Xan (pronounced “Zan,” short for “Alexandra”) Kellogg decided after two years at the University of Missouri that she needed to come home for good once her family adopted her new now 13-year-old little brother from the Philippines in May 2012.
After school ended last May, she was able to spend time with Jomel and her family for two weeks; then she spent the rest of her summer in Honduras doing mission work. When she returned, she had two more weeks to spend with her family before school started once again. That’s when she made her decision to move back to her hometown.
“It would be so weird to have this little brother and then not know him except on a cousin-level or something,” Kellogg said. “I didn’t want to not know my little brother.”
Jomel was the main reason she moved back, but she is also happy she has more time to spend with her parents and other brother and sister as well.
When theater and cinema professor Tee Quillin caught wind of Kellogg’s return, he texted her father and his longtime friend Dan Kellogg (who palyed Old Joe in “A Christmas Carol”) and said she had to audition for the year’s first play “J.B.”
“I wasn’t even going to audition,” Kellogg said. “I was just getting in the swing of things and I didn’t even know what it was about.”
Kellogg couldn’t turn Quillin down and auditioned. Because she hadn’t performed in three years, she picked up a smaller role to read. However, Quillin had her in mind for the lead role of J.B.’s wife Sarah.
She nailed it.
“Xan came in there for the first table read and I was blown away,” student actor Erik Burns-Sprung, who plays Mr. Zuss, said. “We are really glad to have her in our department.”
So far, Quillin has been pleased with Kellogg’s performance, despite the challenges she has had to face.
“We had some really difficult rehearsal processes where Xan was just like ‘I feel horrible,’” Quillin said. “I said that I understand that, and told her ‘You cant judge the character; it’s what the character feels at the moment and what the character is going through, and this is the characters immediate reaction — you can’t judge it, you have to just go with it.’”
As a strong Christian playing the role of a woman who essentially loses faith in God and practically goes through the same hardships J.B. does, Kellogg says it has been very hard. She has even sat in her car and cried after rehearsing the powerful last scene at the end of the first act. She had to keep repeating to herself to let go of everything and remind herself that J.B. is only a play.
“Getting into her role is definitely a challenge,” Kellogg said. “I’ve really never had to connect with any character on such an emotional level — I can’t fake what she goes through, so I have to live it.”
Kellogg has had to use some pretty sacreligious words in the play, which was not easy for her to get over in the beginning. One of the toughest lines she has had to scream is “Curse God and die!”
“I had some concern with that when I was first cast,” Kellogg said. “How do I as a Christian, justify that? How can I say these words and make them meaningful when that’s like the last thing I’d ever want to say in my entire life?”
After talking it over with her pastor, her friends and praying a lot, she realized she didn’t feel God was telling her not to take on the role; she said that if he was, then she wouldn’t be able to go through with it.
She is still pushing through those struggles as she still prays off stage right after her loud scream of “Curse God and die!”
However, Kellogg hasn’t had any challenges getting into a motherly role with the children, acting as a longtime wife of J.B. or memorizing lines.
Her other challenges are more school-related as she is a junior majoring in chemistry — she’s pre-med. Balancing theater and class has not been easy, but she wants to be a pediatric doctor in the future and feels theater helps her career path out immensely because it is the study of people, which is necessary for a personal, relational field.
“It’s like you’re on a stage all the time,” Kellogg said. “You have to make these quick decisions and talk to them (patients). How do you tell someone they’re going to die in a couple of months? You have to learn to do that; you have to learn people and learn what they’re going through.”
Kellogg says theater will allow her to be more than a doctor. She can be comforting and be there emotionally for her patients.
Although chemistry is her major, she always follows her family motto, which is “Do what you like, like what you do.”
So far, she has been doing just that — acting. She says Western is where she is meant to be.
“I just do what the big guy says; he directs my life. I’m back here because of him.”