'Ragtime' role a comfortable fit for Utah actress
Amy Keeler is embracing motherhood on and off the stage.
The 32-year-old Lehi resident plays Mother in the Hale Centre Theatre's production of "Ragtime," a musical set in the early 20th century. The play follows the lives of three groups of people: a white Protestant family, African Americans and Eastern European immigrants. The characters are forced to interact with each other; Keeler's character, as matriarch of her white family, undergoes the most change.
"She goes through change of not making her own decisions in her life, to letting her life take her where she will," Keeler said. "It takes her to a dark place where she has to make decisions."
When Keeler is not onstage, she is at home taking care of her 15-month-old son, Davis.
"From my 20s and into my 30s, I was living a blissful life and it was all about me," Keeler said. "Now my life is all about my family and my little boy, and all of that comes first."
But being a "stay-at-home mom wasn't conducive for my lifestyle," she said, which is why she took the Hale Center role. It marks the first time she has acted in four years and will be the first performance in her home state in six years.
Keeler was a regular at Hale Centre Theatre in 2006 and part of 2007, before she left the state to work in Hong Kong Disneyland and then Walt Disney World in Florida. She was Belle in "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage." Then she met her future husband, Chuck.
The couple moved to Utah in 2009. Since then, Keeler has worked in a bridal store in Sandy and taught theater to students in Orem.
But she was itching to get back to a lost love the stage.
She craved an outlet for her passions, but one that would not take her too far from her family. A role in "Ragtime" was the perfect solution.
"Bring tissues. 'Ragtime' is one of my top three favorite musicals," said Keeler, who performs during the Monday, Wednesday and Friday shows. "The music is gorgeous, and emotionally it's something you can connect to. I love the comments we get after the show, just how we've opened people's minds and changed their hearts."
Her story is similar to her character's Mother welcomes African Americans into her upper-class home, enjoys a different type of culture and embraces change in her life.
Keeler's understanding of the character is what director Chris Clark said makes her performance powerful.
"There's an energy about her," he said. "She's able to capture the energy of the scene or character very clearly. Whenever she's onstage I know exactly what she's doing and I never have to tease that out of her."
This is the first time that Clark, who also is chairwoman of the Utah Valley University theater department, worked with Keeler." Despite the unknown, he couldn't pass on the actress's personality and poise.
"I do remember specifically from her audition, she just lit up the room," he said. "She has an intense focus and energy, and her voice is so clear and perfect."
Where • Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
When • Monday-Saturday, through July 27
Tickets • Adults, $26; children (5-11), $16; no children under 5 permitted; https://www.hct.org/Online/