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09/19/2023 02:33 PM

The Stars Align for Kenny Pelphrey

GHS Senior will Direct Staged Reading Premier of “Starlight” in Guilford
Guilford High School senior Kenny Pelphrey is directing the premiere play reading of Starlight, written by Guilford’s Gina Tracy, at Breakwater Books on Monday, Sept. 25. Photo courtesy Kenny Pelphrey

The stars have aligned for Guilford High School (GHS) senior Kenny Pelphrey, who will direct professional actors in the premiere play reading of Starlight by award-winning Guilford playwright Gina Tracy at Breakwater Books on Monday, Sept. 25.

Word of the reading has already drawn a capacity crowd of those who registered in advance to attend this event. Starlight is the first of a trilogy of plays featuring climate change as the focus, says Tracy, a past Person of the Week. Event donations will benefit The Clean Air Fund, which works nationally to get legislation passed relating to climate regulations.

Kenny, who already has some significant acting and directing experience on his resume, is understandably over the moon to have this extraordinary opportunity to lead professional actors in this first reading of the script for an audience to appreciate.

“I was given this opportunity by my dear friend and teacher, Dani Howard, who I’ve worked with for a very long time. She put me in touch with Gina,” says Kenny.

Dani and Rob Howard became the new owners of Breakwater Books in April of this year. The independent bookstore, a centerpiece among downtown Guilford merchants, is located at 81 Whitfield Street in town.

“It will be a very intimate environment,” says Kenny of the reading’s bookstore setting. “My role is to organize and artistically lead and direct the way the production will be presented, to give it a voice, to give it a style. It’s very important, in the development of a work, to put it on its feet as a staged reading, without any of the glitz and glamour, per se.”

It’s also really important to all involved that proceeds from charitable donations made for the Sept. 25 reading of Tracy’s new, environmentally conscious play are going to benefit the environment, says Kenny.

“It’s a great play. It’s about the environment, and it’s about family, too,” he says.

The lead role of the mother will be read by Erin Hill, a world-renowned pop and rock harpist and singer; with other roles voiced by accomplished equity stage actor Mark Sage Hamilton; as well as Dr. Richard Weidlich, a professor of voice and music at Western Connecticut State University and notable baritone.

As one who has been involved with theatre throughout his life, Kenny says his interest in the artistic form has moved from acting to directing during his time in high school.

“I like the relationship I have with directing. It feels more like I’m a painter rather than paint,” says Kenny, who hopes to attend Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama in Pittsburgh next year. “I like having that sense of control and to make something my own.”

At GHS, Kenny is currently enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) theatre class, an advanced-level theatre studies course. He had the opportunity to direct a production of Medea, in addition to serving as assistant director for GHS Theatre Arts (GHSTA) production of Sponge Bob (in which Kenny also played the role of Sponge Bob). Additionally, his experience involves working as a technical director for the 24-hour play festival of GHSTA, as well as a director with Madison Arts Barn summer theatre camp.

Kenny is also connected with the shoreline theatre community through his work during the past year with non-profit Legacy Theatre CT based in Stony Creek in Branford.

At 17 years old, Kenny had not envisioned the incredible experience that will unfold on Sept. 25 arriving at this point in his life.

“It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to do, and I thought it would take years for me to be able to have an opportunity like this,” he says. “I’ve been given a major headstart when it comes to this kind of work and every day, I’m very grateful to be part of this.”

Kenny will meet with the actors for one reading rehearsal prior to the Sept. 25 event. He has been doing his homework to prepare both himself and the cast for the rehearsal and then the staged reading.

“I think it’s really important that the cast, as a whole, has a very cohesive and unified stance on what the text means and everyone’s relationship with each other. And then, it’s a lot of nitty-gritty details,” he says.

In the context of directing a staged reading, one of the decisions that falls to Kenny is whether certain stage directions should be read or acted. Kenny’s mission is to tease out the relevant areas he finds within this new work and direct these accomplished actors in the best way to emphasize those areas as they go through the reading.

As for any opening night butterflies, Kenny says, “Of course, it’s a lot to ask for someone to go into it with an open mind, with a 17-year-old director. But I know I can do the work. I’ve been doing the work. I think people will very definitely be pleasantly surprised. I’m very confident that it will be a great final product.”

For more info on this event, contact Breakwater Books at 203-453-4141 or at To find more info on the bookstore, visit