A look back at “The Lady from the Sea” at Undermain Theatre with actress Lauren Floyd
Theatre is a difficult art form to break into. It requires discipline, a genuine love of the craft, and above all, an easy-going spirit. However, even an actor with all those traits in spades can still find themselves struggling to land a role with the professional theaters around town. That’s why it’s so impressive that Meadows student and acting major Lauren Floyd has been able to find her footing in the Dallas-Fort Worth theatre community so early in her career, since she performed in Undermain Theatre’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s “The Lady from the Sea.” She graciously agreed to answer some burning questions I had about how it feels to be thrown into the deep end of professional theatre in Dallas, as well as what her hopes are for the theater world in the coming years.
ZK: Lauren, I adore you and your work and I am so excited that you are making your professional debut. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?
LF: Discovery and play are definitely some of the best parts of the process. Thankfully for this show, we had some time in the beginning of the rehearsal process to focus on table work and really taking apart the dialogue. Especially in dealing with a story like this where repression is a big theme (the characters repressing what they want, not being able to say what they need or really think, etc.), there’s a lot of subtext. Taking the time to find out what everyone is really saying beneath the surface is so immensely important, and Blake was incredibly open and patient with us in finding the subtext. The character of Hilde, specifically, also has a lot of moving parts. She definitely has a very distinct personality and sense of play, and that meant that we needed to take a lot of time and risks in discovering the shifts in her volatility, her physical presence, and understanding the very specific tactics that she uses to interact with others. She has been incredibly fun for me to uncover, because during rehearsals, Blake and I got to find so many different possible actions she could take. I just had to come into the room each night and give myself as much freedom as possible to try anything. Then, after we understood the very sharp turns that her character makes, I could just breathe into it and find those impulses in her life as a person. But having that much freedom to play, find what worked, and uncover such a surprisingly complex character was so rewarding.
ZK: What does your process look like, before and during rehearsal?
LF: I always like to go back over the notes from the previous night of rehearsal, just so that everything stays fresh in my mind when I re-read the script. I can also then discover new information for myself and come in with more questions. Before each rehearsal, I also warm up vocally and physically. Then, I like to read through all of my scenes and go back over my given circumstances and “the moment before” each scene. Blake was great about finding the events that connected all of the characters and asking us why each day (scene) was important for each of us. Reviewing and grounding myself in that before each rehearsal was really helpful. That was my general process, and it just helped me to center back into the work each night.
ZK: What is your least favorite part of the rehearsal process?
LF: I’m not sure; this process has been really rewarding overall. Probably just having to work through and plan the blocking– since that does take some time, changes throughout rehearsals, and can feel a little awkward when you’re trying to remember everything. It’s just one of the beginning steps that you have to get through. That, and it’s always frustrating towards the beginning when I’m first getting on my feet and have to remind myself to just breathe and listen. There’s all of this new information to keep in mind, but if I don’t take the time to take it in, then I’m just going through the motions. It can feel pretty frustrating, but it’s something that is always just a matter of time and process.
ZK: What is it like working while surrounded by professional actors? Do you feel intimidated, excited, et cetera?
LF: Of course, it was a little intimidating in the beginning; it’s an incredible theatre, and everyone is so freaking experienced and talented! I came in to the first reading, and I could even recognize some people from previous professional shows that I’d seen. I felt like I needed to bring my ‘A’ game just to justify working with them. But they were also very nice and welcoming, so coming to rehearsal to each night became really exciting and fun. I’m thrilled to be there, and I’m going to miss everyone when the show is over.
ZK: What do you hope is next for theater as a whole?
LF: I hope that theatre keeps expanding and reaching new audiences. I had to take an Uber to rehearsal a few weeks ago, and after I told the driver that I was in a play, he said that he hoped to see me on the big screen someday because he doesn’t watch theatre. Isn’t that heartbreaking? Theater is such an incredible medium for storytelling, because it’s watching a character struggle right in front of you live; beating hearts all in the same room. There’s a special level of connection there. It’s important, and we can’t lose it. I want more people to experience the power of theatre, and for theatre itself to embrace more diverse stories and perspectives as the world changes. We as theatrical artists have to grow with society and discover new ways to tell the stories around us.
“Theater is such an incredible medium for storytelling, because it’s watching a character struggle right in front of you live; beating hearts all in the same room.”
ZK: What do you hope is next for theater in Dallas?
LF: Dallas has so many theaters and offers a variety of shows with incredible messages. I hope that the city keeps expanding and finding more stories to tell, especially embracing more perspectives from people of color, women, and the world today. I think that if we can make the world better, then we have a duty to do so, and I honestly believe that theatre can make the world better. Dallas artists should also continue to take risks and find more ways to embrace technology as a tool for stylization. Nothing can replace live actors, but technology can be helpful in framing powerful images for the messages that we’re trying to impart.
“I think that if we can make the world better, then we have a duty to do so, and I honestly believe that theatre can make the world better.”
ZK: What do you hope is next for the Theatre division at SMU?
LF: The 2019 spring season of shows slated at SMU will heavily feature stories of people of color, women, and uneven power dynamics. I think this is a fantastic step forward, and I want us to keep moving in that direction. We also have some incredible directors who are bringing a lot of rigor into rehearsals and distinct stylization into their productions. I want us to keep exploring that, because the stylization of artistic vision is SO important in keeping stories fresh. We should always be pushing the boundaries of what we can do.