Kelsey Jenison from Chautauqua Theater Company’s ‘Noises Off’ talks about clowning around

Reporter’s Note: Each summer, Chautauqua Theater Company opens its stage doors to young actors and theatermakers for a fully funded fellowship. This summer’s conservatory includes 14 actors, four design fellows and one directing fellow. They will work alongside CTC staff and visiting professionals, and serve as the core of the theater company for all CTC shows. To help readers get to know them, interviews with CTC conservatory members will run regularly in the weekend edition of the Daily throughout the summer.

Who: Kelsey Jenison, 25, Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actor.

She started the season as Brooke in Noises Off. Later this season, she will appear in Birthday Candles, part of the New Play Workshop, and Romeo & Juliet. Jenison missed her graduation in order to start rehearsals for Noises Off. In the end, she didn’t miss much.

“We have these company meetings every Thursday, and they surprised me with a little graduation ceremony,” Jenison said. “They borrowed a cap and gown from the costume shop and they had flowers and everyone sang.”

Where she’s from: A proud Midwesterner, Jenison grew up in Evansville, Indiana. Having recently completed her M.F.A. in acting from University of California, Irvine, she will finish her move to New York City at the end of the season, where she will live with her husband, a marketing professional for a law firm.

Theater credits: Recent roles include the Princess in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Lucille Frank in Parade. She was also in a clown show as part of her training with UC Irvine professor Eli Simon, who helped her find her clown personality.

Kelsey Jenison

“My clown’s name is Tootsie, like Tootsie Roll, but only her friends can call her Toots,” Jenison said.

Dream roles: Also passionate about musical theater, Jenison said she would love to play Cinderella in Into the Woods and have a part in A Chorus Line.

Why Chautauqua: Jenison knew about Chautauqua from its reputation in the theater community, and also because CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba was one of her professors at UC Irvine.

She hoped to join the conservatory because of the intensity of the program, which includes performing in shows as well as taking classes.

“I had another job offer, before I even knew about Chautauqua, and something was telling me ‘don’t take it,’ ” Jenison said. “I’ll be damned if a week, or even a couple days a later, I got the phone call from Andrew. I was grocery shopping.”

How she winds down: “I love Candy Crush, which is a sick obsession. I’m working on it. Now I’ve moved on to RollerCoaster Tycoon.”

On her playlist: Kelly Clarkson, singer-songwriter Patsy Griffin and emerging Irish singer Dermot Kennedy.

Experiencing porch life: Between rehearsal and class time, Jenison is trying to fit in classic Chautauqua Institution activities, like seeing the opera and attending church services in the Amphitheater.

“I’ve just sat on people’s porches and enjoyed their company and chatted,” Jenison said. “It seems like such an old-timey thing to do. In California, no one has porches, people don’t sit on their porches and talk, and here it’s so nice to walk by and just see everyone.”

Tags : Chautauqua Theater CompanyctcKelsey JenisonNoises Off

The author Dara McBride

A recent graduate of Syracuse University’s Goldring Arts Journalism program, she comes to Chautauqua after covering Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, for The Post and Courier. A Delaware native, she spent three years as a lifestyles editor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore writing about local authors, musicians and artists. Her work has also appeared in American Theatre magazine. She can be reached at or @DaraMcBride.