ASHLAND It’s bad enough when one child wants to become an actor, but what about when both your children choose that career path?
For Caroline Clay, 25, and Haley Clay, 23, it was not a problem.
The women, daughters of Tom and Robin Clay, say their parents have been nothing but supportive.
“Our parents so supportive,” Caroline Clay said. “Mom and Dad are the reason I’m still able to pursue this as a career — Dad driving me to auditions and my mom waiting for me to get out of rehearsals and helping me print my resumes in a pinch or flying to Florida to see me in a play. They have definitely gone above. I could not be luckier to have them and I hope I can make a lot of money one day doing this so I can repay them.”
Hayey Clay said she appreciated her parents’ support, too, and noted they traveled to Boston recently — she’s halfway through a master’s degree program at Boston Conservatory at Berklee — to see her in a show.
Clay is the host of an outdoor television and radio show; his wife is a library media specialist at Russell High School.
Both daughters were on stage at a very early age.
“We were 7 and 5 and Dad picked us up and said, ‘They’re casting a play in Grayson about the Civil War. Do you guys want to try out? and I think we both said, ‘Yes, we’d love to,’” Caroline Clay said of the play titled “Someday.” “I think they told us to be prepared to sing and I sang ‘(The Sun Will Come Out) Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie.’ Haley sang ‘Favorite Things’ from ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Their roles were the daughters of a spy for the North. The elder sister said that’s when they first learned some theater basics, like blocking and dancing.
The sisters continued performing in shows by acting with Ashland Community College Theater.
“I was in ‘A Christmas Carol and got the part of Scrooge’s little sister, Fan, out of lots of kids,” Caroline Clay said. “I was really honored. I met so many friends.”
She also admitted she was shy as a child and working with Ed Figgins and Karen Curnutte at ACC Theater helped.
“When you’re put in a situation like that, you’re forced to come out of your shell,” she said. “I knew I was going to (audition for various roles) every year.
“Jim Maggard was really helpful to me in my teen-age years, learning how to act,” she said, adding he directed her in several local shows. “He was very honest with me about the industry and very supportive and helpful with all my questions.”
She said as a child, she loved dressing up and putting on makeup at Halloween, and her mother took both girls to see “The Nutcracker” in Louisville each December.
“That was our first introduction to seeing performers live,” she said. “We really, really loved that.”
The siblings have much in common where their careers are concerned.
Caroline Clay graduated from Russell High School in 2011 and majored in theater and multi-media production and minored in Spanish at Morehead State University. Since then, she has appeared in many different kinds of shows. One major job was an acting internship at Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Meyers, a gig in which just five students are hired for the season.
Haley Clay studied vocal performance and communications at MSU and got the same acting internship as her sister.
“The guy who hired her had never met me and hired her anyway,” Caroline Clay said, noting the internship is extremely competitive.
Haley Clay agreed.
“Both of us were very blessed to land the same theater contract right out of Morehead,” she said. “For both of us, it was a pretty big deal to go there and perform, so we couldn’t pass it up.
“It was kinda crazy. I remember calling her and she just couldn’t believe we would both end up there,” she said, noting she met some actors she’d seen on television and who had won Tonys.
“My time at Florida Repertory really shaped me as an artist,” Haley Clay said. “It was such a wonderful opportunity for artistic growth and personal growth and for networking.”
She said she also became an Actor’s Equity membership candidate, which means she will be a union actress.
The siblings agree the toughest aspect of working in entertainment is known the current job will play out.
“The hardest thing about my job is the fact there is no stability, and actors — even famous actors — you always have to be looking for a job even if you have a job,” Caroline Clay said. “You have to be looking for the next job and planning ahead.
“It’s also difficult when you sign on for something and somebody calls you the next day and offers you an exciting offer doubling the pay and you’ve already signed.”
Haley Clay said that also is her concern, but her sister’s energy and hard work set a good example for her.
“Even to this day, she still inspires me — how much she loves the craft and the work of acting because she’ll be in a show and even when she’s not in a show, she’s reading another show,” she said. “She just really loves the work and that’s so inspiring. It reminds me sometimes to really buckle down and that I have so much to learn. She constantly wants to learn and is always cultivating herself as an artist. I’m very lucky to have had her support growing up and doing shows together.”
The sisters know how fortunate they are to be able to work in the arts.
“There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing,” Caroline Clay said. “Sometimes actors have had to wait tables. Luckily, I haven’t had to do that so far, but I know there will come a day when survival jobs have to happen and that’s fine.”
Haley Clay said she feels lucky her family supports her pursuit of a career in the arts.
“Sometimes I just really have to thank God for the blessing of being in this place,” she said of her life. “I was very lucky to have found a supportive group of people who really wanted the best for me, my family included, who really wanted me to grow and be independent and to grow as an artist.”
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