BWW Interview: CARRON CLARK CLEM Is Inspirational
After interviewing Carron Clem, I wasn't sure if I was more inspired or exhausted. Having lived an extraordinary life, Carron now does more in a day than most of us do in a week. Committed to her family and to the theatre, Carron is passionate about everything she does.
Carron felt the lure of the bright lights at the age of five. She remembers announcing to her mom that she was the star of the school nativity play. Upon further investigation her mom realized her baby was indeed the "star"- you know, the one that would lead the wise men to the manger. But Carron knew it was only the beginning.
As with many of us who start performing at a young age, Carron credits the theatre with learning to read and helping her to keep up her grades and stay out of trouble. Put in charge of discovering her own hobbies as a child, Carron remembers scouring the local paper to find auditions.
Also, as with many of us, the best path is never a straight one. Carron went to the Alabama School of Fine Arts for two years, where she found kindred spirits in the theatre department. Feeling the pull between her artistic side and her more conventional side, she headed back to her regular public high school to run track and graduate with her friends and neighbors.
In college, Carron was recruited by the new cheerleading coach because of her athleticism and small stature. She quickly learned she not only enjoyed cheerleading, (which has an aspect of performance to it) but she also thought the newly discovered male cheerleaders "were cute!"
Cheerleading opened up a new world and offers of scholarships took Carron to several different schools. By this time she had dropped theatre and was concentrating on athletics and a "'normal' degree." Pursuing cheerleading led her to coach all over the country. To this day some of her best friends are still ones she met as a cheerleader.
Working as a recruiter took her to Florida, where she "fell" into a job with Paramount Pictures as a props buyer and location scout. What began as a weekend gig turned into a real job that not only lasted for several years, but reawakened her love of acting.
"Honestly, I probably could have gone on to a lifelong career in film on the back end - but being the annoying right/left brain that I am - I also adored the idea of a steady paycheck and benefits. SOOOOOO I went back to work in Human Resources, staying involved with community theatre wherever I was."
One area that Ms. Clem seems to have no conflict about is her family. Marrying and moving to a "small town with good schools and better neighbors", Carron seems totally enamored with her three children, each in a unique way. With one child who loves to act right alongside of her mom, one who is a miracle child with a quick wit and strong determination (and will be in and out of Children's Hospital for months to come following recent surgery) and a third who is an avid golfer and a "heart breaker," Carron speaks in glowing terms about all of her kids.
Add into the mix that Carron was asked to direct THE FOREIGNER as a fundraiser for the Oneonta Public Library about 4 years ago, which was an "overwhelming success" and turned into finding a space, licensing a name and filing for a 501c3 to fill a need for theatre in her town. This was the beginning of Covered Bridge Players. In the black since the end of the first season, Carron recalls "I financed with my 401k to the dismay of my husband. I said if we make it to year 5 it was money well spent. The only truly scary moment was one show in that first season that not a single person walked through the door (except for the actors). I assured the board and the actors that it would be ok - you have to spend money to make it, you have to believe in something to see it grow, you have to get back on the horse if you fall - it looks like CBP is rolling right along and I will get to come back 20 years from now and bask in its glory!"
But wait, there's more! Carron looked up theatres in the Birmingham area and decided to begin the process of getting to know our theatre community in hopes of someday getting cast. She came across Birmingham Festival Theatre. "They were holding auditions for Clybourne Park. I thought I'd spend months auditioning so they would 'get to know me' before anything came to fruition. Yet, the infamous Mel Christian cast me in one of my favorite roles to date - Betsy/Lindsey. She also convinced me to go back to school to get my theatre degree - actually I think she tricked me. She was directing a show for UAB's annual 10 Minute Play festival and she wanted me in a role, but I had to be a student! So I signed up for some classes. I can't imagine what my life would've been without the professors, students and staff at UAB - truly a one of a kind, world class program! I learned to hone my craft, trust my instinct and be aware of the world around me on a very different, very in tune, level.
"I left my six figure executive job, went back to school full time, opened the doors for Covered Bridge Players, kicked my film career off (again) and went back to acting and directing in local theatres. I'm not even sure I can create a timeline that's remotely correct. I live moment to moment and can seldom plan more than a day or two ahead - unless it's for a role. I am directing On Golden Pond at Covered Bridge Players opening in August, performing in Barefoot in the Park in September (also at CBP where Katie Milligan will once again play my daughter - we were in Mr. Marmalade together at Theatre Downtown), filming a feature film in late fall, and have several short films and commercials to wrap up...this is all before Christmas. Not to mention I went back to work in HR full time for a company that is growing rapidly and a former employee asked me to come on board and help (my specialty is startups and turnarounds)."
I recently saw Carron Clem in THE EXPLORERS CLUB at Theatre Downtown and thoroughly enjoyed her portrayal of not one, but two characters.
See what I mean! Inspirational AND exhausting! I can't imagine having all of the responsibilities and projects that Carron rattled off. And yet when asked, her reply is, "I'm pretty happy right now, actually ecstatic. If I see an opportunity that doesn't fit me, I go out of my way to give out names, head shots, and contact info for others. We all have to help each other in this crazy industry! Good begets good and I only want good!"
With dream roles still to conquer, like Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST, Barbara in AUGUST, OSAGE COUNTY and either female role in GOD OF CARNAGE, Carron keeps pressing onward. I think with such a giving attitude, such a love of family, storytelling and sharing in the "study of human behavior" as well as her affinity for Richard Branson's "Screw It, Do It" movement, that Carron Clem will continue to be a "star" in the best sense of the word. I know from this one conversation, she is becoming a role model for me!