Theatre & Dance
If at first you don't succeed...try something a little different. That's what Chelsea Gillespie did, and it has paid off quite nicely as the theatre major prepares for her senior year at The College of Wooster.While in eighth grade at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Gillespie tried out for "Little Women," but she didn't get the part. Instead of giving up, however, she stayed involved by helping with costumes. During that time, she observed the work of the production's stage manager and said, "Wow, that's something I would really like to do."
When the family moved to Lewisburg, Pa., a few years later, Gillespie continued to pursue her interest in stage management and took advantage of an opportunity to work on her senior project in the theatre department at Bucknell University, where her mother is a member of the faculty in the Department of English.
After graduation, Gillespie chose to further her education at Wooster, even though it wasn't initially her first choice. "I had three very different schools in mind, but when I visited Wooster, I really loved it," she said. "Everything that I heard about it — small classes, great professors, and a family-type atmosphere — was true."
Another of Wooster's assets that appealed to Gillespie was its accessibility — something that is often not available at larger schools. "I was able to work in the theatre's scene shop my first year," she said. "Having an opportunity to be involved early [in my collegiate career] was really nice."
Since then, she has acted in several productions and has stage-managed the dance company's annual concerts. She also was invited to serve as a stage manager for Associate Professor of Theater Shirley Huston-Findley's staged reading as a first-year student, and this past semester, she founded a chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, a national theatre honor society at Wooster.
The biggest honor, however, was yet to come. Last fall, Gillespie was chosen to serve as stage manager for the theatre department's production of "Equus." Several months later, she entered the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional competition at Towson University and finished first, which enabled her to advance to the national event in Washington, D.C., last month. Her selection was based on interviews and the organization of her prompt script, a four-inch thick binder that included such things as blocking and production notes, as well as sound, lighting, and entrance cues.
While at the national festival, Gillespie was offered a summer fellowship with the O'Neill Playwriting Festival, but she had already accepted an internship with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, where she will spend the summer.
In the fall, Gillespie will return for her senior year, and then begin to search for opportunities as a stage manager or production manager with a dance company, confident that her experiences at the College have prepared her well. "Wooster was definitely the right choice for me," she said. "I appreciate all the opportunities, which have helped me figure out where I wanted to go and how to get there."