John Kelly

March 8, 2001 New Haven, CT

Woke up. Couldn't make tea 'cause it's my first night in these Eldorado Apartments, my second night at Yale, and I haven't got any tea 'cause yesterday when I arrived there was a big snow storm and all the stores were closed.

Swallowed my meds and took a shower. Quickly turned on my laptop to review the work I'd done on the BROTHER script last night.

Dressed and went across the street to Book Trader and ordered a chicken salad sandwich on seven grain, and a large Earl Grey. Sat and read a NY Times I'd found on the table. Thought how nice it is to be away from the Manhattan treadmill. Pulled out two grant applications that are due by the end of March—NEA and Rockefeller. Thought I may not be, or have, enough of a social agenda for the latter, though I'd been blessed with one of theirs to produce BROTHER, and for that I can sit here at Yale and be grateful. Could I—should I—stress form over content—or is it better for me to once again have the two exist democratically like Romulus and Remus under the wayward and capricious tits of the She Wolf of government and foundation funding. Always fumbling through crisis for a nipple to nourish this creative monkey on my back. Feed the need. The third rail is always running.

Went to the theater. Vocalized for forty minutes. Stretched on a purple sticky mat. Pulled out my props—the balance board, the length of polyester grass. Placed the xeroxed images of athletes in agony and fighters in confused aggression on the first two rows of seats—facing me on the stage floor. Attempted to begin the choreography for the Matthew Shepherd scene—the murder—which I plan to render Butoh-like, in slow motion in an ever-increasing strobe light—landing in a Kabuki-like pose with a red kerchief pulled over my head (to symbolize dried blood), while tied to a fence. Asked myself what would I have done—thought—felt.

Headed for the “Meet & Greet” artist (me) gathering in the lobby at 4 pm. Played Dolly Parton and Mazzy Star as a few tired looking students wandered in. My heart went out to them—personable, curious, and obviously swamped with work.

Was driven to the supermarket to buy provisions. Returned to my spacious temporary apartment. Checked in with my New York phone messages. There was one from Irene Borger, from Cal Arts. Thought to myself—OK, it might be about the Alpert Award. It's the third time I've been nominated—and the last two times I received a no go letter in the mail. She's calling me. Don't go there—it could be about anything—stop smiling—don't go there, you know how disappointed you were the last two times—just call her back—its 6 pm here, still early in California—she's probably still in the office—remember your calling card number you asshole, and call her back.

I called her back, out of body, more than I can describe, my reaction—I got it. Third time, did anything make a difference this time? Stop it, Virgo, and go to your gut—it's smiling, it's singing. To my credit, I've been sporadically, unquestioningly stopping here and there in my life—maybe on my way from the desk to the sink—whatever—and I have been centered enough to say “thank you”—and all before today—all for less stupendous reasons—and now I can say “thank you” again—for a bloody big reason. Quiet, calm, throbbing withdelight. Savor this moment. I'm in a good place. They say that if you look at your life—it's a reflection of what you need, what you foster, who you are.

Went out to the York Street Café. Walked in and saw a priest playing digital solitaire. Sat down, ate a meal, and am currently writing this. Now I know I can get through the year, pay off my debts, buy some equipment. It's nice having the clamps loosened, the veil lifted. Knowing that I can be grateful both without and with good news like this. I get the impression that Mr. Herb Alpert is a hands-on type of philanthropist—that he gets how much of an impact this can have on an artist's life and work. I hope I get the chance to thank him in person.

John Kelly is an actor, countertenor, painter, performance artist, dancer, director, and choreographer who makes solo and ensemble works. Often described as a “performance artist,” Kelly has called himself “an artist who creates live performances of mixed-media dance, theater, and song.” A short bio from the Alpert Awards said of Kelly, “As he updates the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice or portrays such characters as Egon Schiele, Joni Mitchell, Jean Cocteau, Maria Callas, audiences are reminded that at the root of theater and performance lies magic and transformation.”

On March 8, 2001 Kelly received notice that he had been awarded a fellowship from the Alpert Award in the Arts. Each year since 1994, annual fellowships of $50,000 have been awarded to five artists, one each in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theater, and the visual arts. The Herb Alpert Foundation is a member of GIA.