Kelly Kinsella


Kelly is currently performing her one-woman show: "WHEN THOUGHTS ATTACK!"


Its Takes a Lifetime to Come to Life

When we are young we think we have alot of time. We don't understand the concept of the end of the line. Our friends die in car accidents, from overdoses, and from a rare form of cancer, but still we don't grasp the reality of not being real or present, overcome with thoughts and desires, contemplating images and dreams. Frankly I'm only just realizing it myself.

And why should we? How can we? When no one really understands it. My Italian grandmother is 99 years old and last time I walked her to her car- don't worry, she wasn't the one doing the driving- I had to hold her tight as she slowly took one feeble step at a time, hunched over so that her height was diminished by a third from that in her heyday. With full coherence, presence and sharpness of mind she said, 

"I can't walk anymore yet inside I feel like I'm still 16 years old. Ain't that a shame."

Why that's the wisest utterance I've heard in a long ass time.

It IS a shame. It's a DAMN shame. Life that is given, life that is taken away. Sometimes even life lived. My friend Danny says, "Life is long." And it is. It's been a long time since I took the SAT. If I'd have known how damn important it was maybe I would have prepared.

I have no regrets. About the things I've done. I regret the thngs I haven't done and that's why I now try to fit two or three lifetimes into

I'm an actor, a writer, a painter and a chef. I'm a yogi, a catholic, a buddhist and an atheist. I believe and I doubt. I hope and I despair. I'm a vegetarian and boy do I love steak. I'm a dog person, a cat person and I'm obsessed with cleanliness so I don't own a pet. I love children and I don't have children because like children, I thought I was going to live forever.

It's time to say farewell to Assisi. I've corralled my intentions, my projects and briefly my humanity. A glimpse of death and therefore life presented itself to me in the space between. Now we set off for wilder destinations, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, to sun and swim and eat and drink and forget again for a minute or two that the end is nigh. Or maybe we instinctively DO know which is why we desperately seek and simultaneously cover up this truth over and over again.

My friend Larry says, "Just think, we're going to be dead soon." Yes Larry, we are. I suppose I better get crackin' on this life.

photo: Tramonto di Assisi. (Assisi Sunset)


Il Mio Italiano in Italia

Pep reflecting on the Tuscan countryside. My muse. My loyal companion. My pain in my ass. 

Pep gets antsy like anyone stuck in a medieval mountain town doused in the dry heat of late summer, surrounded by stale bread and religious pilgrims and church groups from the Phillipines and the Midwest. 

Lucky for him (and unlucky for me) he has a car. I'm supposed to be here working, writing... and I am...sometimes. But then out of nowhere, well, actually from my window that I open every morning, Tuscany comes a calling, and Lake Trasimeno, and the sea...

Yesterday we hightailed it outta town at 9am for a scheduled wine tasting in Montepulciano, a short one hour drive over the Umbrian border to a more modern and familiar terrain. This landscape reminds me of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY where I am from and where they attempt to make great wines out of the reisling grape. In recent years they are succeeding, often with a German or Austrian vintner, but arriving nonetheless to a semi dry white wine that is worthy of wrapping in bubble wrap and tucking into a once carried on bag that now must be checked for $20. This happened to me recently on a visit to Keuka Lake with my family while celebrating my parent's success in selling their Syracuse house and buying a new house to retire to in North Carolina. I suggested they stock up on some wines from the region since they'd make great conversation pieces with their newfound friends down south. I'm wondering if they made it to the moving date- I myself drank my two bottles pretty much within a week or so- pairing it with thai curry one night, a fresh peach from the Union Square farmer's market the next. Unfortunately, the bottle of rose I was saving for my wine club got uncorked on my roof the night before leaving for Europe for a month- my concern being, chilled rose sipping season will be long over by the time I return in late September. These wines are meant to be drunk straight away! Not stored on the floor of my closet inside my winter boots. 

And so here we find ourselves, Pep and I, playing hooky from Assisi and tasting Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at Poliziano, a "young" winery in an old region where only 60 km away, in Chianti Classico, there exists the oldest winery in Italy dating back to the middle ages.

