We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff McKerley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind the success of The Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival is the amazing team we have. All of us love live theatre (not just musical theatre)! We all love what we do to support new and exciting works! Without this amazing, passionate, driven team, the AMTF would not be where it is today. So, surround yourself with people who share the same passion as you. You won’t be sorry.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Over 30 years ago, I chose to make Atlanta my ‘artistic’ home. I didn’t always call it that, but I call it that now. As theatre artists, we sometimes get bogged down in our ultimate success story. And, yes, I always have had the dream of being on Broadway or having a sweet role on a sit-com. That is still there. On the other hand, I have always defined “success” as being able to support myself through my art. I am doing that, and have been doing that for a while. But, I also define “success” as how you are seen through the eyes of your fellow artists. I have been so fortunate to be recognized by Atlanta’s Suzi Bass Awards for my theatre work as a choreographer, a lead actor in a musical, and a featured actor in a play. Yes, it is thrilling! But, the one ingredient that each acceptance speech contains is how much we, as theatre artists and human beings, cannot do it alone. My family and my fellow cast members are just as much a part of those awards as I am. I have heard the dreadful phrase, “It is show business, not show family!” But, from my point of view, we are all in this together! A fellow artist’s success in the theatre world is just as important as mine, because it reinforces why I do what I do!
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
For a short getaway from the city: Stone Mountain Park. It is peaceful and has an amazing view of the city from the top. For some cool public art: a walk along the beltline. Watch out for the bicyclist zooming past. But there are some eccentric pieces of art that may spark a conversation or two. For a healthy lunch: Souper Jenny’s. There are several locations, but I am fond of the one located at the Atlanta History Center. Delicious homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches with a mission to help others in need. Owned by a fellow theatre artist. For casual dinner and drinks: Mezcalito’s Cocina & Tequila Bar in Grant Park. Tequilas, mezcals, and soltols; great food; great atmosphere; and great service in a unique setting. Also, a great weekend brunch! For more upscale dinner and drinks: Agave Restaurant on Boulevard (near Oakland Cemetery). Amazing drinks and food with a Southwestern flair. For museum lovers: The High Museum or Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Can’t go wrong with either of them. For theatre lovers: Theatrical Outfit (downtown); Atlanta Lyric Theatre (Marietta); Horizon Theatre (Little Five Points); or Actor’s Express (West Atlanta). This list could go on and on!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is multi-faceted question that garners several answers: On a personal level, I have to give a shoutout to my amazing partner-in-all-things, Heidi Cline McKerley! She is an amazing wife, theatre professional, mentor, mother, and best friend. I am the luckiest guy in the world. She makes me better! On a professional level, Casey Gardner (AMTF’s managing director) earned a shout out a long time ago! She is an uber-talented theatre artist, photographer, and friend. She keeps AMTF organized and moving forward and I could not do this without her expertise. Selfishly, I have to give a shoutout to those people who took a chance on me. We all have to start somewhere. I will always cherish those people who took that risk. As theatre artists, it should be our mission to “pay it forward”. That’s why I love what AMTF does.
Facebook: Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival
Casey Gardner, Heidi Cline McKerley, Jamie Wood Katz, Atlanta Lyric Theatre