Cooper-Young community theater teaches arts, builds a better tomorrow

Kelly color

by Tiara Baker

Leaping Lizards!” America’s beloved redhead is making her way to Cooper-Young, but with a little twist.

Stage Door Productions, located in the Kroc Center just off of East Parkway, recently auditioned roles for “Annie, Jr.,” a Broadway rendition performed by an “all- children” cast. In this comedic tale of an orphan’s hard-knock life and achievement of her American dream, all characters, including Miss Hannigan to Daddy Warbucks, will be played by community children.

“If you have a dream, you can absolutely achieve it,” states Stage Door’s Artistic Director, Brandon Kelly.

And who would know better?

Since he was 8 years old, Kelly dreamed of creating a child-friendly community theater. That dream came true last year when he Kelly executive director Lindsay Mitchell started Stage Door at the Kroc. The theater’s next production is “A Lifetime of Christmas,” which opens December 12th. Beginning on December 13th, the company is also hosting a Santa’s Village for two Saturdays with Santa, elves, reindeer, crafts and treats, and caroling with Elsa from Frozen.

“Annie, Jr.,” directed by Kelly, opens in February.

In an echo of “Annie, Jr.,” themes of determination and optimism, Kelly believes Stage Door is as much about building contributing citizens for a better “tomorrow” as it is about teaching the disciplines of performing arts.

“If you can stand up and sing a song in front of 300 people, then you can stand in front of a board room, in a court room as a lawyer, or be a doctor. You can do anything,” Kelly explains. “You don’t have to go on to do theater, but it can be a part of your life forever.”

While Stage Door will be celebrating its first anniversary in January, Brandon Kelly is definitely no new comer to the stage. Originally from Nebraska, he has worked in all corners of the Memphis theater community. Some of his credits include Theater Memphis, Germantown Community Theatre, and Playhouse on the Square on Cooper Street. But Kelly says his career took center stage after high school when he joined a touring arts program called the “The Young Americans,” an educational and performing arts group that teaches theatre to community youth around the world. During his stint with the group he traveled to Japan, Europe, and throughout the southern states of the United States.

“That’s where it started, and that’s where my love of teaching and educating came from,” Kelly reminisced.

So at 25 years old, Kelly says he has accomplished his lifelong dreams and is now excited to pass them along to  others in the Cooper-Young, Midtown, and surrounding communities. He takes great pride in the inclusiveness of Stage Door’s upcoming productions. “A Lifetime of Christmas” has cast members ranging in age fro 5 to 60, including siblings and father-son duos.

Though Kelly admits he was initially concerned about garnering enough participation and involvement at Stage Door, he and the staff have been met with an outpouring of love and overwhelming support.

“There is a little phrase we say around here — ‘The SDP (Stage Door Productions) Family’ ,” Kelly says. “So my goal is to create an environment for everyone to be a part of the SDP Family from the audience members to the cast.”

For more information about upcoming plays, Holiday events, or if you are interested in becoming a part of Stage Door Productions, visit their website at

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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