Spring Awakening would be nothing without its fantastically talented leading lady!
Chelsea Raitor ’14 has worked behind the scenes of many Klein Theatre and Studio 115 productions,
but you all probably recognize her as the Klein musical veteran she is, having played Joanne in RENT,
Cinderella in Into The Woods, and now Wendla in Spring Awakening! In addition to all she’s done
for our productions, Chelsea serves as Secretary for the Alpha Psi Omega theatre honors society
and works for the department as our Special Projects Assistant. With so many diverse talents,
Chelsea is ready to rock the professional theatre world!
The Department of Theatre and Dance brought this fantastic performer
and our number 1 “Mirfanda” in for an interview.
T&D: What is your major?
Chelsea: Theatre, with a musical theatre minor.
T&D: What’s your hometown?
Chelsea: Well I guess both Sauk Centre, Minnesota and McLean, Virginia. Minnesota is home, but I did a lot of growing up in McLean, so I have to do them both justice, I suppose.
T&D: What’s your main focus in theatre?
Chelsea: Performance, but I like all aspects, and I’m getting into the more technical side, which I find very rewarding.
T&D: How did you first get involved with theatre?
Chelsea: When I was seven, I wanted to audition for Alice in Wonderland, but you had to be at least eight years old, so I lied and I got in. I was a flower, it was sweet. And ever since then I noticed that I loved being on stage and it’s always been kind of a thrill for me to be a part of.
T&D: What is your favorite show you’ve worked on at UMW?
Chelsea: Ooh, that’s a hard question. They’ve all been so different that it’s hard to compare. Spring Awakening, I think, is my favorite show, because of the work that I put in, and what the overall product gave to me.
T&D: What are your plans after graduation?
Chelsea: I really want to move back to Minnesota and get a job in any kind of theatre, doing any kind of work, preferably dance work, I realize that I really love movement on stage, and how it can make such a difference in character. I’ve always loved dance and I’d like to explore that side of theatre more now that I know how it can make you look on stage.
T&D: What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?
Chelsea: Is that still a question? Favorite word: definitely mermbabe. When I was little, I would always talk about The Little Mermaid, but I couldn’t pronounce it, so I’d say “The Little Mermbabe.” To this day my family still says it, and I like the nostalgic memory it brings back. Least favorite word: pew. Whether it’s “pew” or the Italian “piu.” It means “more,” and I hate that, because no, I don’t want more. I hate the way it sounds, I hate the way it feels when it comes out of your mouth, I hate the way it’s said, I just hate it.
T&D: What is your favorite kind of candy?
Chelsea: Butterfinger. There’s so many ways you can eat it.
T&D: If you could work on any play or musical, which one would it be?
Chelsea: The Little Mermaid because for one, I love the musical, and two, I’m really good in Heelys, so I’d already have a leg up. But seriously, the musical Ragtime is a dream of mine. I love the story, and the music is incredible. It’s so underrated. The character “Mother” is the most ideal because she has a very clear arc within the story, which is beautiful from a feminist and social standpoint.
T&D: What’s a fact about you that most people wouldn’t expect?
Chelsea: I’m really pretty smart. The blonde hair can be misleading most times. I’m not being pompous, I’m being honest. I love to be taken seriously, I love intelligent conversation about politics, about stocks even, it can be boring topics, but I can still find them worth talking about, which people sometimes people fail to anticipate. I enjoy when someone can talk to me about anything seriously, because it shows that they do respect me and acknowledge I’m not just a goofball.
T&D: Who would be some of your biggest professional influences?
Chelsea: I love Sarah Jessica Parker, and even though some people will strongly disagree with this, she is one of the most talented actresses I’ve seen, based on the fact that she grew up in a very difficult environment being one of many children living on food stamps. She built a very substantial life and influenced so many people that no one would know her story if they didn’t ask about it. I find that so important about an actor, because you can mask your life in any way that you want, and if you want your story to be told, it’s possible and it can be done. She could be a very proud person, but she’s very down-to-earth and I love that about her. She’s extremely creative in a very simple way, and that’s an important characteristic to have for an actor.
T&D: What accomplishments or contributions would you like to be remembered for when you graduate?
Chelsea: I want to be remembered as a very hard worker, and a leader who was able to accomplish tasks by being optimistic and inviting. It’s easy to discourage younger actors in an educational setting, but I fondly remember some of my favorite people because of how they included me as a young performer. It’s a good lesson to learn early on, because you never know what people can accomplish and where they end up, and you never know the circumstances of the future and how those people can affect your life.
T&D: Do you have any interests outside of theatre?
Chelsea: Yeah, put me on a sports team and I’ll love it regardless of what it is, I love athletics. I’m pretty athletic, and I like the idea of competition in a fun, constructive way. I really like criminology, I follow it, I read books, I watch every documentary possible. It’s such a nerdy pastime, but I love it. Think Amanda Knox. Then of course, I’m a huge Mirfanda, I channel her through my everyday life, she brings inspiration to me and my friends.
T&D: What has made Spring Awakening a different experience from the other musicals you’ve done here at UMW?
Chelsea: I would say, for the most part, the amount of time and preparation put into this entire process, on a personal level. The amount of research and character development that I have done for Wendla has been incomparable to any other role that I’ve ever performed. I’ve been able to take a look at what schoolgirls would do with their time in 1891, what they would wear, how they would interact with boys. I’ve read books on little things like Christingle chorales, I’ve made pendants they would carry with them on religious weeks to give me an accurate visual on material I would be working with. I decided to dress more proper for a while in order to feel like I needed to be more put-together, in a way, I channeled my inner Chelsea by taking walks by myself in the woods, I went out by the Amphitheatre a lot, and would just skip and do silly little activities by myself and monitor what sort of thoughts would go into my head, and similar to Wendla, I liked challenging my thoughts and how they affect other people. I also became more interested in material that I would never find intriguing, because I needed to become more insightful about the world as a whole. I also find it very rewarding because I was able to become more spiritual, in a way. This show has so many themes and conventions that could suggest otherwise, but this material affected me in a way that I think it didn’t affect most other people because it gave me the strength to believe in what I want to believe. This show made me more confident in me as a performer and as Chelsea.