Profile: Sophomore Eliot Klus had no choice when it came to performing

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Eliot Klus didn’t have any choice when it came to theatre.

“My first show was mandatory, the entire fourth-grade class had to do it,” says Klus, who went to elementary school through fourth grade in Illinois. “I am so glad that this was the case because I don’t know if I would have put myself out there if I didn’t have to. I have been very lucky to have been in schools that have supported the arts for my entire life.”

Klus says his first experience on stage was “probably some choir or orchestra concert” when he was very little. But his first play/musical was an elementary school production of “Oliver Twist” in Illinois in the fourth grade. It was an experience he remembers wanting to experience again.

“I played an urchin who was bad at pick-pocketing, I think my name was Piers,” he says. “I honestly don’t remember much about it, but obviously it was enough to make me come back.”

In the fifth grade, Klus moved to Ann Arbor and went to Haisley.

“Theatre wasn’t mandatory, but having done it before gave me the extra burst to audition for ‘Schoolhouse Rock Jr.’ and I’ve really been hooked since then,” he says.

Klus is playing George in the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s presentation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play: “Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder. The production, directed by Pioneer acting teacher and Purple Rose resident artist, Alex Leydenfrost, opens Feb. 6 with four performances through Feb. 9.

This will be his second production with PTG. He played Rudolpho in “Matilda” in the fall, and also plans on auditioning for the PTG spring musical, “Les Miserables.”

Klus says “Our Town” is the most performed play in American high schools – and there is a reason for that.

“These characters are so real and you see them all around you,” he says. “Every moment of the show will be relatable to every audience member. I love that, because it makes the show engaging and connects the audience to the characters. We either are the characters or we know them, and that gives you great audience investment.”

Klus really likes his character, George. He says he fits some “jock” stereotypes, but he really has a heart of gold and is motivated by love. And, in a word, he’s “earnest.”

“He really cares about a lot, and that can be both endearing and annoying,” he says. “It can sometimes be difficult staying genuine and true to the character because he is at once totally keyed in and totally oblivious.”

Klus, himself, admits to being somewhat oblivious to what he enjoys about being on the stage. “I’m never really sure how to explain why I like performing,” he says. “I think the truest way I can say it is that performing makes me happy. I have never really pinpointed why or when that started, but that’s the heart of it.

“I have had a fairly ambitious schedule and workload this year, which could have been a challenge, but it turned out nicely. Theatre and rehearsal is a nice escape and break from work, even if it pinches time a little.”

Eliot, the son of Colleen Klus and Jim Salisbury, has a 4.0 GPA and also involved in the A Capella Choir; BSU (Black Student Union); and 2022 Leadership Team. Only a sophomore, he’s clearly enjoying his time at both Community and Pioneer high schools, but will at some point turn his attention to his future.

“Ideally I would love to major in Musical Theatre or something else in music,” he says. “U-M is near the top of my list, but I try not to stress myself out thinking about that quite yet.”

By Terry Jacoby