Claire Shea: A shy girl with a big voice


Senior Claire Shea

Kayla Chavier, Features Editor

Class actress, lead in Young Frankenstein, and singer of the national anthem at the spirit rally, Claire Shea has become a star at Westford Academy.  Her voice has been heard reverberating in the auditorium on numerous occasions, and her passion for music and performing has never faltered.  Despite her immense success, she remains quietly determined, not boisterous. For those who know her well, she has been shyly magnificent since she was a little girl.

Shea’s roots in singing derive from a musical family.  Her father writes songs and her mom was always in the church choir

“My family’s always been pretty musical.  My dad actually writes songs, which not many people know about, […] and my mom was always in the church choir and her senior musical,” Shea said.

Shea’s father can attest to her life-long passion for performing.

“Claire has always liked singing and singing in shows because it involves singing with other people, each with their own part. I think that the culmination of her singing and acting career occurred in the fall when she got to play the lead actress in Young Frankenstein, and that was the best example I think of her sharing with the world her talent,” Brendan Shea said.

Shea went into detail about her childhood and how her musical household meant that she was always dancing around the house and listening to Bruce Springsteen.  However, she didn’t get her official start in the performing arts until she joined the Summer School for the Performing Arts.

“I [thought the SSPA] sounded pretty cool, and I didn’t really have the vehicle to show anyone [my music],” Shea said.

Shea has attended the SSPA every year since she was in elementary school and she is now a counselor for children.  She utilizes her experience and knowledge to teach them music.

“The end goal not necessarily is the performance. It’s getting there. All of the counselors were always really supportive […] and they were always telling you [how] to improve but in the nicest way possible. […] I think I’d go back for the people and just the music,” Shea said.

From SSPA, there was no question as to whether or not Shea would participate in Westford Academy Theater Arts.

“The camp is pretty much WATA. […] It’s kind of like a funnel to Westford Academy Theater Arts. Mr. Towers runs [SSPA], so I’ve known Mr. Towers since I was in fifth grade, so I did not question [joining WATA],” Shea said.

This “funnel” has created so many opportunities for Shea, and WATA has become a sort of family for her, with theater arts teacher Mike Towers at the forefront of it all.

“Sometimes I see him more than my own dad. […] I never really got to know him until this year, [but] he’s like an uncle to me. He’s really supportive of everyone. He’d always explain why things would happen [and] he’s always been really uplifting. I know I can talk to him anytime I want,” Shea said.

Shea appreciates Towers’ dependability, but she hasn’t opened herself up until this year because she has always kept to herself.

“I’ve always been shy and I’ve always kept to myself. I would just keep going on stage and [Towers] would always encourage me to take these parts and a huge thing in theater is risk taking, he always says that,” Shea said.

Towers would continuously stress to Shea that mistakes are human, and improvement is always possible.  She has never felt the need to stop herself because of failure

“The whole mentality that he has created in the department has allowed me to let go a little bit.  Not everyone has to like me, and I don’t have to like everyone, but I have to get along with everyone. And it made me feel that I could be myself and I didn’t have to be a people pleaser. […] If people don’t like you for you, they’re not worth being around,” Shea said.

Towers and Shea have experienced a lengthy journey together.  Towers has known Shea for seven years and they have worked together for over fifteen productions.

“What always mesmerized me about Claire was her wide gaze, her eyes.  I can remember describing her like a nocturnal animal because her gaze was always so wide. Just like the nocturnal animal, to not miss one bit of light, and that is how I still to this day see her.   […] She has developed a tremendous sense of herself and has confidence in herself as a woman, as a thinker, as an artist, as a person, but the childlike qualities of wonder and curiosity are still very present in her, and perhaps some still think that she is shy, but I would assure you that she is more filled with wonder and awe of the things that surround her than she is shy,” Towers said.

Towers’ explanation of Shea’s shyness, as simply observing the world around her, is possibly the cause of her ability to connect with the different characters that she portrays and interacts with onstage.

“You meet a lot of characters in plays too that are applicable to people in your real life and you get to know why, because you get inside the characters’ heads. […] You understand why people are the way they are,”Shea said.

Shea has learned much in her experience at WATA, but she explains that the nerves never really go away.

“It’s really nerve-racking, especially on Friday nights when you could have seven hundred people in the audience. […] I’d always get really nervous before, but as soon as I go on [I] just keep going and you have your partners and if you miss a line they’ll catch you. […] You just respond with the people and then the show is over and you feel like you’ve been on for five minutes but you’ve been on for two hours,” Shea said.

Shea comments that one of her most nerve-racking experiences was when she sang the National Anthem.

“Honestly that’s probably the most nervous that I’ve been for a performance ever,” Shea said.

She felt the pressure to be a role model and sing this complicated song, but in the end, despite the nerves and sigh of relief when it ended, she appreciates the experience.

“It was a good experience, I’m glad I did it,”Shea said.

Furthermore, Shea reflects on her reaction to being nominated 2016 Class Actress.

“You shouldn’t need validation from people for your art and for who you are, but it’s always really nice when you get that recognition.  […] And success is always great but you should never be after that.  It should just be a product of who you are and you should get things because you deserve to get things and because you’re right for the part,” Shea said.

To hear even more from Claire Shea, listen to the award winning podcast here.