It's 10am. You have to make appointments in Tuscany to visit wineries, you can't just walk in. So even though we woke up and went wine tasting "on a whim," I actually had to carefully plan the whole thing the night before and do research and write to wineries and schedule appointments. Pep always trusts me to do all the leg work, I admit I'm pretty good at it, but I'm supposed to be writing here! Give me a hand for god's sake!! I love that I'm allowed to get all fired up and angry here in Italy. It's part of the culture goddammit!!

Lunch was scheduled after the two tastings and by that time I was a little tipsy and starving. The tour guides had a few crackers and some pecorino on hand but certainly not enough to soak up the alcohol. And since we had to make a reservation for lunch, there was no time for a romantic drive leading to god knows where like they do in the movies. The good news is the food and wine scene is very California here in Tuscany- modern, clean, knowledgable...The bad news is- like in Umbria- any and every source of food location is closed from 2pm-8pm. We had to speed Mario Andretti style through the winding narrow roads of southern Tuscany to arrive just in time to place an order for pici con pomodori and a sausage covered in a balsamic wine sauce with a contorni of insalata mista from the garden just down the hill. It was delicious but the portions were small so by the time I realized it wasn't enough, the kitchen had closed. The kind waitress asked if we wanted dessert and I wanted to linger and get a coffee and enjoy the view but Pep started getting hot and was probably still hungry so naturally wanted to leave.

As you can imagine this lack of communication turned into me accusing him of bullying and he in turn giving me the silent treatment for the rest of the day. I ended up in a tirade, calling the town of Montepulciano a "dump" and all the people who owned restaurants in the area "idiots." If only they would keep their restaurants and bars open in the afternnon while everyone and their sister is driving around on vespas drunk...maybe they could make a euro or two!!!! And-

"Lake Trasimeno wouldn't be such a depressed swamp visited only by the occassional local delinquent!!!!"-as shouted by a tired and hungry American.

Jeez, what happened to my zen like state and the long, languid days in Assisi contemplating nature and the simplicity of man's existence?

Thankfully today is Sunday and I woke up in time to catch the morning mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. Since we are staying on the complete opposite end of town, the walk to the Basilica is a pilgrimmage on its own. I always take the high road (at least geographically) and get lost, and ultimately find myself in front of the convent where I stop and listen to the nuns sing. I figured after yesterday's outburst of anger and frustration, I could use a good dose of the Lord Jesus My Saviour...

It took them a half an hour to prepare the altar and though I sat on the end of the bench far in the back for an easy out if need be, I was somehow quickly flanked by an older couple on one side and two nuns on the other, while simultaneously being barricaded in by the security. The aisles were cordoned off and I started to sweat. Instead of praying on the theme of my mortal soul, I prayed I'd be able to find an exit strategy. At this point the priests told all the tourists to leave the area. But I stayed knowing that perhaps I may find some temporary salvation and/or at least not have to make the annual failed attempt to attend midnight mass this Christmas.

The clergy consisted of a tag team of three priests, two friars and an alter boy. These guys were like the cast of Who's Line Is It Anyway or rather a commedia del arte troupe from the local Rennaissance Faire. There were wide open arm gestures and self deprecating jokes though no one but I was laughing. After the sermon I almost did a standing ovation, forgetting for a moment I wasn't in a Broadway theatre. From then on it was like the edited snippets of the baptism scene from The Godfather except without the grusome murders. The congregation were obviously all regulars here and between the group prayer, singing and choreographed kneeling, I was sure I'd be sniffed out as an imposter by the nuns. Thankfully, they were too busy crying next to me since as it turns out, the preaching was less of a comedy and more of a tragedy. All the more reason i don't like coming to church.

I stayed for the wafer and noticed that the woman before me somehow got reprimanded by the cleric for doing something wrong in the process of receiving the Body of Christ. I panicked and did all the things, I held out my tongue and my hands, made the sign of the cross, said "Amen," and "Grazie," and "Bouna Giornata"..."Have a nice day!" like I was working the take out window at a McDonalds. I was tempted to leave right then and there but I felt guity and also a sense of pride of having sat through an hour and fifteen minutes of this torture. I can surely hold out to the end. 

