Francesca McKenzie, even when in school, makes a cool theater honor roll

Francesca McKenzie in a publicity photo for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane.

Francesca McKenzie in a publicity photo for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane.

New Orleans theater audiences who might have wondered whatever happened to actress Francesca McKenzie received a pretty cool update when American Theatre named the San Francisco native one of its six theater figures to watch, in Role Call. Along the way, the article noted that McKenzie — a member of NOLA’s Cripple Creek Theatre and Goat in the Road Productions — is working on her MFA in theater at Yale University.

But even though she’s gone in the woodshed, McKenzie (whom I met when she sat in for a “StoryQuest” reading for kids at NOMA) clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed. As for what she’s up to:

She’s currently in her first year in the Yale School of Drama MFA acting program—and she brings a lot of experience with her. “I am excited to be challenged as an actor and have this time to focus solely on my craft,” she says. “If I had gone to grad school right out of undergrad I wouldn’t have known why. Since I’ve been making work in New Orleans I’m going into the experience with a clear sense of what kind of theatre I want to make.” She’s understudying a role in peerless at Yale Repertory Theatre this month and will be in Salt Pepper Ketchup at the Yale Cabaret in January 2016.

Here’s to McKenzie getting done as quickly as she can so she can back here and continue to help bring fresh young voices in the New Orleans theater scene. You’re gone for now, but definitely not forgotten. It’s clear, based on her comments to Role Call, she’s got vision: “I envision a national theatre landscape where all stories can take center. I want people of all skin colors, class brackets, and experiences in the audience, onstage, and on the production team.”

P.S. I saw another artist on this list, rocking cellist Ben Sollee, perform live in concert. Catch him if you can.

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