Kenneth Kay named new executive director of Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theater Training
Ken Kay was still settling in one week after moving with his wife, Kim Cozort, from Blowing Rock, North Carolina, where the couple had run Blowing Rock Playhouse for the past nine years, when I dropped in for a visit.
A major achievement of Ken Kay's tenure at Blowing Rock was the conception, creation and completion of a beautiful new playhouse.
Unfortunately the community of Blowing Rock was unwilling or unable to keep up with a daunting $4.50 million mortgage. Ken Kay saw the handwriting on the wall before the bank called the note, and he cast about for other job opportunities.
When Kay learned Burt Reynolds wanted to revitalize the school he started (with Charles Nelson Reilly) in 1979, he contacted his old friend.
Although he was an adult with a master's degree from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and a professional actor, Kay entered the apprentice program in the third class of what was then called Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training.
Kay made the best of his training with master teachers Reilly and Reynolds and the host of Hollywood heavyweights Reynolds enticed to his dinner theater on Indiantown Road.
Forty years later Reynolds' theater still stands, revitalized and updated as Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Burt Reynolds' Institute is housed temporarily in the Burt Reynolds Museum, located just north of Indiantown Road on US 1.
The crowded museum, housed in a former bank, is chock full of thousands of pieces of memorabilia, spanning 60 years from Burt's high school years to the present.
Reynolds teaches a master acting class (by appointment only) on Tuesday and Friday evenings on a small stage in the center of the museum. Four other instructors teach classes in film, editing, improvisation and so forth at other times to more than 100 students.
"I never expected to be back in Jupiter, but it feels right," said Kay recently. "I've kept in touch with Burt through the years. He is one of my best friends and most trusted mentors. He is serious about bringing the Institute up to the next level. I am honored to be part of it."
I first encountered Ken Kay in 1978, when he enrolled as a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Kay was hard to miss: tall and bronzed, with shoulder-length blond hair, he had just come from a summer playing Jesus in the Smoky Mountain Passion Play in Townsend, Tennessee. One of his first roles was Petruccio in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew." Never has the role been so swashbuckling.
The Reynolds Institute gets a bonus: Kay's lovely and talented wife Kim Kozort, an actress and singer who has starred or co-starred in 55 of her husband's shows.
"We met in a whorehouse run by Jan McArt," joked Kay on the day of his 20th wedding anniversary to Kim Cozort. "It's been a wild, fun ride, and we are ready for the next chapter."
McArt, dubbed "South Florida's First Lady of Theatre," ran Royal Palm Dinner Theatre for 25 years and is currently director of theater arts at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
For more information about Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theater Training call 561-743-9955 or visit www.brift.org.