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Laura-Jean (LJ) Noel

As featured in the October 2023 newsletter

- Who are you and what contributions have you made to the organization?

Hi! My name is currently Laura-Jean (L.J.) Noel. My maiden name was Laura-Jean (L.J.) Kearney. I attended SJU from 1981 through 1985. I was a Chappell Player from 1982 to 1985, and served as the Historian on the Board in 1985. I participated in many main stage productions as a Chappell Player (GIRL CRAZY, THE SCARECROW, 13 RUE DE L'AMOUR, THE BUTLER DID IT, THE MIRACLE WORKER, CARNIVAL, and BARNUM) as well as the One Act Festivals and cabaret nights at the Rathskeller (former on campus bar that no longer exists). I was also one of the first honorees for the Hall of Fame for Chappell Players in 2015 (as L.J. Stevens).

- How was the transition from college to the real world? How was life after graduation? 

Honestly, the transition was tough as my mother passed away suddenly just one month after graduation. I will always cherish the memory of seeing how proud she was at my graduation ceremony. It took some time to gain my footing after that. I would advise anyone who just graduated or will be graduating soon to give yourself some grace. Don't pressure yourself with regard to who you think you should be right after graduation. 

- Did being involved in the Chappell Players prepare you for life after college? How so? 

Yes! Actually, it prepared me in many ways. My vast experience includes working as a professional Talent Agent and Casting director in the film, television and voice-over industry for many years. After that I was tapped by the City of Moorpark (in California, where I have lived since 1991) to start a Cultural Arts Center as the first General Manager and Artistic Director of the High Street Arts Center for 5 years. My experience with Chappell Players taught me a great deal about the cooperative nature of theatre, how to market and grow an audience, budgeting skills, how to put together a killer team (production or otherwise), and most importantly how to lead with grace and efficiency. These skills have followed me into many different industries throughout my life.

- What is your favorite CPTG memory or performance?

I was very blessed to perform many times with my brother, John C. Kearney (class of '87), and any performance with him continues to be my favourite! I especially loved working on BARNUM. We circus trained for months, learning from a former Barnum and Bailey certified clown. We learned great skills skills such as juggling, tight pipe walking, magic tricks, stilt walking, beaver runs and gymnastic stunts (2 man tumbling and how to stand on someone's shoulder while juggling!). We created our own magical world with a great deal of hard work and saw that work pay off. I loved that production so much that BARNUM was the first show I produced at the High Street Arts Center!
My most favourite memory as a Chappell Player has to be what I call "the missing pants" incident during 13 RUE DE L'AMOUR. I played Marie, the French maid who brings on and takes off all the major props for the show. This show is a funny bedroom farce filled with slamming doors, mistaken identities and husband/wives/lovers trying to catch each other. Well, someone moved the most important prop of the show: the pants that had a most incriminating love letter in the pocket. I was forced to enter the stage without the all important pants! The look of panic on the actor's face when he asked me for the pants, and I had to admit (in my little French accent) that I could not find them. Brilliantly, the actor playing the husband "fired" me on the spot and told me to find the pants before I leave. In character I burst into wails and ran off stage. I finally found the pants (never touch another person's props!) and returned to stage simpering with them. The actor took the pants from me and I began to wail again as I exited. Throughout the rest of the play my character could be heard whimpering and crying at appropriate intervals, while the action would stop and the actors all looked offstage in the direction I exited. I loved that we all carried that bit throughout the rest of the show, and I actually got a standing ovation for it!

- Have you been able to remain involved with theatre as much as you hoped/wanted?

I have indeed! I have been on the Board of Directors for many local theatre companies in and around Southern California. I have been involved with many wonderful theaters such as the Geffen Playhouse and Pasadena Playhouse. I still get a chance to perform as well! My latest role was as Marina Timofeevna at the Santa Paula Theater Center directed by the incomparable David Ralphe (formerly of Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, PA). 

- Do you have any advice for Chappell Players going through college or those who have recently graduated?

Stay in touch with each other. I am blessed that I continue to enjoy 40 years of friendships with several former Chappell Players. These are the most formative years, and wherever the future takes you these are the people and relationships that you will never forget, that you will cherish, and that will remind you of who you truly are. The work you will or have done as a Chappell Player will teach you so much about leadership, teamwork, public speaking, and out of the box thinking. These skills will be worth their weight in gold as you make your way in the world. It's not about being a "star"... it's about being part of a team. I have lived my life with "yes, and..." as my mantra. And that has made all the difference. 

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