Bringing Live Theatre to McHenry County Since 1967

Meet Our Volunteers: Kelsey Waughon

10 girls pose standing in a line against a brick wall
(from left to right) Aly Blakewell, Tasia Gorski, Janelle Graf, Kelsey Waughon, Becca Polk, Colleen Sye, Marry Pawlicki, Brit Hendrickson, Nora Brown, Sydney Adkins in T121’s “Mamma Mia”
How did you first get involved with Theatre 121?

I’ve had a passion for being on stage since I was younger and growing up. I started dance lessons when I was 5, doing every type of dance you can think of, my favorites being ballet and tap. When I was 15, I decided I wanted to switch from ballets to musicals and did musical theater throughout high school. In college as a pre-med science student, the performance options for non-theatre majors were incredibly limited, so that part of me faded into the background. Fast forward to fall of 2018, my husband and I had just moved to Woodstock and we won tickets to see WMTC’s production of 42nd Street at the Opera House. The moment the house lights dimmed, I got nostalgic chills. Throughout the entire show, all I could think was “I really miss this. I want to be up there!!”. After the show my husband looked at me and said “If you want to be up there so bad, then why don’t you just audition?” and that was really the catalyst for me. It took about a year for me to finally get up the courage to audition but I am so incredibly happy I did.

What made you want to work/volunteer with Theatre 121?

It was summer 2019 when I finally had enough courage to audition for a show. I needed theatre back in my life, so I googled “woodstock musical auditions” and information for Mamma Mia auditions popped up. I couldn’t believe it, one of my favorite shows was having auditions in a month, which meant I had plenty of prep time. While researching the theatre company I discovered the backstory of the merging of the two Woodstock companies, and realized that Mamma Mia would be their very first show as the new company, which seemed exciting. It was a new start for Theatre 121 and it was a new start for me! After the wonderful experience I had in Mamma Mia, I decided I’d just keep auditioning for shows because I really love working with Theatre 121. I’m thankful for each and every one of the opportunities I’ve had and I’m thankful to be a part of such a wonderful theatre family. 

From A Christmas Carol, one actress does cross stitch, another kneels down next to her to chat
Gianah Tomczak (left) and Kelsey (right) in T121’s 2019 “A Christmas Carol”
What has been your favorite experience with Theatre 121?

Oh, gosh. I’ve been involved with 4 shows now and my favorite experience keeps changing because I keep having more and more wonderful experiences. With Mamma Mia, the bond that the entire cast had was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like it; we still have a cast group chat and meet up periodically for get-togethers. I didn’t think that experience would be able to be topped, however I must say that being a part of Matilda has given me my new favorite experience. With my background in dance, getting to be one of the co-dance captains for Matilda has absolutely been my favorite experience thus far with Theatre 121. Being able to pick up choreography quickly has always come naturally for me, so to be able to take that and use it to help others – it’s just so rewarding. 

You’ve been onstage for both musicals and plays with us. Do you have a preference on what kind of show you like working with?

While I love them both, I think given my background, musicals will always win out in my heart. I love plays because I feel like there is more opportunity for in-depth character development, but for me, nothing beats singing and dancing!

angry big kid in Matilda
Kelsey as a Big Kid in T121’s “Matilda”
What do you do outside of theatre?

I work as a coatings chemist in a research lab formulating paint! Going along with that, I’m a board member for the professional Chicago-based society for members of the coatings industry. While rehearsing 4 days a week keeps me busy, my nights off are usually spent hanging with my husband. We love hosting game night and karaoke. I’m definitely more of a chill, movie-night-in girl but every once in a while I also enjoy going out to downtown Woodstock or going to Chicago to visit my brother and his girlfriend. In summer I play on a coed rec softball team in Crystal Lake, I guess you can say that I like to stay busy!

As a cast member in Murder on the Orient Express, what is something that audience members might not realize about being an actor for a community theatre production?

I think that sometimes people don’t realize how much time is actually put into these shows, beyond just standard rehearsal time. In addition to rehearsal 4 days a week, actors have to take a lot of time to work on character development and sometimes that includes a significant amount of time learning and studying accents. That was especially imperative for Murder on the Orient Express. Additionally, there are just so many different behind-the-scenes aspects to each and every show including set design, set building, and then figuring out how to move everything to get it to where it needs to be. As an actor in shows I also try to make it to as many set building days as I can. Sometimes I drag my husband, it’s a fun time! I get asked a lot by coworkers and friends “do you get paid to do all that?” and when I say no, sometimes people are shocked. Theatre is my hobby, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s my passion and I’m thankful just for the opportunity to get up and perform on stage. It’s a lot of work but overall it creates an amazing final product that the audience members get to enjoy.

What is a random fact that no one knows about you?

While in college, I did my undergrad research in a lab that used rats to study the effects of BPA on infant and adolescent development. I absolutely loved it; working with rats was incredible – they’re so smart!