By Felix Winternitz
Master of Education in elementary education, 1974
Actress, voiceover artist, Zen instructor
Early On | After graduating from Denison University with an economics degree in 1970, Claire Slemmer took to the stage as a singer-guitarist at Cincinnati nightspots such as Zino’s Firehouse, the Blind Lemon and finally The Celestial in an effort to pay for—and achieve her goal of earning—her master’s degree in education at Xavier so she could teach middle-school English in her hometown of Madeira, Ohio.
The Big Break | Slemmer auditioned on a whim for what became her lasting role as the wholesome “Kelly the Ford Girl.” For five years in the 1970s, she performed as a car dealership’s spokesperson in a six-state region. Later, Slemmer became the national voice for the Kroger chain, piped into grocery aisles via the PA system as well as on televised spots. That 12-year exposure led to Hollywood film cameos.
You’ve Seen Her In | Flicks such as “The Shawshank Redemption” (the bank teller, opposite Tim Robbins) and “The Insider” (newscaster Edie Magnus, opposite Christopher Plummer), TV roles include Susan on “The Guiding Light” and host for the PBS game show “It’s Academic.” “I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have made my living doing something I love.”
She Records … | About any speaking opportunity she can make a living at, including cheerful voicemail replies and on-hold messages for businesses, plus political spots, studio podcasts, infomercials, teleprompts and any other type of announcing. Recent clients include Tide, Sudafed and Advil.
Clients Describe Her As … | Clear, warm, friendly, sincere, light, conversational, energetic, approachable, girl-next-door.
A World of Voices | Slemmer “speaks” Boston Harvard Yard, Southern Belle, Appalachian, British, Australian, Irish and, yes, plain Midwest. “Accents and dialects come very naturally to me, but if I’m using a dialect in a serious role, I will study or get a coach. The wonderful actress Dale Hodges coached me years ago when I played a Cockney character.”
Favorite Roles | Chloe in “Lips Together Teeth Apart” at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, “demented psychiatrist” on the daily webcast Onion News Network, and an “insane Cockney housekeeper” in the movie “Lost Hearts.”
Favorite Narrations | She’s recorded audiobooks including Larry McMurtry’s Loop Group and Mary Pope Osborne’s My Secret War.
Personal | She now lives in New York near her 27-year-old son Zak, also an actor. “I grew up as a Catholic, was married by a rabbi to a Jewish man (I’m now single), was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and now live in a Zen Buddhist center. My interest in Zen began about 15 years ago when I read a book by the Jesuit priest and mystic, Anthony de Mello, called Awareness.”