I was on time at the Gables Diner, but of course she was there before me, ensconced at a prime table near the entrance where I'd be sure to see her. There was a menu waiting at my place--nothing at hers. She's a businesswoman. Efficient.
“I always have the same thing,” she said. “Turkey club with fries.” I smirked and ordered the Mahi Mahi stir-fry. “So how are you physically?” I probed keenly. “I'm in great shape.” Her turn to smirk.
And so she is. Standing 5.5 in her bare feet and weighing in at... (when I asked for her weight I got “Come on Roger! Let's just say that I still fit into jeans with one digit, even after a vacation in Beantown) ...and with blues eyes and long blonde hair, Ann Kelly is easy to spot at just about any opening night at just about any theatre in South Florida. You'll find her there, supporting the theatre, the actors, and the crew behind the scenes.
Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, Ann has one older sister and three younger brothers. Her mother, Caroline Canaday, is a retired schoolteacher and her father, Jim Kelly, owns the Kelly Seed Company and Kelly Farms. The Kelly family has been in Lower Alabama for many generations and Ann is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution through her mother's lineage. Not being a member myself, I checked out the DAR website and found that: “Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence is eligible to join the DAR. She must provide documentation for each statement of birth, marriage and death, as well as the Revolutionary War Service of her Patriot ancestor.”
Her passion for theatre came from her mother who took her to see anything and everything on stage. No interest in a being an actor, “the thought petrifies me.” She did, however, play trumpet in a jazz band and was in various marching and symphonic bands. Jazz is her preference and Dizzy Gillespie her favorite horn player. She admits to not having played in twenty years, but hopes to get back to it soon.
Ann moved from Alabama to Miami when she was 21. “Chasing a college sweetheart but he turned out to be a jerk,” she says with a smile and a shrug. “I was going to a lot of theatre at the time, but mostly road shows. In the early 2000’s I was invited to join the board of City Theatre and then met their General Manager, Dani Karliner. It was with Dani that I discovered all the black box theatres in town. She was my guide and I'll always be grateful to her for that.”
Chairman of the Board of City Theatre for a number of years, Ann eventually resigned from her position because of policy differences and to concentrate on Paul Tei's Mad Cat Theatre. She had met Paul when he was directing at City Theatre and they soon became good friends.
“Ann took a personal interest in the company and asked if she could help out,” Paul said. “At the time our board was pretty much stagnant and Ann infused it with a real purpose and focus. She taught me a great deal about how to run Mad Cat more efficiently. I asked her to take over the board. And then she also became the grant writer. She's become a vital organ in the makeup of Mad Cat's body. Quite honestly I don't think Mad Cat could be functioning right now without her. She's the closest thing to a big sister that I've ever had and I love her dearly.”
Ann is now both Chairman of the Board and business manager of Mad Cat.
And what makes her proud? Being a successful businesswoman. She holds a B.S. in Economics from Auburn. She and her business partner Steve Wood, founded Skymar Capital Corporation in 1998. She has donated “lots of money to many theatre companies over the years. Oddly enough, I never gave money to Florida Stage. But they never acted like they needed it, nor did they ever ask.”
Ann holidays every year in Europe, on each visit going to a new destination. This year her twenty-second visit will be to Stockholm, Sweden. And she'll be leaving behind her six cats, Jumpin' Bean, Lizzie, Kizzie, Dizzie, Wizzie and Tito. Family secret revealed here: Lizzie blew through a screen door the day she was supposed to be spayed. Naturally she came home in the morning knocked up. Hence Kizzie, Dizzie and Wizzie.
Next up for Mad Cat is So My Grandmother Died, Blah, Blah, Blah written and directed by Paul Tei. It will be performed at the new location at the Light Box, the Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th Street in Miami. So My Grandmother Died, Blah, Blah, Blah runs from August 19 to September 10. Look for Ann Kelly. She'll be there. Helping out.