Artist of the Week: Chris Wagstaff

Posted By Horizon Staff April 11th, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment : 0 COMMENTS

Chelsea Joy

Staff Writer

Perhaps you have laughed with him as he dons a pair of heels onstage, or strained to hear his lines over an audience roaring with laughter. Through his antics on the stage, third-year Chris Wagstaffe always manages to get people giggling, and he knows all about transforming himself for a role. He put on his first major performance in middle school – and he played a woman!

“It was a minor role, but a very comic one,” Wagstaffe said. “It was the performance of this role, Ivy Dripp, that initially sparked my interest in pursuing theatre. I can distinctly remember the moment…I was in a dress, high heels, leggings, a bright red wig and full make up, fake eyelashes and all. It was in this moment that I learned to love making people laugh, no matter how ridiculous I looked!”

To prepare for his various roles, Wagstaffe must seamlessly slip into the shoes of any character he plays.

“The most helpful way for me to get in the head space of a character is to go through those habits, running through all of their lines while in costume,” Wagstaffe said. “Most plays are written to bring audiences to places that they would never wish to experience in their own lives. The actor must go to these places!”

Wagstaffe grew up in Solvang, CA, where he was inspired by the “commitment and passion” of his high school director, Jeff McKinnon, who shaped Wagstaffe’s own flare for drama. Now he likes to focus on stretching his own skills, usually through onstage comedic relief.

“[As a favorite genre] I would have to pick comedies,” Wagstaffe declared. “Having the ability to make an audience laugh is one of my favorite things about being an actor!”

He added, “One of my favorite characters that I have ever played is Sheridan Whiteside from Kaufman and Hart’s ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner.’ I played the man in a beard and fat-suit, all the while in a smoking jacket and a wheelchair. The play is fantastic, the cast was impeccable, and I loved making the audience laugh along with my fellow actors.”

Wagstaffe has worked with fellow Westmont students on various productions.  Like his classmates, he is currently focused on this year’s Fringe Festival, where he is directing a piece called “FOOD FIGHT!”

To see Wagstaffe in action, attend the Fringe Festival, which takes place this Thursday through Saturday, April 11-13, as well as next weekend, April 18-20. Fringe Festival is a collaborative effort between Westmont’s Theatre and Dance departments, working to bring student’s visions to life, whether through choreography, direction, acting or dance. As Wagstaffe exclaimed, “It’s going to be a great show!”

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