And then I saw three 8 year old boys skirt out from the middle bench of section A, their mothers tsk tsk-ing after them while mid cantare, the boys smiling and already decided, "non mama, andiamo," and my instincts kicked in and I pushed past the nuns and the elderly and fearlessly joined the three pied pipers sailing past the security guards and out onto the street, my mind already brimming with ideas for my next escape with Pep and his rental car into the wild west of Italy and beyond. 



Churches: In Assisi There's One On Every Corner

Churches: In Assisi there's one on every corner like a Starbucks-or whores-in America. Actually there seem to be alot of prostitutes here in the coutryside of Italy. On our drive from Rome we traveled through gorgeous scenery dotted with vineyards and villas, only to catch every few hundred feet a young ragazza in high heels and lots of make up waiting for... the bus? It was Pep who pointed out they were prostitutes. He's from here. He knows.

My memory of church is always a bad one. My Polish grandmother made us go every Sunday when we spent the weekends with her as children. My groovy parents preferred to enjoy their free time eating fondue and drinking Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante and listening to Chicago and Steely Dan without us. Meanwhile, back at the church...Frances (my grandmother) had to deposit me, being the youngest, up in the childrens area above the nave, which was cordoned off with plexiglass to keep the whines and cries of babies and toddlers from disrupting the congregation. We could barely hear the mass and the lighting sucked and even though muted sight and sound beset our senses, that ever permeable sense of smell assailed us with incense and mold. Maybe that's that I'm having trouble here with my sense of taste. Churches are beautiful things to behold, yet like the bunched dainty ivory blooms of valerian, they can smell as repugnant as a dirty sock.

Everthing for me comes back to smell. Yesterday Pep and I had the privilege to experience the Bosca di San Francesco, a 3 mile round trip meditative hike through the woodland following the footsteps of St. Francis to the Sacro Convento and culminating with a land art installation of olive trees in a clearing formed as three connected circles which one can walk in silence-its purpose- to inspire a moment of reflection on the relationship between Man and Nature. I loved the hike because it smelled like the Shawungunk Mountains in upstate New York. The grass, the trees, the air, the dirt was ever familiar and a refreshing salve to my loss of appetite and revulsion to the stench of local meats and cheeses. I took a quick photo of the convent and then headed straight for the olive grove. What I love about nature is that it does not discrimate. People do, literature does, food does and it seems even God...but Nature (I capitalize because I RESPECT- thank you Aretha) does not hold a pathetic and discerning gaze upon its beholden.

I decided that when I get hungry now I'll take a hike and breathe in Nature's bounty and pray for a pizzeria to be open when I get back to town.

Speaking of which, finding an eating schedule is as bad if not worse than finding food. One must get to the shops before noon which close until 4 or 4:30 when maybe half will reopen again until 7. For "colazione," the Italians eat biscotti and coffee, like children, or my parents who continue to eat cookies for breakfast til this day. When I come home at Christmas once every ten years, on Christmas morning my mother will put out a tray of holiday cookies-gifted to her since she doesn't bake- and pour herself a cup of coffee. "Merry Christmas!"-I'll say... and if it wasn't for her chewing I'd swear she mumbled a "Bah Humbug."

Haha my poor mother. Today I met an artist in a gallery on my way home from the shops. I told him I was here on a writer's residence and he asked me what I'm writing. "Well a novel of sorts...a humorist book about my mother. She is my muse!" And because he is a good Italian son he praised my intent. As a fellow painter, I chose to share the fact that I'm also illustrating a children's book about a girl and her dog. "It's inspired by my boyfriend Pep, my second muse," who at this point is behind only by a length as we say in horse racing. My therapist, Melodee, compared me to Picasso which was somewhat of a backhanded compliment since he went through muses like Kleenex. It has given me a better perspective on myself as a writer I guess. Picasso was way more prolific but given the current #MeToo movement I'm going to say that my lack of productivity is due to the fact that I'm a woman. 

