Stripping Down and Dressing Up | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Stripping Down and Dressing Up

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Laura Hastings, 25, likes to have the best of both worlds—music and acting. Musical theater is her true home. "The combination of acting and singing is great," Hastings says.

She received her B.A. in music and minor in theater at Millsaps in 2003. "I would have double-majored if I would have gotten out alive, but the music and theater rehearsals were always competing," Hastings says.

These past few years have been quite a ride in theater for her. After graduating from Millsaps, she became an intern for a year at New Stage Theatre. This was her first time to return to New Stage since she was a child participating in their summer acting camps.

They stayed busy, working six days a week from 10 a.m-5 p.m., and when a show was running, they worked until 10 p.m.

"We were required to work backstage if you weren't in a show," Hastings says. Mostly, she worked on props.

They saw different parts of the state as they took their shows on statewide tour to different schools. "Some of these kids had never seen theater before. They were so excited to see our show. It made me feel so good to see how happy this made them," Hastings says.

During her internship, she played the shrink in "Marvin's Room." This was Hasting's first main-stage production with New Stage. She continues to appear frequently onstage at New Stage Theatre.

In 2004, she played Suzette, the cook in "Don't Dress for Dinner." Two men changed her clothes on stage in this production.

"I was a little worried on how that was going to go down," she admits. "So was my mother. But I had something like a bodysuit on so it was successful." The men turned her around so all the audience could see was her back with a strapless bra.

In the 2005 production of "Noises Off," she played Poppy, an assistant stage manager who is having an extramarital affair. Hastings explains that this show was crazy for the cast because of the physically demanding work. They ran up and down the stairs constantly, fell down staircases, and all of the actors were drenched after the show. Fortunately, Hastings did not have to hustle quite as frantically as the others because her character winds up being pregnant in the show.

Hastings performed two different years in "A Christmas Carol" and stage managed it in 2004. "I prefer acting in 'A Christmas Carol' over stage managing," Hastings says. "There are a lot of kids in this production, and some of them have a difficult time listening to directions."

She contemplates directing in the future. While she was an intern, she helped teach some children's acting classes and helped the kids put together a show for their last acting class for the parents.

Hastings directed the musical, "Annie Jr.," and she helped with "Fiddler on the Roof." She was the stage manager for "Idles of the King," "Spitfire Grill," "Three Days of Rain" and "Broadway Bound."

"Idles of the King" was the most difficult to stage manage because there was sound cues, turntables that had to be cued during the music. The whole time she was running around backstage like a crazy woman. She had to worry if the actors were going to enter at the same time.

All the actors played many different characters so they were changing clothes as fast as they could rip them off. However, it ended up being successful, and they held the show over for a week.

Hasting says she would love to join a musical on tour in the future. "It doesn't really matter if it's a musical or a theater production, because so much of the acting world is rejection, so you just keep going to auditions," she says. Hastings believes she has gained a lot of wisdom in acting from the last three years.

"Someone once said that 95 percent of acting is rejection. You have to be thick-skinned to be an actor. All you can do is hope for the best because you never know what the director is looking for," she explains.

In the upcoming New Stage season, Hastings hopes to perform in "The Crucible" and "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." And of course, there's always "A Christmas Carol."

For information about season tickets to New Stage Theatre, call 601-948-3533.

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