An Interview with Kenny Leon Intern KeShawn Mellon
As the Kenny Leon Intern, KeShawn is exploring the world of theatre producing and administration while also deepening his expertise in acting. In this interview, KeShawn discusses co-producing the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition, continuing his personal goals as an actor, and planning to expand his career internationally in the future.
First up, tell us about yourself: where are you from, where did you go to school, what did you study?
My name is KeShawn and I'm from Ohio. I graduated from Ohio University with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting and a Diversity Studies Certificate.
Why did you want to be the Kenny Leon intern for the Alliance Theatre?
I wanted to be the Kenny Leon at the Alliance Theatre because I wanted a wider range of exposure to the theatre world beyond just acting. I wanted to understand how things worked behind the scenes and past the stage in hopes to, eventually, use that knowledge to produce my own work. Since I have always been interested in creating my own material, I thought it would be helpful to know how to produce it as well.
What have you been working on in the internship?
During my internship, I have worked on a variety of projects: I've co-created the lobby display for The Hot Wing King, co-produced the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwrighting Competition, assisted with the development of Critical Race Theory for Kindergarteners as a dramaturg, and helped Kenny Leon workshop a new play written by Dominique Fishback. Currently, I'm preparing to host a public read through of a TV Pilot I wrote before the end of my internship.
How exciting that you worked with Kenny Leon on a project! Can you describe that experience?
Yeah—I really enjoyed getting to work with him. Having only heard about how he is in the room, I appreciated getting to learn from him in that moment and collaborate with him. I really liked bouncing ideas and watching how he applied them immediately in service of the script that Dom wrote. As we worked, he tried different things to see what stuck, I responded to them, we discussed them, then we'd try the next thing. Getting to do this expanded my understanding of how to tackle new play development, and offered a different approach, which I could see myself using in the future.
You are also a working actor in the city. How have you worked on your personal goals as an artist during your internship?
Throughout my internship, I've worked on my personal goals as an actor by attending auditions, classes, and workshops. I have also continued to pursue acting opportunities outside of the internship. So, within the first half of my contract, I understudied in A Christmas Carol, acted in a short film, and performed in a couple of Equitable Dinners with Out of Hand. Then, during the spring, I participated in a fringe festival, a production with Acting Under the Influence, a few more Equitable Dinners, and currently, I'm working on a musical showcase.
What will you take with you from this opportunity?
Among everything I could take from this internship, I think the biggest thing I'm taking with me is the community I have found while here. They are the true gem of this experience.
What’s next? Where do you see yourself going once it's over?
After the internship, I'm hoping to go to Spain in September to be a teacher assistant for the school year. Before then though, I'll be traveling to NYC in June for the musical showcase, and will continue developing more projects afterwards.
Any final words of wisdom or advice for candidates who might be interested in applying for the internship?
My advice for candidates who might be interested in applying for the internship is to be open to learning. Every institution does things differently and therefore has unique approaches to learn from, and it’s completely okay to not know everything.
The Kenny Leon Internship is a paid, season-long opportunity for early-career artists of color to gain experience in theatre producing within Alliance Theatre’s artistic department while pursuing both personal and professional goals as artists in Atlanta.
To learn more, visit alliancetheatre.org/internships.