And speaking of Melodee, I had the misfortune of neglecting to send a check to her before I left which I wrote out the day I planned to send but which got stuck in my backpack as I biked around NYC during my last week, going to and from work and running errands to prepare for my trip and being surprised that literally, all the mailboxes I usually frequent on these routes had been REMOVED. All of them-GONE. Now some of you who know me are aware that I live right next to the main post office in NYC. But, when you are on a bike and there are few places to lock up that bike and when you are on a very tight schedule, you may find it difficult to pop in the local post office to send a letter.

I wrote to Melodee to explain this conundrom on my arrival to France and she replied, "Well doesn't Paris have a post office?" Which frankly I hadn't thought of but the tone of her email was a bit off putting since she also took it as an opportunity to analyze my wrong doing as a pattern I'm repeating of my father and his tendency to put off paying bills and such for fear of lack or whatever to which I repsonded, thanks for the reminder but this has more to do with laziness. Her accusation worked though as I set out in search of a post office in Paris. But since I have to leave my iPhone in airplane mode and my daily schedule of getting lost and cooking classes left me with little to no time for small annoyances like post offices and visits to la toilette, upon arrival in Rome, I found that check still in my bag.

This morning I finally made the journey to L'ufficio postale while on my way from la Banca and on my way to the little old signora who I get my vegetables from. It is only open til noon which is why it took me this long to get there. My creative time is morning and I get the most writing done then, once I walk out that door all the local treasures call out to me...piazzas, vistas, cafes!

Of course this being Italy, it wasn't easy. I got lost on the way there and when I arrived there was a bit of a line with lots of yelling. An older man joined the queue behind me and clearly frustrated he asked why I wasn't going up to the window. When I told him I was waiting my turn he looked confused and laid an Italian monologue on me the likes of Sofia Loren in a production of Turandot to which I replied, "Io non capisco signore." He then realized I was foreign and seemed scared of me and just smiled. I encouraged him to go next for god's sake before he had a heart attack, I really appreciated his sense of impatience- being a New Yorker -but I had nowhere important to go except to the grocery store to seek out a cheese that doesn't make me want to "vomito."

When I got to the counter I presented the letter with Melodee's check inside that already had two American stamps on it and also two postcards from Paris that I wrote to my sisters. Who the hell writes postcards anymore? Well now I know why. The clerk told me he had to weigh the items (after I went through the effort of learning the word for postage stamp- francobello) and then for some reason the machine wouldn't print onto the cards so he had to write out a stamp number by hand on each piece and sign his initials as to officiate the whole thing. 

Talk about Freudian. In my last session Melodee screamed at me- "STOP ACTING!!!" which I found alarming...because I'm an actor. I admit I act out everything that appears to be an insult and judgement of me with an angry sneering tone, like my mother, or Pep, or anyone that's supposed to love me. I wasn't offended. It must suck to be a therpaist, listening to people complain and cry and whine and hear themselves talk out loud since maybe no one else will listen to them. 

And cut back to Assisi and the churches and the bad food and the fresh air. Maybe that's why I'm here now. To commune with myself, on every corner, where I find a church, or cafe with REAL coffee and not that shitty Starbucks.


I Finally Turned...American

I thought something was up from day one...of my arrival in Europe. Pep's Italain mother had served us some chicken soup in Cliffside Park before our 8 hour flight to Paris scheduled for a midnight departure. It tasted bland and frankly on point for a meal at 10PM on a Sunday night. On board at about 1:30am the flight attendants began to distribute "dinner" for those who paid the extra $90 for a meal and one piece of checked baggage, which I DID for both Pep and I so I woke him up in a neurotic old lady kind of way and yelled "EAT IT!" -even though Pep's 11 yr.old nephew warned us against it after recently getting sick on board a transatlantic flight from France.  "You're taking a risk." In general I prefer to take the advice of children but then my cheapness took over and I suppose boredom so I (and Pep) ate it.

