Age & Hometown: “I didn’t hear the first question. That’s my jokey way of not answering”; New York City
Current Role: Diagnosing patients as Dr. Jason Posner, a poetically inclined oncologist with no bedside manner, in Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway revival of Wit.
School Daze: Despite living just miles away from the Great White Way, this Manhattan native grew up with his head in the clouds and his feet planted on a green field of dreams. “I did sports in high school and early on that was kind of my thang,” recalls the self-proclaimed former jock, who attended the competitive Hunter College High School on the Upper East Side. “My favorite period was lunch, and my fondest memories were of playing football in the courtyard with friends. I was definitely a slacker.” One day his mother dragged him to see Into the Woods, and almost instantly Keller was bit by the acting bug. “Somebody dropped out of a play and I took over but I missed a volleyball scrimmage and got benched in the playoffs,” he recalls. “It was very sad, but that was that play started me on my way.”
What’s Up Doc? After earning an MFA in acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Keller took a detour, becoming a 2009 Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard, where his work won several prizes. But he never gave up on what became “the long road” to Broadway. “I did a lot of shows off-off-off Broadway,” he jokes, “then I broke into off-off-Broadway, and then into off-Broadway.” Appearing in plays like The Seagull, Smudge and That Pretty Pretty, Keller worked his way up to Wit, where he found a kindred spirit in co-star Cynthia Nixon. “We both went to Hunter College High School,” says Keller. “I felt a bond and she did, too. My first play was part of the ‘Brick Prison’ theater club started by a couple of guys from Cynthia’s year. I blame them for my acting career.”
Drive Me Crazy: While waiting for his acting career to rev up, Keller decided “waiting tables was too cliché” and became a cab driver. “I got the idea when Brian Dennehy was doing Death of a Salesmen—he mentioned that he had driven a cab for 15 years, and I was like, ‘Yeah that is what Broadway actors do.’” After a few years on the job, Keller had a change of heart: “I got into a cab one day and the driver had a bandage wrapped around his head because somebody had broken a bottle over his face and robbed him. I thought, ‘You know, I need my face for acting. That probably rarely happens waiting tables.’” Despite the winding road, Keller is happy to have a juicy role in a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. “As a New Yorker, the history of Broadway is exciting to me,” he says. “Feeling the spirits of those that have been there before me is very meaningful.”