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1998 - Stephen Woodburn creates "In the Spotlight Again: The Emmett Kelly Story" as a one-man play. It was presented in Atlanta at the 14th Street Playhouse (2002) and  Marietta, GA's Theatre In the Square (2004)

2009 - Jonathan meets Stasia Kelly through the Big Apple Circus in Atlanta. She tells him about their play and Jonathan begins his research.

2010 - Jonathan begins collaboration with Stephen Woodburn, President of Spotlight Communications, Inc.

2012 - Life Story rights secured through a collaboration with Spotlight Communications, Inc.

2013 -  Private Reading in Sarasota at the Ringling Museum | Asolo Theatre Repertory Company 2013 and Research at the Ringling Circus Museum

2015 - Private Reading in NYC

2017 -  Private Invitation Only Reading in NYC


L-R: Jonathan Cerullo, Vanessa Wendt, Carson Elrod, Karen Ziemba, Brad Oscar, David Ryan Smith, Stephen Woodburn, Melisa Meli

Center Photo: Front: Mary Jane Brock, Eve Kelly-Lentz Back

L- R Monika Kelly-Andrew, Stasia Kelly and Jonathan Cerullo

Karen Ziemba
Brad Oscar
Carson Elrod
Vanessa Wendt
David Henry James

Top Row L-R: Karen Ziemba, Brad Oscar, Carson Elrod

Bottom:  Vanessa Wendt, David Ryan Smith



Karen Ziemba and Carson Elrod Will Join Brad Oscar in Reading of

Willie and Me: The Emmett Kelly Story



SEP 06, 2017


The drama is written by Stephen Woodburn and Jonathan Cerullo.


Spotlight Communications, Inc. will present an invitation-only reading of the new bio-drama Willie and Me: The Emmett Kelly Story September 18 in Manhattan.


Tony nominee Brad Oscar (Something Rotten!, The Producers, Nice Work If You Can Get It), as previously reported, will star in the title role. Oscar will be joined by Tony winner Karen Ziemba — currently on Broadway in Prince of Broadway—as Evi Kelly, Emmett Kelly’s wife; and Carson Elrod (Peter and the Starcatcher, Reckless, Noises Off) as Junior, Emmett Kelly's son.




Willie and Me: The Emmett Kelly Story is co-written by Stephen Woodburn and Jonathan Cerullo and concerns the life and times of Emmett Kelly, Sr., known to millions of Americans as the sad-faced clown, Weary Willie. His trademark routine was sweeping up a spotlight and gently depositing it into his pocket. Despite touching the hearts of children worldwide, Emmett Kelly, Sr. and his oldest son, Junior, could never reconcile, and it broke Emmett's heart.


In addition to performing in a variety of circuses, including Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus for 14 years, Emmett performed on Broadway in Keep Off the Grass, a 1940 production starring Ray Bolger, Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, and Jerome Robbins. He also appeared in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1952 Academy Award-winning film, "The Greatest Show on Earth."


The reading will be directed by Cerullo and will also feature Vanessa Wendt and David Ryan Smith playing a variety of roles.


To learn more about the play, visit



Steve Woodburn ~ Brandextender's Blog

My passion for close to 20 years has been writing a Broadway play about America’s most iconic clown, Emmett Kelly, Sr. He rose to fame in an era long before computers, the Internet, social media and email, portraying a sad-faced hobo character he named Weary Willie.


His most famous routine was sweeping up a spotlight only to be startled by its reappearance, but eventually sweeping it into a smaller and smaller pool and putting it in his pocket or sweeping it under a rug.


I’ve shared my vision with friends over the years and am sure most began to think of me as a Don Quixote character, forever tilting my pen at windmills I had no chance of reaching. And there were the dream killers, telling me how impossible it is to get a show produced anywhere, much less on Broadway.

I persevered through it all and met a like-minded soul along the way named Jonathan Cerullo and together we’ve finally completed Willie and Me: The Emmett Kelly Story. We’re holding a reading this fall for a select group of producers and investors and if my dream finally comes to fruition, we’ll see our name in lights on Broadway.


We’re also running an IndiGoGo campaign to raise money to fund the reading and while I hate asking people for money, making your dream a reality sometimes means going outside your comfort zone.

Steve with Arms Crossed.jpeg
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