Kristen Adele ('05) is making her mark in the arts world both on and off stage.
She recently performed in the off-Broadway play, Desire, which featured six short plays of Tennessee Williams. And she's appeared in episodes of Orange Is the New Black, Blue Bloods, The Good Wife and The Mysteries of Laura. Plus, she is working as program director of ArtChangeUS, a nonprofit initiative that explores the effects of the nation's changing demographics on the arts.
The Dallas native is fulfilling a dream she's had since she made up plays and songs in her backyard when she was a little girl. She graduated from DeSoto High School at age 16 and wanted to go to New York City, but her father wouldn't let her move there at such a young age.
So Adele opted to go to UNT, and liked it so much that she stayed here when she turned 18.
"I didn't want to leave," she says. "I stayed and got my degree."
She remains friends with her Crumley Hall roommate, Marron Moore ('04). She also was active in Plumbline Ministries, where she befriended a fellow student named Lecrae Moore (̓02), who is now a Grammy-winning rapper.
But theatre was her main love on campus. The lessons she learned from Lorenzo Garcia, associate professor of theatre and chair of the Department of Dance and Theatre, stay with her today.
"I think his major lesson to us was just the importance of preparation," says Adele, who attended UNT as Kristen Calhoun. "If you are prepared, then you can have the freedom on stage."
After graduation, Adele stayed in Denton for three years, teaching at two area schools while appearing in commercials and local theater productions. She then lived in Denver before enrolling in the graduate program at Rutgers University -- which is just a 40-minute drive to New York City.
In her final year, she performed her showcase and landed an agent. This led to her TV spots and stage plays.
"It doesn't happen overnight," she says. "I feel fortunate that I've had little successes."
For ArtChangeUS, she is working on a five-year program that offers performances, talks and workshops from different cultural perspectives.
"It makes our country richer to have our country more diverse," she says.
But Adele gets the greatest satisfaction when she's on the stage.
One memorable role was in the Rutgers production of Machinal. She played a woman in the 1920s who marries someone she doesn't love and ends up murdering him, winding up in the electric chair. She was on stage for the entire 90 minutes.
"Talk about ups and downs," she says. "It was an amazing experience.
"I love opportunities to tell stories and create compassion in the audience, expose people to perspectives and different walks of life. That's what brings me great joy."