Clara Weishahn is an Alaskan theatre artist based near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who performs, directs, and creates scripted, scored, and devised works. She was born in Juneau, Alaska and grew up along the Klehini River on her family's farm outside of Haines along the U.S. border, adjacent to British Columbia and the Yukon, Canada. Clara studied visual arts at the University of Alaska Southeast. In 2008, she received a B.A. in Theatre from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Clara has studied at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training in Philadelphia and at the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA) in Berlin.
With her partner, painter Alex Cohen, Clara co-directs Art at Kings Oaks, producing an annual large-scale fine art exhibition in an historic barn and chapel on the farm where they live near Newtown, Pennsylvania. They also host workshops and community programming in association with the exhibition, which usually takes place over the first three weeks in October.
Clara is currently pursuing a Certificate in Horticulture, through The Barnes Arboretum at Saint Joseph’s University and volunteering with the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County.
Clara is passionate about the development of new work in the performing arts. She is an Associate Artist with Strange Attractor Theatre Company, a physical theatre ensemble with members in Rhode Island, Philadelphia, and Juneau, Alaska. Most recently with Strange Attractor, she assistant directed and performed in She Died For Our Convenience, a choral haunting featuring forty singers from across the state of Rhode Island that took place at the Paragon Mills in Providence on May 4, 2019. She collaborated on the creation of The Sea Pageant, an one-day, all ages, all abilities 100-person performance on Easton's Beach in Newport, Rhode Island performed for the ocean during the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Clara worked with Strange Attractor and Philadelphia-based Lightning Rod Special to create Sans Everything, an ensemble devised play examining the future of humanity, artificial intelligence, and culture. The project was developed over a four-year period through residencies supported in part by a NET/TEN Grant from the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Sans Everything was developed at the New Orleans Faux Real Fringe Festival, in Providence at AS220, at the Charlestown Working Theater in Boston, and was presented in Philadelphia by FringeArts in February 2017. In the summer of 2015, Clara created and performed Idle with Strange Attractor, a site-specific production presented in a home in Newport, Rhode Island.
Clara organized the Play Salon, informal readings in Providence living rooms, to promote the development of new plays. One of the Salon selections, Unfortunate Fits by Rebecca Noon, received the 2017 Play Fellowship Award in Playwriting from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. She directed a new one-woman play, Ghost Story by Dave Rabinow of Elemental Theatre Collective, in residency at the AS200 Blackbox Theatre in Providence. In addition to developing devised and scripted works, Clara enjoys cultivating opportunities for interdisciplinary performance exploration and facilitates workshops that examine the intersection of music, movement, and contemplative practices.
Favorite roles include Fay in Sans Everything, created with Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor Theatre Company, Veronica in Idle with Strange Attractor, Jane Lambert in Morality Play and Davison in King Elizabeth at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, Sharon in Lisa D'Amour's Detroit and T-Girl Christian/Alt Writer in The Civilian's This Beautiful City at Wilbury Theatre Group in Rhode Island, Hansel in the world premiere of folk opera, Hansel and Gretel at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska, Laura in the world premiere of The Labyrinth of Desire at Miracle Theatre, and Cordelia in King Lear with Portland Actors Ensemble. Clara has studied classical voice and jazz vocals, and has appeared in several short films.
Theatre credits include directing An Iliad, Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's Obie award-winning retelling of Homer's Iliad for the Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence. This production was later remounted for a festival of socially engaged theatre, organized by Erik Ehn and Karen Gager of the Tenderloin Opera Company. Clara adapted and directed A Christmas Carol for Artists' Exchange in Rhode Island, directing an ensemble of 33 performers from ages 8 to 80. The production was presented in an intimate black box space and at the 1,000-seat historic Park Theatre. Her adaptation sets Charles Dickens' story within the framework of a contemporary holiday gathering of family and friends, where ensemble storytelling and a child's drawings transport the audience to Victorian England.
Opera directing credits include The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janácek for Opera Theater Oregon in collaboration with the Agnieskza Laska Dancers. The site-specific outdoor production, featured 22 singers and 4 dancers and was presented in an orchard to sold-out audiences at Wild Goose Farm on Sauvie Island in Portland, Oregon. You're Still as Beautiful was an original adaptation of Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, also directed for Opera Theater Oregon. The production incorporated scenes from Debussy's opera with footage from the 1961 French New Wave film, Last Year at Marienbad. Clara directed W.A. Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro for the Student Opera Association of Portland State University, in collaboration with soprano Pamela South as Musical Director.
Clara completed two directing internships at Portland Opera where she assisted Kevin Newbury on the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' Galileo Galilei and Chas Rader-Shieber on a production of G.F. Handel’s Rinaldo. She assisted director Kristine McIntyre on her new English translation of Die Fledermaus at Mock's Crest at University of Portland and assisted Tito Capobianco on a production of Verdi's Falstaff at Portland State University. Clara assisted on three contemporary one-act operas presented by El Cimarrón Ensemble at the Audi Summer Concert series in Ingolstadt, Germany.
TEACHING | ADMINISTRATION | PRODUCTION
Clara taught for the Trinity Repertory Company (TRC) Education Department in Providence, Rhode Island. In the fall of 2016, she launched a theater class for adults with disabilities at proAbility in collaboration with TRC's TRAIN program. Clara coaches acting for opera singers and has worked with vocal students at Brown University, Providence College, and Portland State University. She has directed Seymour Barab's A Game of Chance, Samuel Barber's A Hand of Bridge and scenes from Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Humperdinck, Puccini, Massenet, Berlioz, Pergolesi, Menotti, and Bernstein operas and operettas.
Clara currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mounta Gretna School of Art, a residential intensive Plein air painting program for talented and motivated students based near Lancaster, Pennsylvania in Mount Gretna. Previous production and administrative positions include serving as Board of Directors secretary, designing, and stage-managing for Opera to GO! in Juneau, Alaska. For CrossSound, Inc., a new music commissioning and producing organization also based in Juneau, Clara assisted with development, marketing, production logistics, tour coordination, and hospitality for a yearly summer concert series featuring international guest musicians and composers. Clara completed a marketing internship with Third Rail Repertory Theatre in Portland, Oregon and has worked in the capital campaign and human resources departments at Portland Center Stage and as an administrative assistant at Theatre Exile in Philadelphia and at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.