In the year after graduating from Princeton, Clayton Raithel ’12 faced a series of obstacles. He was living in a new city, dealing with a painful breakup, and unsure about his career plans — familiar territory for new college grads. But for Raithel, the sadness and anxiety caused more than a temporary low. “I think my friends can attest to the fact that I wasn’t me,” he says.
Raithel learned that he was depressed. In the course of seeking therapy and treatment, he found himself talking about his depression with just about anyone who would listen. And because he’s an aspiring comedian, he began to highlight the humor in each story. “As I got more and more distance from it, I would find natural punch lines,” he says.
The Quipfire! and Triangle Club alumnus decided to turn his experiences into a one-man show called Smile. Today through Aug. 24, Raithel will perform the hour-long Smile as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, with classmate Jeff Kuperman ’12 and his brother, Rick Kuperman, directing the production.
Creating Smile helped Raithel to process what he was going through, and he says that he hopes the show will help to destigmatize depression. In preparing for the Fringe performances, he has been focusing on practical issues, such as timing his delivery of particular lines, but he adds that “there are moments when I still feel very close to the material.”
While comedy is still very much in his future plans, Raithel also has found a second career direction. Last summer, he returned to his hometown in Massachusetts to volunteer at a special-needs camp where he had worked in previous years, and the experience inspired him to pursue a nursing degree. He recently completed his first semester in the nursing program at Columbia University.
This year’s New York International Fringe Festival also is home to a new play by John Simon ’63 and his wife, C.C. Loveheart. Jackass Flats, set in Las Vegas in the early 1950s, was inspired by Loveheart’s childhood in Nevada. Show times are posted at fringenyc.org.