She came away with a starring role and new sense of self-worth.
“Theater transformed me,” said the 18-year-old aspiring actor-director-playwright-theater company-owner. “Stepping onto that stage was like home to me.”
Since her first theater role as Willy Loman’s enabling wife, Linda, in “Death of a Salesman,” Baker has worked in various productions as a director, producer, costume designer and, this summer, a teacher at a children’s drama camp.
“Anything and everything theater,” she said about what defined her life these past two years, and especially this summer.
Recently, the bubbly actress-singer-instructor successfully auditioned for the part of Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who hid the title character from the Nazis in “Diary of Anne Frank,” which opens at Tracy’s Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in November. It will be her first role through a resident theater company — the Tracy Performing Arts Foundation — and one for what may be her biggest audience yet.
Baker has taken dance classes for 10 years and sang before she ever acted, so the performing arts already played a role in her life. But acting brought her front and center. She said she found more of herself in theater than in any other art.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” said Tracy arts commissioner Kelly Hendrix of Baker’s summer gig as a theater camp instructor and actor. “She’s just blossomed into this talented performer. She can sing, she can dance, and she is such a skilled actor.”
The dream to act was something Baker never had until she tried out for the first production of Millennium Charter School’s newborn drama department. But it’s one she realizes every time she sets foot in the Grand to rehearse or to instruct elementary schoolers in drama. It’s a dream she sees every time a student she instructs has the same moment of awareness she had when she first started theater — that they’ve created something, that they’ve become an artist.
The Millennium graduate will chase that dream to college, which she’ll attend beginning in January at Brigham Young University in Utah to major in theater and English.
Ultimately, she wants to found her own theater company, preferably in a small town like Tracy.
“I just feel like in a small town, you find these little gems,” she said. “Just this summer, I’ve met so many little kids who just surprise me with their talent.”
Much the same way Baker surprised herself when she took to the stage.
“I never thought I could do this and fall in love with it so much,” she said from the Grand after rehearsing for this weekend’s show, “The Big Bad Musical.”
“In acting, you get in touch with the whole range of emotions and find a piece of yourself in all those.”
Meet Kelly Baker Age: 18
Years in Tracy: 13
Family: Parents, Mary and Don Baker; brother, John Baker, 28
Words to live by: “It’s fun to do the impossible.” — Walt Disney
See her act: “Diary of Anne Frank” at 8 p.m. Nov. 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, 715 Central Ave. Tickets cost $18.
• In the Spotlight is a weekly feature in Our Town that highlights the accomplishments of Tracy residents. To nominate someone, call Our Town Editor Justin Lafferty at 830-4269 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.