Kelly Renee Grandjean is a new face to our museum. She has been recently added to our staff as the Main Street Educator and takes on the task of playing two characters in two buildings. During busy days with school kids, you can usually find her in the General Store as her character Miss Constance (Connie) Muller. On Saturdays you can find her slinging drinks (root beer) in the Saloon as Mrs. Elsa Spiess. Kelly was born in Ennis, Texas and was adopted at a young age by an Air Force doctor, his wife, and two sons. Being part of a military family afforded Kelly the opportunity to live in a variety of places including Italy. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees including a Master of Fine Arts in Television, Film, and Theatre from California State University in Los Angeles that she completed in the Spring of 2014 (congratulations Kelly!).
Kelly is a gifted educator and enjoys getting to play two characters. Connie is a single woman in 1905, (an “old maid” if you will), who works at the General Store to support herself. She also earns extra money by fashioning millinery flowers. Elsa is Connie’s widowed sister and runs the saloon next door, so family is never far away. Elsa is a very tough lady as her husband actually died in a bar brawl. She is therefore left alone to run the Saloon to support herself. Other than that Elsa helps Connie in her side business when possible but has to be ever vigilant behind the bar. In fact, “she has been known to crack a skull or two to keep her drinking establishment a respected one,” Kelly informs us.
Kelly finds more similarities between herself and Connie since they are both single and working women. She admits that Elsa most likely had a tougher time as she worked in an industry often deemed “off-limits” for respectable women, plus it was a dangerous business and Elsa would have had to defend herself often in 1905. Luckily women do not have to face as many of these challenges in 2014. Being able to surround herself with the historic structures of the Village allows Kelly to better connect with her characters. She loves being able to share what life was like at the turn-of-the century to school children who often cannot comprehend a lifestyle predating the early 2000s.
When asked if she could spend a day with one of her characters in her time or theirs, Kelly had two varying answers. She thinks that she and Connie would be great friends and that they would be just fine in 1905. As single girls they “could be roommates, go for walks, stay up late gabbing, and go shopping” all in a simpler time. On the other hand, she would prefer to spend the day with Elsa in 2014, mostly because Elsa would probably prefer it. They would spend a night out on the town, “any gin joint they please – without having to worry what people thought of them!”
The answer is also varied when it comes to advice she has learned from playing these characters. Connie has taught Kelly patience, customers will always make a mess of the store but there is always time to tidy up later. Sometimes making a mess is an important part of the shopping experience! Elsa has taught Kelly, “that being a lady does not always mean being a demure pushover and that being tough does not always mean being a bully.” There is a balance between being tough and being a gentlewoman and Elsa is ahead of her time by working this out in 1905.
Kelly’s favorite book is actually the play, “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams due to its Southern Gothic style. She is also found of Abraham Lincoln, mostly because he was a good man just trying to guide our country through a very tough time period. Kelly has also been an actress for nearly twenty roles in Dallas and Los Angeles with multiple roles on stage and on screen including Walker, Texas Ranger. She is also an avid fan of Diet Dr. Pepper, Indian Cuisine, and Tex-Mex.
We are very lucky to have her here at the village. Stop by this fall to meet Kelly on Main Street!