Interview – Benjamin Kelm

Ahead of bringing his show Far From Home Close To Love to Theatre Deli, Sheffield on Wednesday 15 May (in a tour that also includes Presuming Ed’s in Brighton on 9 to 11 May, The King’s Arms in Manchester on 14 May and Etcetera Theatre in London on 17 May) we were delighted to interview writer and actor Benjamin Kelm.

Q. Tell us more about you and your show? 

A. My name is Benjamin Kelm and I am an actor and writer from Germany.  

I trained as an actor at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, which is why I lived in this wonderful city for two years. 

I started writing as a child for my great aunt, who was like a grandma to me, and it has been with me ever since. In writing, I have found an outlet to better deal with feelings, thoughts and experiences. But also to capture important moments like a time capsule. And so it was that I wanted to capture my time in New York. As a book, but at the same time as a play, to share my story with other people, in the hope that they might recognize something of themselves. That they will realize that they are not alone with one thing or another, that other people might feel the same way.  

That’s why “Far From Home Close To Love” has become so personal, because I wanted to take the audience on my rollercoaster ride, with all its ups and downs.  

I was allowed to live my dream of studying acting, but it took a lot out of me: in addition to my apartment being broken into, two older men on the street violating my personal space, and the generally overwhelming quality of life in NYC, I had to deal with the loneliness that came with being so far from home. I was about to lose myself. But if it was the city that brought me to this point, it was also New York that let me find myself again. 

In the play, I will take the audience to important places with me, for example by playing sound recordings that I recorded of the background noises there. Moreover, at very emotional moments, I will read out poems that I wrote exactly when I felt that way. Everyone can accompany me through the city up close, so to speak. 

Q. Is there anything you are looking forward to doing when you come to Sheffield? 

A. very good friend of mine (hello Sophie!) lives in Sheffield and I’m delighted to finally see her again. Not only is she a great friend, she’s also a great actress and lent her voice to the shoe fortune teller in my play. Yes, I met a fortune teller like that in New York! 

Otherwise, I just like walking through the streets of a city without a destination to get an impression of it. But often, actually always, such a walk ends with me ending up in a café. I love cafés for two reasons: Coffee and I do my best writing in them. Oh, and I’ve read that there’s a National Video Game Museum, so I want to go there as well! 

Q. What do you miss most about New York and if there anything you regret not doing whilst you were there? 

I miss the city and its creative energy. You have the opportunity to come across art and creative people almost everywhere. In Washington Square Park, for example, you might find a jazz pianist playing on one corner, someone writing poetry for you on another, or a scene being performed by a couple of actors at once. I love it. But the city also offers a lot in other respects, be it museums, cinemas or art in parks. 

As I say in the play, it wasn’t always easy for me and to be honest, living there is very expensive, but the city allowed me to rediscover myself. I learned to deal with myself on my own very well.  

And my only regret is that I couldn’t stay there longer. I definitely want to live there again one day and I’m sure it will happen. 

Q. You have lived in lots of different places including Germany, America and England but what other countries would you love to visit / live in and why? 

A. I travel a lot and like to get to know new countries and their people. I like being in big cities, but I like being out in nature too. That’s why I like to go hiking and discover a country that way. I’ve been hiking in Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and many more countries. I’ve never been to Asia, I want to change that next year. But I don’t know exactly where I’m going yet.  

And years ago, I spent a few days in Stockholm and I liked the city so much that I did a Swedish course for a short time. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much, but I could imagine living in the city for a while. Jag gillar Stockholm och Sverige! 

Q. You were awarded silver in six categories at the World Championships Of Performing Arts in Los Angeles in 2017. For those of us who have not come across this world championship before how did you come to take part and what happens at it? 

A. Good question! I randomly read about it on the internet and then checked out their website. As I like to take on little adventures, I thought it might be something for me. I then had to do two rounds of video auditions and was finally selected for Germany in the “Acting” category. Which of course I was very happy about!  

In addition to acting, there are many other categories, such as singing and dancing. In 2017, the world championships took place in Los Angeles, Long Beach. I competed in all acting categories, from contemporary to classical and comedy. I was awarded silver in all categories, the highest jury rating. But the greatest gift for me was that I received a scholarship for the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in an extra audition and it was immediately clear to me that if I ever got a chance like that, I would try everything to make it happen. And so it was that I was able to start my studies a year later, which I am very grateful for. 

Q. What’s up next for you after your UK tour? 

A. After the UK tour, I’ll be going back to Germany and giving a few workshops, like in the Meisner technique, an acting technique I studied in New York and London. Furthermore, I want to continue writing my next book. A novel in which I’m dealing with a current life issue.  

Apart from that, my goal is definitely to take my play “Far From Home Close To Love” to the city it’s about: New York City. That will be my next adventure, which I will start preparing. 

Q. And two last but important questions. Why do you love racoons and what does your second dream job as a demon slayer involve (I’m picturing the German version of Buffy). 

A. Raccoons are just cute, cheeky and clever. It’s that simple! 

And you’ve got it exactly right, I would love to be a German version of Buffy. Since I was a teenager, “Buffy – The Vampire Slayer” has been one of my favourite series. I actually still have the first seasons on VHS tape! If there’s ever a remake of the series, please let me know! Maybe I can finally live out this dream as an actor and slay some demons. 

To find out more about Benjamin visit FAR FROM HOME CLOSE TO LOVE 2024 | Benjamin Kelm | Schauspieler & Autor and to book to see tour when it visits Theatre Deli, Sheffield visit Far From Home Close To Love Tickets, Wed 15 May 2024 at 19:30 | Eventbrite

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