Celeste Lagrange first wanted to be onstage in second grade when her twin brother acted in a play, and she got jealous. Then in high school in San Diego, her love of theater started in earnest. Her first role was as the Queen of the Birds in a modern retelling of Aristophanes’ The Birds, and she went on to other roles, such as Eleanor Vance, a lead role in The Haunting of Hill House.
Lagrange, a third-year student at UC Santa Cruz in the Performance, Play and Design Department (PPD), where she is also a part time office assistant, decided to pursue theater in high school. She primarily focuses on acting, but she also wants to direct, write plays, and she’s interested in doing hair and make-up. Lagrange says she realized she could not be as happy doing anything besides theater.
“I’d always loved playing pretend and creating stories in my head as a kid and putting on plays for my parents,” she said. “When I realized I could dress up and do that as a job, I just thought there’s no other option.”
Lagrange came to UC Santa Cruz because her best friend, who is a year older, had gone to study theater there and recommended it. Lagrange applied and got in. She loves being part of the department.
“A lot of our plays are experimental and politically charged,” she said. “They all have meaning. Nothing is empty about the work we do. We are really trying to express social and political commentary about today.”
Roles she has loved playing at the campus include Lady Macbeth (“I got the role and I thought, ‘OK, I can die now,’”) and Unibeauty in Unibeauty & Her Wicked Daughters.
Along with acting in high school, Lagrange helped with costumes and makeup design and for a while, handled the publicity. At UC Santa Cruz, she also wanted to get more involved and got the office assistant job, working 12 hours a week.
“I run the Instagram and send out letters to students and do general help at the front desk,” she said. “I loved the department, and I saw how students cared about the work we were doing, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Lagrange has also taken a playwriting class, where she composed a 10-minute short based on a story her mother told her about herself and her father, Lagrange’s grandfather, who she had never known.
Lagrange wants to start out her career acting in the theater, and at some point, she’d like to be in films as well. Her favorite movie, she says, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
“It’s purely human,” she said. “Every single character in the movie is flawed and unlikeable in some way, but you can’t help but connect with them. And it’s a story about love, and I love love.”
The rare times she’s not in a play, preparing for a play, or in class or working in the department, Lagrange loves cooking, baking, and being outside — playing tennis, riding her bike, and hiking.
Lagrange wanted to add something else— how much she loved being one of the actors playing the lead in a campus production of Eurydice, (which opened last November) directed by UC Santa Cruz lecturer Noah Lucé — who decided to have two Eurydices each night.
“It was one of the most crazy, wonderful rehearsal processes that I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “I didn’t know how it was going to work, but seeing how all the Eurydices collaborated — because we also worked with our understudies — and how we all made this one beautiful character was fabulous.”