Love and the Arden: Alex Keiper Discusses her Deep Arden Roots
The Arden’s mission is to tell great stories by great storytellers, and sometimes great stories come from inside our very doors.
Alex Keiper is a local artist who has been a part of the Arden Family since 2009. She has spent time as a concessioner, teacher, performer, collaborator, and so much more at the Arden over the last 11 years. She even got engaged to her now husband Michael Doherty on the Arden stage! On this Valentine’s Day, Alex (or as we lovingly call her, Keiper) took some time to answer some questions about her time at the Arden and why it has become her home theatre.
- What was your first experience at the Arden?
The first show I saw at The Arden was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in 2006. I had a few friends from the class above me that were in it and it was the first big professional, Philly based show I remember seeing. The cast was unreal, Tom McCarthy, Tony Braithwaite, Mary Martello, Richie Ruiz, Caroline Dooner, Jeff Coon and more and more. Although it would never be my favorite Sondheim musical, the quick and hilarious production was a perfect introduction to what would eventually become my home base theatre company.
- What was your first show at Arden? How many have you worked on since?
My first show was The Flea and the Professor, Spring 2011! It was a new children’s musical by Jordan Harrison and Richard Gray, where I got to play a Cannibal Princess who wore a party dress and sang a love song with Scott Greer, who was in a big red spandex suit! Also starring Rob McClure, who was heartbreakingly sweet in the play, Mary Martello as the reigning Cannibal Queen and Annie McNamara, who just finished an exciting run of Slave Play on Broadway! It was directed by Anne Kauffman who was deeply inspiring to work with. Since then I’ve been in thirteen productions at the Arden.
- I know you and your husband Michael Doherty saw your love flourish at the Arden. How did you two meet and what part has the Arden played in your love story?
Mike and I met at UArts when I was a senior and he was a freshman. We didn’t really know each other until we worked together that summer, and even then didn’t get super close. We did another show together a year or so later, and went on a date, and even though it went great, I never called him back because I knew his ex and she still had feelings! Four years later we played a married couple in Incorruptible at The Arden and started becoming very close. The next season we played another married couple in La Bête and after that we couldn’t stay away from each other. We spent the next 3 years traveling for theatre and working in different states, missing each other like crazy. Then in 2017 we got to work on Touchtones at the Arden, where after a performance, Mike proposed to me and I said yes!
- You have done a lot of work with Arden Summer Camp, what does the Arden’s educational programming mean to you?
The education program was a gift I didn’t expect. From the early days of creating a camp curriculum where all the kids had to stay in the same room the whole time, to now where the camps produce fully realized productions, it has taught me to trust my instincts. The kids who grew up through the program (one of which is conducting this interview with me!) will stay in my heart forever. They came back every year with more confidence, curiosity, and leadership skills. And even more, it helped me to understand theatre from a totally different perspective, forcing me to ask myself who we were making the work for. Was it all for the learning experience of the students? Was it about making the best possible performance for the audiences that would come? Could it be for everyone involved without having to sacrifice one for the other? That final thought was the goal, and the balance, though hard to come by, was worth all the struggle.
- After 11 years of working at the Arden in some capacity, what keeps you coming back?
The Arden has meant the world to me. Once I really dedicated myself to living in Philly I started looking for ways to support the companies that inspired me. The Arden was on the top of that list. [Former Associate Artistic Director] Matt Decker told me the Arden was always looking for new concessioners, if I didn’t want to keep waking up so early for my coffee shop gig. I started selling cookies and popcorn in the lobby during the winter of 2009, the show was Peter Pan. I worked hard, trying to show them that I wasn’t just there to get paid, but that I cared about the company and wanted to help play a role in their work. With a good recommendation from Decker and MB [Associate General Manager Mary Beth Simon] in the office, I was given a chance to start teaching at Arden Summer Camp. Since then the Arden has opened so many doors for me. I have been given the opportunity to teach every subject, run my own programs, direct the teen program’s annual musical for 5 years, direct several cabaret’s in the cabaret space, perform a myriad of different roles that have stretched me intellectually and artistically, and now I’m working as the Assistant Director for Streetcar Named Desire and Cat in the Hat. Terry and Matt also helped me become an Independence Foundation Fellow, sending me to The Atlantic Acting School’s Summer Intensive, where I learned a technique that has changed my process completely. There is no question that my relationship with the Arden has given me more than I could have dreamed, as a professional and as and person. This business can be scary. I’ve learned that the best way to combat that is to go towards people who believe in you and push you. Terry, Amy and the entire Arden Family have been that for me. I will always come back when they will have me!