Don't get me wrong, neither me nor Pep not get sick off this airplane food- in fact I kind of enjoyed the creamy texture of it and the stale roll with hard butter...but I wonder if there was some sort of cursed food portal I went through over Iceland that has caused me to reel in the face of European delicacies ever since.

My tongue feels like it's been pasteurized, my nose... lobotomized. In France it started with my trip to the infamous City Pharma in St Germain on the left bank. It was a destination for me this time around. Who doesn't love the idea of a French face cream? I didn't pack any toiletries knowing I'd be here for a month (and I paid for that checked bag), so the plan was to grab all the things at City Pharma and show Gwynnie a thing or two about shopping in Paris on a dime. I picked up a dry shampoo from Klorane, a detox nightime oil from Caudelie, an everyday moisturizer called Embroylisse that no french woman can live without and a serum from Avene. I also couldn't leave (or live) without Nuxe body oil, which I fell in love with on my last trip and costs double in the States-if you can find it. I lugged all this booty home realizing it would take up at least two bottles of wine space in my carry on. This will last me through the long New York winter! Two bottles of wine will last a week! It was all worth it. Until I started using it.

Something wasn't sitting right. The products seemed too perfumy, flowery, scenty, more than I remember them to be. I use them because I'm not an idiot but deep down inside...I'd rather have a bar of Ivory soap and call it a day. 

And then there is the issue of that camembert cheese that I bought- at the supermarket for god's sake-a real taste bud buzz kill of there ever was one but even with the Bordeaux, it had a strong ammonia taste. And then the croissant class I took at the most reputable bakery in Paris- Lenotre. After four hours of slaving away I shoved one of those pain au chocolats in my face desperate to recreate the first time I had one warm at 2am from a bakery in Switzerland after wandering home slightly tipsy from a discoteque when I was 19. Instead it tasted of raw egg and yeast. I carried my loot home on the metro and held back my distaste for the smell permeating from the carefully wrapped bag. I ate only one more in the week we were there. Croissants have been one of my favorite treats since I can remember. Not anymore. Thank god because they are a bitch to make.

And then there's the 1 star Michelin restaurant recommended to us by our Parisian friends we stay with that serves locally sourced modern french cuisine. I ordered the prix fixe- a linguni with a saffron curry topped with mini charred crustaceans resembling shrimp which you had to eat shell and all followed by the guinea fowl (pintade). I didn't know what the hell it was at the time and figured- based on the context- that it was chicken of some sort. When I asked the waiter he scoffed and said, "Oh it's 100 times better than chicken." Well guess what? According to my new palate, it wasn't. It was undercooked and rubbery and pink and a major turn off, merci beaucoup. And so was the under poached peach with no spice and some shitty cookie crumble that tasted too sweet. It was then and there that I palate is FUCKED.

I won't ramble on any more about this disaster since its my own cross to bear. But the long and short of it was I hoped Italy would save me. Somehow the fontina tastes like feet...of a leper, and the lettuce I bought from an old signora's garden tastes like sardines. All the wine tastes of a monk's moldy blanket and tonight when I prepared Pep and myself a dinner of antipasti, the ingredients of which we curated from all the specialty shops in town, I frustratingly declared as I opened a fresh packet of BREAD STICKS- "These are probably going to taste like ass!" And shockingly so they did-the ass of a goat.

How is that even possible??? Am I losing my mind?? Wild Boar is a specialty in Umbria and I imagine them running through the fields and sweating all over all the other food- the wheat, the tomatoes, the grapes, the cows... The good news is maybe I'll lose some weight. No wonder the French and Italians smoke all the time. They're starving and/or willingly extinguishing their appetite . The other day I had raw truffles in some pasta and I can't get the taste out of my mouth. It's like I've been making out with Baudelaire's dead corpse.

Right now while I write I'm sipping on some Montefalco rosso from the region. It tastes of Etruscan limestone (mined from a Roman well circa 400AD), which isn't half bad compared to the cucumbers in my insalata mista that taste as if they were pulled from St. Francis of Assisi's armpits in his crypt.

