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Fear and Acting in West Michigan

Hello and welcome to the first “blog” I have ever written in the history of the internet. My name is Lauren and the first fact I will share about myself is that I have a deep fear of sharing my writing. Now that this fact is out in the open I will move ahead and share a second fact about myself: I love to be scared. Granted, the “oh my goodness people are going to read this mess and think I am a complete idiot” kind of fear doesn’t exactly fall under the sort I enjoy but, give me a horror movie or a jump-out-of-bed-and-run-across-the-room nightmare and I’m a happy girl.

This interest in all things spine tingling and spooky led me to my first job working in a haunted house. That’s right, I traded in the cliché fast food obligation to shiver on the floor of a cattle barn 7pm-midnight most nights September through Halloween. Although dressed in a costume, pounds of zombie makeup, and pretending to be some undead creature, it never fully clicked in my mind that I was acting. Sure, the house was telling some twisted story and my character played a part in that story but, I never thought “hey, I’m an actor”. It wasn’t until a few years later, after having exhausted every other single extracurricular activity my high school offered, that I found myself on the stage of the elementary gymnasium surrounded by metal folding chairs and thought “hey, I’m an actor”. There was and still is an exhilarating kind of fear associated with being on stage. It’s terrifying to create something from nothing and to believably portray a person so different than myself. The audience is a whole other beast.

The thing about being scared is that, for me, it triggers my challenge reflex. As in “I bet you won’t run naked around the pool” or “I bet you can’t eat this spicy pepper”. It is because I recognize the tiny tingle of terror at the back of my neck that I feel pressured to prove to myself I can overcome whatever the challenge may be. “I bet you can’t get ignore your shyness and get up in front of an auditorium of people and pretend to be an entirely different person for two hours” – Watch me.

Speaking of challenges and the things in life that scare me, after finishing my bachelors degree in Theatre at Siena Heights University in my hometown of Adrian Michigan, I moved all the way to New York City to study acting at the Actors Studio Drama School. The MFA program, located right in the heart of Manhattan, was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Not only was I exploring a new city much different than anything I’d ever known, but my professors also had me exploring the deep dark recesses of my inner thoughts and past traumas. Yikes.

After four years out East my husband John (shout out to John Vesbit for being supportive and even joining me in this PCSC production!) and I made the decision to move back to Michigan to be closer to our families. The adventure has been a bit rocky thus far but has yielded many exciting opportunities. On top of teaching acting classes at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, within one year of relocating to the much-loved Mitten, I have been fortunate enough to participate in two of my all-time favorite pieces of theatre: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and now As You Like It. It has been an interesting transition going from the nervous, naïve and somewhat ditsy character of Honey to the clever, witty and confident Rosalind. Strangely enough, I think I identify most with Rosalind and her determination; her readiness to face the challenges in her life with the help of a joke and the right pair of pants. This is my second time approaching the role of Rosalind and my greatest fear to date is not only memorizing the lines – always an anxiety- but also comprehending who she is as a person, right down to her core, so that I may bring her story convincingly to life for the Pigeon Creek audience.

Here’s hoping all fears are conquered, all challenges bested, and all show-goers pleased with this production of As You Like It!

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