Genius in our midst: Carole Claps
Published 1:45 pm, Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Louis Horst, a teacher and mentor to hundreds of dancers and other performing artists, once said, "Everyone is born with genius, but most of us only keep it for a few seconds." That may seem like a factious remark, but think about those who do keep it all their lives. Genius lives among us all the time, whether we are fortunate enough to know it or not.
Carole Claps, who has lived all her life in this area, is yet another one of those who have kept it. She is a Renaissance person, which in truth most geniuses are. She has spent most of her life in theater in one aspect or another, with a special gift for comedy. She is a talented writer, having been senior arts and entertainment editor and supplements editor for the Brooks Newspapers. Her corporate experience in writing, marketing and communications was at the highest level, and she's a terrific fundraising consultant.
The Darien Arts Council, to whom she gives as much of her time as she can, benefits from her talent and expertise in many ways. Yet, with all that, the light of her love affair with theater, and especially musical theater, shines through everything she does.
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Most recently, she returned to performing at Stamford's Curtain Call, in "A Merry Mulberry Street Musical," in which she created the role of Concetta Morello, and the title role in "Hello, Dolly." And that's only recently. She has done more than a dozen roles in musicals, and straight drama, as singer, actress and dancer. Her stage directing credits include "The Music Man," "South Pacific," "La Cage aux Folles, "Follies," "The Most Happy Fella, and "Man of La Mancha" -- need we go on?
She holds a degree in English from Sacred Heart University, and was elected to Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honorary society.
Talking with Claps is fun. In fact, you can get a little dizzy. She is witty, and has no hesitation about relating some of her truly funny experiences.
For instance, she once was one of 10 candidates in a final competition to be the face of "Miss No-Cal" (remember No-Cal soda?) and had to travel to New York, which was great, except that her conservative parents sent her in with two of her aunts for protection. Carole's comment was, "the trials of growing up Italian!"
She tells of once going to the wrong audition, expecting to sing and tap dance for "George M," but was allowed to sing anyhow, even though she had been given the wrong date. Even though the condescending accompanist (and they can be) made her want to run right off the stage, she had prepared "Give My Regards to Broadway," and sang it, and how. Three cheers for her.
She also once considered going to an audition to be a Playboy bunny. She got as far as Grand Central, thought about the outfit with that big white bunny tail, (and probably those ears) turned around and took the next train home. There was a high level of hilarity during our conversation.
Claps's talent, effervescence and zeal for her profession and her life in general is contagious if you're around her for more than five minutes. There's very little she can't do and hasn't done, and she knows there's more to come. As a director, she is methodical, thorough, exacting and very tough. As a performer, she projects her joy and enthusiasm onto the audience from the moment she walks on the stage. She has light, and inspiration within that spills out onto the audience when she performs, and when she directs, she gives that same inspiration to her cast members. It just can't be helped, it's catching!
Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in "The Outlers," that the seeds of genius are sown with a lavish hand, but like anything alive, cannot grow in a barren, unnurturing world. So, Carole has yet another asset, and that is her supportive, loving and ebullient family, which includes not just a group, but a crowd, of friends and colleagues. She returns all of that love and support by lavishly giving back of her many talents (her genius) to all of us.