I look forward to sunken cheekbones and a 24 inch waist, unless anyone has any advice for me. Like maybe stop turning so American.



When Comedy Makes You Cry

I've arrived to my ultimate destination. Assisi. A writer's residency in Italy where I've come for two full weeks to work on a new project, or rather projectS, since I haven't churned out anything new for two years, nor written n'er a word since I thought I left my life as it was- a dresser on Broadway for 15 years and a creator of one woman shows that seemed to take me nowhere but back to my studio apartment in Manhattan. 

I decided to move to California, or at least make arrnagements to go there for sixth months, while I collected unemplyment from my last dresser job with JERSEY BOYS, - the little musical that could- and did- and ran- for 11 years at the August Wilson Theatre on 52 and 8th avenue, a mere stone's throw from my little studio on 30th and 8th. And where I went 6 days a week - twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays- to distribute underwear and zip and unsip satin dresses while listening to music by The Four Seasons. For eleven springs and summers and autumns and WINTERS- I biked up eighth avenue and down ninth, sometimes stopping for a slice of pizza to break up the monotony. Lets face it, pizza makes everything ok. I like to walk around with a xanax in my left pocket and a slice of pizza in my right, just in case any shit hits any fans I'm prepared. Who needs a gun?

So long and short of it is I found I grew beyond my dream of living in California (since I first set foot there when I was 12) and kind of ended up liking Oregon better where I had the privilege to present two of my previous one woman shows, but... I'm not there either. I'll get to the core of all that in my new one woman show I'm writing called KELLYFORNIA DREAMING- "it's never too late to pursue your dreams...until it is," a career I thought I was moving on from, along with my career as a dresser, but am clearly NOT since I also came back to Broadway to work as a dresser on Spongebob SquarePants-another little show that could, and did, but ran for only less than a year, and prevented me from writing anything during that time (or is that me that constantly sabotages myself?) while I worked overtime to make up lost money and new money to finally come here for a month to write a new one woman show. And eat. And maybe buy a new pair of well made shoes.

And the other two projects I am working on are an illustrated adult/children's book about relationships called PEP GOES TO THE POUND- my muse being Pep my boyfriend who makes me laugh, and cry and thankfully is still sleeping in the other room so as not to disturb my creative time (its 1PM but come on! He's jetlaggged!)- and a humorist novel called MOM GENES about how we all end up turning into our mothers or maybe marry our mothers since my mother also has the habit of sleeping til 1PM, with or without jetlag.

And I woke up this morning to do my daily free association journal which usually feeds right into the work which for some reason took me immediately to my mother and therefore MOM GENES and after an hour reflecting on my mother and laughing, I ended up in tears and so decided to come here to write a little bit to reign it all in. 

The beauty of the space is the monk like setting in a medieval hilltown in Umbria where yes there are hundreds of the best vineyards to distract me but there are even more Christian pilgrammages and therefore tranquility and spirituality and refelction. It is clearly proving to be an ideal setting with my floor to ceiling windows looking out onto a pedestrian street, the September winds blowing, very much like the Santa Ana winds of California. The coffee is better here too which helps with the writing and keeps Pep happy who is Italian and likes to complain but seems to be happy here with his people who are very good at relaxing and who can teach me a thing or two.

I am headed out to Perugia where the movie I DON"T KNOW THE NAME takes place (or is it CALL ME BY YOUR NAME), to buy some Maimeri italian brand water colors so I can get crackin' on illustrations of dogs (Pep is a dog in my children's book), and to get some real groceries. Assisi seems to only have specialty stores that sell cured meats, dried truffles and chocolate in the shape of St. Francis and the cross. Not that I won't throw a couple of those chocolates in my pocket. And thank god there are endless supplies of pizza. At this rate there isn't any room for the xanax and as long as these Santa Ana winds keep blowing I'll be protected by Saints on all fronts.

STILL LIFE OF WRITING TABLE-computer, cup of coffee and three books- Meditations on The Soul by Marsilio Ficino, The Eyewitness Travel book on Umbria and Italian Language Hacking by Benny Lewis