“Acting is about trying on a different hat. Life is like that, too,” says Selena Naumoff, a founding member of the Wheat Ridge Theatre Company. “The idea is to challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done.”
With degrees in theatre and religion, Naumoff brings an unique set of skills to the theatre, where in October she wrapped up directing Stephen Mallatratt’s “The Woman in Black.”
Theatre is in the family blood, Naumoff says. Her growing-up years were in Lombard, Illinois, and Phoenix, Arizona, where her father was an actor, her mother a “fantastic director” and creator of costumes. At age two, she and her twin sister were carried on stage in a performance as baby clowns.
“My mom directed my sister and I as munchkins in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at age four. So, theatre has always been a part of my life.”
Naumoff started her undergrad studies at the University of Arizona with a double major in English and biochemistry. She later switched to focus on and earned a BA in theatre arts from the University of Arizona in 2002.
A high school friend who lived in Denver invited Naumoff for a visit in 2007, and she stayed. She attended a Presbyterian church in Littleton, took a membership there and became inspired to pursue a Master of Divinity degree from the Iliff School of Theology, a degree she received in 2017.
“I thought I was going to be a Presbyterian Minister, though I realized partway through my degree that I wasn’t actually Presbyterian. I’m an ordained Interfaith Minister.”
Naumoff’s internship at Iliff was through an initiative out of St John’s Cathedral comprised of Jews, Christians and Muslims that would do educational, community service or dinner events. “That made me realize I’d be better suited for Interfaith. It’s really difficult to hate people you’ve had dinner with.” Her “day job” is serving as the assistant to the director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver.
Her chaplaincy training helps her acting and directing, she says, and has helped her to understand complex emotions, like grief, which had a strong presence in “The Woman in Black.”
“Theatre teaches communication in a way that most people don’t realize,” Naumoff said. “It brings a richness to sermons, weddings, officiating, and funerals.”
Naumoff said she believes theatre and religion to be very healing.
“You can find spirituality through both,” Naumoff said. “Some would argue that ancient Egyptian religion started as theatre. Early passion plays in Christianity were religion but also theatre.”
The Wheat Ridge Theatre Company started in 2019. Before the company acquired their current space at 5455 W. 38th. Ave, in October 2022, the original plan was to do theatre in unique spaces. The company performed a play in a restaurant and another in a brewery. In a LGBT version of “The Odd Couple,” Naumoff played Olive (Oscar).
“When Covid hit, we did drive-thru theatre, Naumoff said. “We performed in parking lots; for example, we set up stations in the Red Rocks Community College parking lot. Patrons stayed safe in their cars. They’d park at the first station, watch a scene for about five minutes and then pull up to subsequent stations for next scenes…for about a 30-40 minute show.”
Naumoff does all aspects of theatre except for costuming including acting, lighting, directing and teaching directions to other members of the Wheat Ridge Theatre Company, which has helped her progress her own acting and learn to receive constructive criticism more positively.
Combining her theater background and religious skills has overall developed Naumoff’s communication and patience, she said.
“I hope that they’ve both made me more approachable as an actor, and as a director,” Naumoff added. “I aspire to be someone with whom others want to work. And occasionally my officiant robes show up on stage.”
Naumoff is set to direct “Mind Games” and another play in 2024.