All The World’s A Stage

Student gets the chance to perform in a professional theatre.

Tiffany To , Writer

With more than 10 years of experience in theatre, junior Annslee Clay believes theatre is more than acting for a play.

“It’s like the exhilaration that you get on stage, and you don’t think about yourself,” Clay said. “You’re just there to entertain others, and it’s something that you do for the community to create empathy in them. It’s really neat to see how the whole theatre community here is so accepting.”

From musicals on a small stage to the Argenta theatre, Clay got the chance to perform in a professional production for the musical “Newsies” as one of the main leads, Katherine Plummer. Before she auditioned for the role, Clay had already seen the musical live at a younger age, and her newfound love for the musical made her realize an important life lesson.

“[The first time I saw ‘Newsies’], I saw it on tour in 2015. I got it for a birthday present, but I didn’t know what ‘Newsies’ was. It really opened my eyes, like ‘Oh, this is a career. I could make a career out of this.’ It opened my eyes to how important it is to tell a story, so it has a special place in my heart.”

After watching the musical, Clay made the role of Katherine Plummer her goal, which led up to her fulfillment of getting the role in August of last year.

“I auditioned [for the role] in early August, and we started rehearsals mid-January,” Clay said. “When I found out I got the role, I found out about five days after my audition. My dad came home from work, and this has been a dream role of mine, so it was really cool when I got it. I started crying because I was so excited to do it.”

Although theatre is considered an extracurricular activity, it differs from other activities. Theatre is not about memorizing lines and expressing feelings on stage to Clay; rather, it is where you create and belong to a family.

“One thing that’s different [in theatre]  is that you create families,” Clay said. “[To put it in perspective], in ‘Newsies,’ it’s about a gang of kids who are poor, and they have each other and that’s it, cause they don’t have any parents. That camaraderie is like you got each other’s backs. [Recently], one of the people in the cast was diagnosed with the flu, and we had all sorts of people step in and just take over his part in a snap. It was really neat to see that.”

Theatre fosters creativity and  positive energy, but sometimes it causes people to be more self-conscious.  

“[One struggle I face is] comparing myself to other performers, and how I fix it is [telling myself] ‘I’m me,” Clay said. “When you’re on stage, you have to be the best version of yourself and make the character truly yours,” Clay said.

Despite the fact that theatre is considered a tough career, Clay wants to pursue theatre and is currently looking for opportunities.

“I’m hoping to [continue theatre as a career],” Clay said. “It’s a really cutthroat career to get into, and it’s just really hard, but I hope to. I’m looking at colleges right now and stuff for this.”

Clay has met influential people involved in theatre as well.

“I look up to a lot of people, one being my dad, Clay said. “He has a 8 to 5 job, and he has theatre with me. He’s just a really good dad, and I love him so much. Another person I look up to would be one of my old voice teachers, Jo Murry. She’s been such a positive impact on my life and has given me confidence to just go on stage and be me. I just appreciate that from her.”

Clay’s closest inspiration and fan is her father, Tony Clay. Tony Clay pushes his daughter to become the best actress she can be.

“I am Annslee’s biggest fan, and I try to encourage her to work at the things that will help her to be the best at her craft,” Tony Clay said. “I knew for Annslee to be successful at theatre, that she would have to be good at singing, acting and dancing. We enrolled Annslee in competitive dance at 8 years old and started voice lessons at 10 years old. The acting part came natural to Annslee. Annslee auditioned for several shows, being cast in most and working with several different directors, which helped improve the acting part of the craft. Annslee also became very involved in the Young Players at the Royal theatre.”

Not only is Annslee Clay in theatre, her father is in theatre as well. While acting alongside his daughter, Tony Clay grows significantly closer to Anslee Clay.

“I had two boys, and we did baseball, but Annslee’s ‘sport’ was theatre,” Tony Clay said. “I wanted to be a part of what Annslee was doing, so I stepped on stage, because I am not shy and do not mind making a fool out of myself. I found out I like entertaining people and most of all making them laugh. No matter what part I get, I try to steal every scene, and it drives Annslee nuts. Theatre has become something that Annslee and I do together. We push each other to be better actors,”

Alongside her father, Annslee’s uncle Jeremy Clay, head of the Drama department, has also helped her in her experience as an actress.

“I have helped her with auditions and performances, but she is talent and ambition,” Jeremy Clay said. “Rejection is a daily occurrence for actors, and it takes a great deal of tenacity to keep at it. Every accomplishment is all hers.”

Not only has theatre taught Annslee an important life skill, it has taught her to understand the feelings of others as well and accept people.

“Theatre has changed my daughter for good,” Tony Clay said. “You will always hear her say something about being kind to others. Theatre helps her empathize with other people and allows exploration of the human condition in a non-threatening way. Theatre is her safe place and a place where all are accepted.’

Annslee Clay plans to apply the skills she has learned from theatre  toward her path in the future.

“No matter what the future holds for Annslee, the confidence, problem solving [and] people skills she has learned will carry over to any leadership position,” Jeremy Clay said. “So many people say Broadway is the only mark for success for theatre actors, but the reality is there are lucrative careers for artists all over the country. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her on Broadway someday.”