On life, death and levity

On life, death and levity: Ferndale Rep’s new artist administrator-in-residence advances his democratic view of art

Mad River Union | November 2, 2016

By Erica Motter

For better or worse, we tend to think of artistic expression as something distinct from most of the activities of everyday life, not something that applies to very many types of careers.

But local artist Christopher Kehoe, currently the artist administrator-in-residence at the Ferndale Repertory, who just wrapped up a starring role as Dr. Frank N. Furter in its production of The Rocky Horror Show, believes that artistry should not only be confined to the arts.

To him, an artist is simply anyone “who sees something and starts to invest themselves in it, who isn’t just content to leave it be imaginative, who wants to manifest it.” While he believes that everyone from plumbers to accountants can find ways to perform their work with a sense of joy and love, his personal way of bringing ideas to life is through his work in theatre.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Kehoe first got a taste of theatre when he performed in an adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” during his freshman year of high school. At first, he enjoyed it because it provided a friendly, close-knit social group, but later he also found that he liked it–and he was good at it.

From that point on, Kehoe continued to study theatre in all of its aspects, taking on the role of actor, director, playwright, and collaborative creator in various groups. He has performed in over fifty shows, and his work spans a wide range from solo acts, classic Shakespearean plays, musicals, and devised works. He reckons that he averages about seven shows per year.

He moved to the North Coast in 2012 to study at Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, where he built his abilities as an improviser, working in a group of students to bring works to life in the moment.

Devised theatre, unlike traditional theatre, is by nature a collaborative process in which several artists work together to improvise characters, situations and scripts in the moment. Over time, he and his classmates learned to work with each other in a way that allowed them to focus on the work and feel comfortable together.

In his performances and writings, Kehoe prefers to explore meatier subject matter, touching on broad human themes like pain, revenge or leadership. He feels that since “life is only profound because it ends,” his works always have a sense of life and death about them–which he feels is necessary since theatre is such an intangible medium.

“The only thing there is, is this live performance,” he said. “It’s just this completely ethereal experience–and that’s all you have.” 

Kehoe said that, in addition to his formal relationship with theatre, he also naturally tries to bring levity and humor to mundane situations.

“I don’t take myself that seriously in my day-to-day life,” he said. “I enjoy entertaining people, at the expense of myself sometimes, in social situations.” 

In his role as Dr. Frank N. Furter, Kehoe has had the opportunity to make good use of his humor to entertain the audience and engage with attendees during performances, and said that he has a great time on stage.

He said that he appreciates that he’s been able to get more practice and training with singing in this show, and at the Ferndale Rep earlier this year when he starred as Macheath in a production of Threepenny Opera, saying that it helped him to find his own literal “voice.”

Since the summer, he has also been serving as the artist administrator-in-residence at the Ferndale Rep. In this role, he fulfills not only the creative duties associated with performing in and directing productions, but also is involved with more business-oriented aspects of the theatre, such as marketing, publication, and fundraising.

Later this year, he plans to appear in the Ferndale Rep’s production of “All My Sons,” direct a production of “Beauty and the Beast” and host a workshop about playwriting with Redwood Curtain. In the future he hopes to be involved in more productions, possibly in more competitive scenes like Portland or the Bay Area.

In the meantime, he will continue to do what he does best, and to encourage other people around him to explore their own abilities as artists.

“There are some things that people are just innately good at, and I don’t think art is one of them,” he said. “I think we all begin as beginners, and we can advance when we’re eleven because our parents threw us into an audition ring, or we can advance when we’re forty because it’s always been on our bucket list and we finally decided to audition for a show.”

More information about Kehoe’s performance history can be found www.christopherkehoe.net.


Christopher Kehoe profile
Original publication (click to view larger)

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