claudia jennings, bright young musical-comedy veteran, looks ahead hopefully to hollywood and a cinematic career
There really is no business like who business -- at least as far as 19-year-old Claudia Jennings is concerned. Since she made her stage debut at the age of ten, in a production of The King and I by a repertory group in her native Milwaukee, Claudia has performed in about two dozen musical comedies -- occasionally as an ingénue, but more often in character roles: "Ironically enough, I usually get to play little-girl parts. But that's just as well, because it forces me to really act."
Currently ensconced in a bachelorette apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago -- where she arrived several seasons ago to model fashions -- the well-rounded thespian has been performing lately under the auspices of Hull House Theater: "I heard their productions were first-rate, so I went to see for myself -- and before I knew what was happening, I had joined the company."
Having made up her mind that she'd rather earn a living by emoting than by posing ("Modeling gets more tedious all the time"), Claudia feels it's necessary for her, at this point in her career, to move to one coast or the other, for the Windy City's theatrical opportunities are limited. "Every actress has her particular skills and drawbacks," says Claudia. "It's a show-business axiom that if you really want to overcome your limitations, you go to New York, but if you're satisfied with your skills, then you're ready for Hollywood. The reasoning is that with a stage play, you get to work with the same material over a longer period of time than you do with a film, so you have more of a chance to improve."
Although Claudia's celluloid experience has been held to one experimental short subject, she feels ready to try for stardom via the Hollywood route, and is awaiting the results of a recent screen test. Not that she's naïve enough to expect a sudden windfall: "Rarely does anyone establish herself in this profession with one dramatic stroke. You have to keep chipping away at the industry." Between shows, Claudia busies herself by counseling teenaged girls at a Chicago Y.W.C.A.; and when she wants distraction from social realities as well as from the theater, she picks up a bag of apples, throws in a book by Hemingway or Roth and hies herself to the lake shore: "You've got to sit down and relax sometimes, since the future will be unpredictable even if you work twenty-four hours a day." True enough -- but we feel secure in predicting a cinematically gratifying future for Claudia.
Photography by Pompeo Posar