Meet a Tribute Artist: Keira Keeley

Primary Stages sat down with Keira Keeley of The Tribute Artist, to chat about her experience playing a trans man, and her various artistic inspirations beyond the stage.

Keira Keeley

Keira Keeley as Oliver in The Tribute Artist. Photo by James Leynse.

What is your role in The Tribute Artist?

I play Oliver, a transitioning female to male transgendered 15-year-old. I basically am the honest, open, truth-teller in this group of ridiculous schemers. I arrive on the scene from out of town with my mother (Christina, played by Mary Bacon) to claim our legal inheritance of the multi-million dollar townhouse that everybody else wants a piece of! Throughout the course of the play and developing a genuine friendship with the faux Adriana (played by Charles Busch), I blossom in confidence and sense of self and step into my identity as a man. There’s a lot of humor and lot of heart in Oliver.

What were your first thoughts when you read the play?

One of the elements of The Tribute Artist that really struck me was how the characters’ sexualities and genders were simply allowed to be a detail about who they each are, but not the sole label of that person. For instance, Oliver is transgender, Rita (played by Julie Halston) is a lesbian, but all of their stage time does not revolve exclusively on this detail, it’s just a facet of them, like having blonde hair or being a certain height. I found that refreshing.

Keira Keeley Tribute Artist Opening Night

Keira Keeley at the opening night party for The Tribute Artist.

Did you make any surprising discoveries about your character during the rehearsal process?

I knew I wanted Oliver to become more confidently himself as the show progressed, but I surprised myself at how much he steps up as man of the house, enjoying protecting Adriana and making himself available as a gentleman whenever called upon.

What inspires you as an artist, and beyond the stage, what other artistic endeavors do you pursue?

I am inspired by the story and struggle of individuals, how they keep trying and getting up again and again. Besides acting, I also play classical piano, and sing and play guitar, mostly folk and blues. I also love the creativity of arts and crafts, as well as developing my bath product line, “Love, Keira.”

What do you hope audiences will take away from this performance?

I hope audiences have a fun night laughing and blushing in the dark, and when they stumble upon their ticket stub from The Tribute Artist later in life, they can laugh again at the memory of a wonderful night at the theater.

The Tribute Artist plays at 59E59 Theaters through March 30. For more info about the show and to purchase tickets, please visit our website.

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