Blocking rehearsals. All actors experience these, otherwise there would be no structure to the movement and physicality of the production. “… And then you kiss, kiss, kiss.”
But not every actor experiences what it’s like to be the ingénue.
After my whopping 18 years of life, I am stepping out of my comfort zone and becoming Miss Laurey Williams in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at Town Theatre.
Theatre has encompassed almost every aspect of my life since I can remember. As a young girl, I sat in on my dad’s rehearsals for 1776 at Workshop Theatre and dreamed of one day playing Abigail Adams. I grew up idolizing people like Kristin Abbott (now Kristin Giant), Giulia Dalbec, Linda Posey (now Linda Collins), and Laurel Posey in each new production they were in whether they were in the ensemble or leading the show. At the age of five, I finally stepped on stage with the cast of Workshop Theatre’s Gypsy as the Balloon Girl.
Now, 13 years later, here I am.
Going into auditions for this show, I tried to keep an open mind with little expectations. I went in thinking that, with my past roles and experiences, Ado Annie would be the best fit for me if I were to be cast in a named role. She’s cute, has the one-liners, and has a certain quirky charm that fits my awkward personality.
In past musicals, I’ve played more comedic characters like Dainty June (Gypsy), a teenaged girl whose mother dresses her up as a child to perform, or Frenchie (Grease), a beauty school dropout. Those characters came naturally to me because they were such caricatures of a person with just some little moments of reality.
It was not until recently that I dabbled in the world of playing the “love interest.” In Disney's The Little Mermaid, at Village Square Theatre in Lexington, I got a glimpse of what that was like as Ariel, but being surrounded by kids and by a very cartoon-like environment, it felt surreal. I then stepped into the role of Daisy Buchanan in Biloxi Blues at Workshop Theatre this past year. Although she was a genuine character, she was still a young school girl, experiencing puppy love for the first time.
After all that, I would have never thought that I would get to experience what it was like to play the romantic lead.
In an audition or callback setting, I try to stay true to myself and let the characterization come organically, but having little romantic experience, I figured that Laurey was out of the question. I went up on stage, sang and read from the script and score, and went home not expecting much but with a small spark of hope.
“How would you like to be our Laurey?”
When I woke up to those words, I felt like I was still dreaming.
Once cast, I felt so humbled and honored to portray such an iconic character in musical theatre at such a young age. With names like Shirley Jones to be associated with, approaching this role was no easy feat. I had to overcome my own fear of vulnerability and simply let the character happen.
I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful team of people to work with, who constantly support me, and offer helpful tips and advice, while also allowing me to explore this world and character on my own. Working with people like Sirena Dib (Ado Annie) and Kathy Hartzog (Aunt Eller) - both of whom have such great talent, and more experience playing leads than I - has allowed me to rise to the occasion and learn through their actions.
“Am I making you feel awkward?”
Playing such a serious, picturesque character is something that is way out of my comfort zone. I’ll admit that after growing up in the theatre, I’ve developed somewhat of an eccentric personality. Although I am very serious about my performance and the process of it, my silliness offstage often translates to awkwardness. Normally, I utilize that awkward eclectic energy, and put it into my characterization when I’m in the ensemble or playing a more unconventional character.
Laurey Williams, however, is anything but awkward. She is confident, witty, and sure of herself. Laurey Williams knows how to make a man fall in love with her without even trying. Laurey Williams is nowhere near Haley Sprankle.
Somehow, throughout the process, I had to learn how to let go of the idiosyncratic nature of Haley Sprankle, and embrace the confidence and grace of Miss Laurey Williams.
As another newcomer to the world of playing a romantic lead, Bryan Meyers has been so wonderful throughout the process. We’ve been able to learn with each other how to portray romance on stage believably. Despite my all of my awkward tendencies and quirky behavior, he’s really been able to hone in on the charm and romance that surrounds his character.
Now, after about six weeks of rehearsal, opening weekend has finally come. Although I never would have imagined having this opportunity, I am so grateful and proud of how far not only I have come, but the cast as a whole has come.
“Places! Places, everyone!”
On opening night, the curtain rose, and I took my place on stage.
It all seems like a blur now, but what I can tell you is after that final bow, I couldn’t have been happier.
When I’m onstage, I’m no longer Haley Sprankle.
I am Laurey Williams.
Oklahoma! runs through Sat. Oct. 11 at Town Theatre; visit www.towntheatre.com for ticket information.