Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Kelsey Mogensen

Actor Kelsey Mogensen is creating the role of Marie in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the story of model/muse Kiki de Montparnasse who decides to take her identity and her fate into her own hands.

May 4, 5, 11, and 12th @ 8pm

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I'm a Buffalo NY transplant actor/stage manager with a penchant for new plays, and this will be my first new opera. I love the idea of telling a story that has never been told before, especially female-centric stories. When I'm not rehearsing or reading plays, I love to cook and do yoga. I work in the Education Wing at Carnegie Hall, and I live in Sugar Hill, Manhattan with fellow cast member, Geoff Pictor, and a lot of house plants.

You're our second cast member to mention house plants! Could we see a picture? And do they have names?

Here is a family photo of our plants, and yes they absolutely have names :) 

From Left: Sudowoodo (After the pokemon), Phoebe/Monica, Aloe Francisco, Sroxlard, and Christophe (He was a rescue)

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Mogensen

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Mogensen

All of the characters in Tabula Rasa are based on actual historical figures. What did you know about your character prior to working on Tabula Rasa, and how did you go about preparing the role?

My character Marie is a model/actress, and she is meant to help submerge the audience into the time period and the essence of Tabula Rasa. This period in history was a very important one for women, having just received the right to vote, they began experimenting with other freedoms they had previously been denied. I had always loved the fashion and beauty trends of that particular era, and it was tons of fun to dive even further into my research.

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What are some of the rewards of working on a new work? What are the challenges?

The unknown is always a little scary, but new work is so important to me, because the social construct is always changing, especially now. It is essential for us as artists to continue to hold up a mirror to the ways we behave, and reflect that in our stories we build. It is a privilege to tell a previously unacknowledged story about the women in this era of art and history, who were so often only seen for their looks. The story of Kiki is beautiful and heartbreaking, and I think it will resonate with modern audiences.

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

My greatest non (directly) artistic achievement was gathering the courage to move to NYC after living in my home town for 26 years. Yes, I moved mainly for artistic pursuits, but I have grown in so many other ways since moving just last February. The city has taught me so much about myself, and how I fit into humanity.

What's the most "New York" thing that has happened to you or that you've witnessed happening since moving to NYC?

As far as New York things, I think my favorite one is when I was catering, and I ended up serving Meryl Streep and Hilary Clinton dinner at the Planned Parenthood Centennial Gala. I didn't speak to either of them, but it was still pretty incredible that those women were at the same table, and I got to give them their steak.

What do you miss most about Buffalo?

I miss A LOT of things about Buffalo. The food is incredible, the theatre/arts scene is thriving, and my whole family is there. I guess I would say I miss the community aspect of it. Buffalo is known as The City of Good Neighbors. People will go out of their way to help in any way they can.


Name a trashy TV show you secretly love.

America's Next Top Model. 100%. I used to love binge-watching the marathons when I was home sick from school, and I still love to binge it on Netflix when I have days off.

Number one life lesson you learned from America's Next Top Model?

Number 1 lesson from ANTM that has carried through every aspect of my life: Don't Burn Bridges. You have to be cordial to everyone. Especially in arts circles. You meet people all the time, and you never know when you might end up working with those people.

In one sentence, why do you hope people come to see Tabula Rasa?

Bea and Felix have created something beautiful and innovative, and I hope people come and experience Tabula Rasa so we can change their perspectives of what opera can or should be.