Welcome to the fourth Saturday of the Flat Rock Playhouse 30 Day Challenge! Since it’s Saturday, that means it’s time to talk about the YouTheatre, an unbelievable educational treasure in our community. This time, we interview Lauren Rogers Hopkins. Lauren started her 20 year career, yes we said 20 years, at age seven. Lauren found her passion for dancing and acting while taking classes at the YouTheatre. As she shares with you in her interview you can quikly tell Lauren’s heart is here at the Rock.
When did you first come to FRP?
I started out as a YouTheatre student in 1992 (back then it was called Theatre For Young People). I immediately got hooked. I stayed with the YouTheatre program all throughout Elementary, Middle, and High School. In fact, if I wasn’t at school, I was at the Playhouse. Just ask my parents….they barely saw me at home! The same year I graduated high school, I became an Apprentice. It was such an incredible transition in to college for me. It’s a summer that I still treasure to this day. I then went on to be a Music Theatre major at Elon University. However, during my summers, I would always find my way back home to the Rock. I have gone from YouTheatre student, to Apprentice, to Non-Equity Company Member, to Equity Company Member, to Apprentice Director, to Company Manager, to a YouTheatre Dance Instructor. Now, my official title is YouTheatre Dance Instructor, Apprentice Director, and Equity Actress. I love that I am able to give back to the place that gave me so much as a young performing artist.
What brought you here?
When I was 7 years old, my parents enrolled me in classes at the Playhouse. They could tell early on that I needed a strong creative outlet. I always remind them that it’s their fault that they have a daughter who went in to theater!
When I tell people that I am celebrating my 20th year at Flat Rock Playhouse, I sometimes get stares of disbelief. That may be because I’m only 27 years old. Like so many others, I came and never left. I’m proud of how much I have grown and what I have been able to accomplish.
My first memories are taking YouTheatre classes all over Playhouse property. We only had one building at that time (what is now the Rehearsal Hall). I took Musical Theater outside in front of the Mainstage, I took Improv and Dance on the volleyball court, and performed traveling shows all over Playhouse property. We didn’t have much back then in terms of space, but we were creative and it always sparked new and inventive ideas.
Who influenced you the most at FRP?
There are so many people that have influenced and inspired me in my 20 years at FRP. I have to say there are two that had a profound impact on me as a young child, Leona Farquhar and Bridget Bartlett.
I loved to work in the concession stand with Leona. I remember it being the little red shack that sold the best honey lemonade. I learned so much in my time working with her. I learned people skills, how to count money, and how to sneak in to my favorite show after it had started and then leave just in time to get back to the concession stand before the intermission rush. However, my favorite thing about working the concession stand with Leona was hearing her tell the stories of how the Playhouse began. I was always so mesmerized by her stories. I probably heard them hundreds of times, but they never got old.
While working the concession stand, I also worked backstage in the costume shop with Bridget. They made up a title for me…I was their junior apprentice. I went on Beehive runs, sewed patches on the Rootabaga! costumes, and was a costume changer during some of the big musicals. Bridget showed me how to respect all aspects of theater. She taught me how to take pride and great care in everything that I did. I remember her as being so wise and someone who I will always look up to.
Most astounding moment of your career/time at FRP?
Four years ago, I became the Apprentice Director and I remember thinking, “I can’t believe they are trusting me with this huge job title!” I am so thankful that they trusted me with that huge job title. I am a big advocate of the Apprentice Program. I take great pride in the fact that I get to be a part of their 13 week journey and help lead them through what will inevitably be a life changing summer. I also take great pride in the fact that we now have a dance program at the YouTheatre with over 100 dance students. Arts education is so important and I am very thankful that I get to be a part of these programs. I know how important education was to Robroy and as we take his mission in to the next century, I know that we will take great care of the foundation that he created.
Just recently, my most astounding moment was marrying the love of my life, Mayes Hopkins. Mayes and I met 6 years ago when we both lived upstairs in the Lowndes House. At that time he was the Master Carpenter and I was a Non-Equity company member. We instantly had a connection. He always made me belly laugh. In fact, to this day, he still makes me belly laugh and I know he will for the rest of our lives. Mayes is now the Assistant Technical Director and our relationship will go down in the books as yet another Playhouse romance story. When we had our engagement photos taken, we had some of them taken at Leona’s wishing well on Playhouse property. We found it only fitting, being that it was the magic of the Rock that first brought us together.