older, she will go back to school to become a high school drama teacher. 


When asked how she plans to achieve this in the future, she said, “I’m just winging it.”