When Kelly May attended Desert Vista High School, she was active.
She competed with the speech-and-debate team at nationals with her fellow student and close friend Max Crumm, starred in high school and community theater productions and worked as a videographer in the school’s video club.
It was that background that took her to Los Angeles.
After attending Arizona State University for a year, she applied and was accepted to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a performing arts conservatory in L.A.
She and Crumm have remained close friends and communicate daily while he remains in New York City after garnering the role of Danny Zuko in the reality competition “Grease - You’re the One That We Want,” and performing this month in “Broadway Sings Arianna Grande.”
On July 27, May is hosting two workshops on how to audition – an art she says is essential to anyone interested in theater or film, locally or in Hollywood or on Broadway.
“I used to go out on auditions and no one really prepared you for what it’s like – how do you present yourself, who do you look at when you’re there,” May explained, noting:
“There are certain subtleties; they have to be so slight. You have to learn to micromanage your expression, how to move your face, how to show what’s unique about you. Auditioning can be really scary and overwhelming.”
Held at Dance Studio 111 in Ahwatukee, May will conduct a 90-minute workshop for kids ages 6-10 at 10 a.m. That will be followed by a 2 ½-hour workshop for ages 11 to 18 at 1 p.m.
Both workshops have limited enrollment – 15 and 20 respectively. Reservations can be made at 480-706-6040.
A newly-minted member of the Producers Guild of America, May is now a television and film actress, director and writer who has opted to spend more time back home in Ahwatukee to focus on her screenwriting.
“This last year I was doing a show for NBC, and directing every Monday and putting out a new episode every Thursday and working on a screen play with Max,” she said.
“After finishing that job (NBC), I said I need to focus on my writing. And I wanted to spend time with my family, so half the month I’m here and the other half in L.A.”
She said being taught how to audition is important to anyone wishing to act whether on stage or in film.
To help her workshop attendees, May will begin at the beginning with the younger ages, with lessons such as “How to Transition From Leaving Parents’ Side to Entering Audition” and “How to Show Off Your Personality.”
A student at Kimberly Lewis’ Dance Studio 111 from fifth grade through high school, May said she will emphasize advanced auditioning skills with her afternoon workshop students.
Those topics include “Cold Reading on Camera,” “Techniques to Ensure Callbacks” and “Thinking on Your Feet and Finding Your Voice in the Room.”
Through her work with Disney, the older students will also be able work on current Disney scripts while strengthening on-camera presence.
“I’ve worked with so many kids in the beginning of their careers and I feel I know what it takes,” said May who was writer/co-director of the Disney Channel’s “The Coppertop Flop Show,” a sketch comedy series.
“There are a lot of children in my life. I have 10 nieces and nephews ages 10 and under, and I love working with kids. I’m genuinely excited about this project,” she enthused.
Growing up with an older brother and twin younger brothers, May said she developed a gift for comedy early in her life.
“My brothers were all about wrestling and stuff and all I had was my wit,” she laughed. “Comedy came easily for me.”
May and her family moved from Mesa, where she was born, to Ahwatukee when she was in fifth grade. She attended Kyrene de los Cerritos Elementary, Altadena Middle School and Desert Vista, graduating in 2003.
She recalls launching her career at age 10, using her father’s VHS camera and two VCRs to cut her films.
“It wasn’t until I was at Desert Vista that I had any professional equipment to use,” she recalled.
She and Crumm were active in community theater and worked with pals Emily (Emma) Stone and Jordin Sparks at Valley Youth Theatre.
After her year at ASU, she and Crumm moved together to L.A. to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts where she was cast in a live sketch comedy show, “The Soldiers of Comedy,” later known as Sketch Camp.
While creating shorts for brands and networks, May developed two comedy series that were selected as finalists at the New York Television Festival.
She has written and produced for Pepsi, Mattel, A&E, Sony Television, Disney, Dreamworks, NBCUnversal and others.
She has written, produced and directed more than 20 shorts for DreamWorks, including animated series for characters Shrek and Puss in Boots.
She said her years at Dance Studio 111 -where she was especially drawn to tap dancing, were a great foundation for her career.
“It got me comfortable performing and comfortable with my body. That’s especially important in comedy where you’re often very physical,” she said
For Dance Studio 111 owner/operator Kimberly Lewis, having May conduct the audition workshops is a sweet tribute to the time they spent together.
“I love that she grew up at the studio and will now be teaching where she grew up,” said Lewis. “It makes me happy.”
For more information on the workshop or other Dance Studio 111 that Lewis says is now “a full performing arts center,” see DanceStudio111.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram.
Celebrating more than 25 years in Ahwatukee, Dance Studio 111 is located at 4910 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 111. The studio is renowned for their annual holiday stage extravaganza, “Ahwatukee Nutcracker.”