It’s a good thing Deborah Kerr enjoys performing, because she’s far too entertaining for only backstage work.
Since getting hired four years ago as The Glenridge Performing Arts Center’s performance coordinator, Kerr has achieved celebrity status among GPAC regulars, not only for her deep voice on the other end of the ticket line, but for her uproarious puppetry and flair for playing call girls.
A 38-year-old native of Toronto, Kerr grew up playing piano and flute, singing in choirs and performing in high school plays.
Intimidated by the competitive nature of big-city auditions, she never considered pursuing a career as an actress in Toronto.
Instead, she spent her 20s working a variety of odd jobs, including a stint as a factory line worker at a hand lotion plant, where she found herself working the night shift, deliriously reenacting the famous chocolate-wrapping scene from “I Love Lucy.”
“I could never figure out what I wanted to do,” Kerr says. “So I worked everywhere and did everything.”
She came in 1998 to Sarasota to help her parents run a small real-estate business and to study theater at State College of Florida (SCF) and, later, English at the University of South Florida.
After 11 years in real estate, she was ready to move on.
She originally applied for a job in GPAC’s sales department, but Manager Ben Turoff had other plans for Kerr when she walked in for the interview.
Faced with expanding the venue’s performance calendar, Turoff was looking for a full-time box office worker to help grow GPAC into a full-fledged community theater.
Kerr was more than happy with the offer and quickly took on a host of other responsibilities; including leading the theater’s film committee and making the occasional cameo in GPAC productions. (Audiences may recognize Kerr as the prostitute from this season’s “Send Me No Flowers.”)
“I tend to be typecast as a floozy because I’m blonde, well-endowed and willing to do it,” Kerr laughs. “It’s OK. It’s all in good taste.”
Her voice and diction studies at SCF have also recently paid off.
Kerr landed her first narration gig last year reading science fiction and fantasy books for a local audio-books publishing house.
“I’ve always been comfortable with my voice,” Kerr says. “Well, except for today. Today I sound like an old man with a cold. My allergies are going haywire.”
As she clears her throat, Turoff walks past with a digital camera and not so stealthily snaps Kerr’s picture.
Kerr rolls her eyes and explains that she and Turoff have a very brother/sister relationship.
“This is the perfect atmosphere for me,” she says. “Theater people don’t care if I burst into song or Muppet voice every now and then because they do, too.”
“Yeah,” Kerr says. “Shari Lewis’ ‘Lamb Chop’ started it, and Jim Henson’s Muppets clenched it.”
During her first week on the job, she grabbed a stuffed elephant from the theater’s ice cream shop, nicknamed it “Fluffy, The GPAC Pachyderm” and performed an impromptu puppet show in Turoff’s tiny, windowless office.
“If something is funny, I can’t resist doing it,” says Kerr, who two years ago voiced a drunken puppet during the Glenridge Follies. “At one point, Ben put Fluffy up our website under ‘Meet the GPAC Team.’ When people would call for tickets, they’d ask about the elephant.”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]
IF YOU GO
The Glenridge Performing Arts Center will present “Liberace! A Performance Spectacular Starring Martin Preston” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. The veteran impersonator (and GPAC favorite) is rumored to be retiring this year, so get your seats now. For tickets, call 552-5325 or visit www.gpactix.com.
Kerr lists her top-four dream roles
Trinity from ‘The Matrix’
“Defying the laws of physics in black leather just looks like fun.”
Fiona from ‘Burn Notice’
“She’s feisty and fights for the little guy.”
Princess Buttercup from ‘The Princess Bride’
“She’s the ultimate tongue-in-cheek fairytale princess.”
Liz Lemon from ‘30 Rock’
“One minute she’s professional, the next minute she’s a hot mess!”
VIDEO: Kerr on her bomehian office