Will Heatley and Kelsey Jessup aren’t even out of their teens yet, but when it comes to performing, they’re a pair of tried and true veterans.
So, when they both tell you they’ve attached themselves to a pretty impressive project in Thom Breitenbach’s musical fantasy “Hieronymus,” you should probably believe them.
Heatley, a Troy resident and Tamarac High graduate, is playing the title character, and Jessup, a Glenville native, is Anna, his love interest.
The play, a joint production of Proctors, the Schenectady Light Opera Company, The Society for Creative Anachronism and Nevessa Productions, will be performed at 7 p.m. today on Proctors’ Main Stage. Breitenbach is also directing the show.
“It sounded like an interesting project when I first heard about it, and it’s probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of,” said Heatley, who will be heading into his sophomore year at The College of Saint Rose in the fall. “It’s been a very memorable experience.”
“This is something completely different for me,” said Jessup, a 2016 graduate of Scotia-Glenville High School and a freshman at the University of Buffalo this fall. “It feels special, and to be able to help create a whole new cast of characters is a great opportunity.”
Breitenbach is an Altamont-based artist who created “Proverbidioms,” a popular 1975 painting that interprets more than 300 sayings in a colorful setting filled with people and animals.
Hieronymus Bosch was a 15th century artist from Belgium who inspired Breitenbach to become a painter. His play, “Hieronymus,” is the story of an artist who lives in a house with adorable and humorous characters, as well as some that are quite frightening.
“When he is introduced to Anna and they start courting, he knows there’s a struggle between keeping his creatures and his relationship with Anna,” said Heatley. “He realizes there’s going to be a problem, and while Anna is at first very accepting of the creatures, it gets to the point where his imagination is way too big.”
Born in Keene, New Hampshire, Heatley moved to the Troy area with his family eight years ago and graduated from Tamarac in 2015. He says he has been acting since he was 4. Most recently he played Claude in SLOC’s production of “Hair” earlier this year.
“I did a lot of things with C-R Productions when they were at the Cohoes Music Hall, and NYSTI [New York State Theatre Institute] when it was in Troy,” he said. “I got involved with some summer shows at Proctors, and I also did several Melodies of Christmas there. Then I started doing a lot more community theater five or six years ago, and I discovered I had a real passion for it.”
Proctors also played a role in Jessup’s love of the theater.
“Having Proctors in my own back yard and having the opportunity to see all these amazing national tours really inspired me,” said Jessup, who began her acting career at age 10 with the Galway Youth Theater.
“It had a huge impact on me, and that got me involved in the youth theater at Galway, the Saratoga Children’s Theatre and the Not-So-Common Players in Clifton Park.”
Jessup played Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” at SLOC last winter, and has also been involved in some independent film and television work. She started singing at the age of 5.
“I’ve never had any vocal lessons for a long period of time, but I’ve always loved music and at Glendaal Elementary School they put a lot of us through the music program. I’ve been singing since kindergarten and it’s always been important to me.”
Heatley and Jessup were both invited to audition for “Hieronymus” after Breitenbach saw them perform, Heatley in “Hair” and Jessup in “Beauty and the Beast.” In his director’s notes, Breitenbach wrote of the pair; “I especially want to thank our two leads, William Heatley and Kelsey Jessup. Theirs were difficult parts — so many lines and songs to learn. Kelsey, you are truly the show’s heart, and Will, you are its soul.”
Creature masks and costumes were produced for the show by art classes from six different Capital Region schools (Guilderland, Voorheesville, Bethlehem, Schenectady, Shenendehowa and Ichabod Crane).
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]