Hattiesburg Community Theater debuts with “A Whole New Cabaret”
Lights! Camera! Action! The Hattiesburg Community Theater makes its stage debut tonight at the Ballroom and Beyond dance studio in downtown Hattiesburg with âA Whole New Cabaretâ. The cabaret features 16 talented local artists singing and dancing to beloved Disney hits.
Lauren Cate Leake, a veteran of the Hattiesburg scene since the age of four, is the mastermind behind the new theater company. She said the idea started to take shape in 2019 after moving from New York City, where she pursued musical theater opportunities.
âIt’s funny,â Leake sighed. âI’ve spent my whole life thinking I was going to go to New York and be on Broadway. It was my total youth, my teenage dream. As I grew up – I’ll be 28 in a few weeks – I kind of grew from this dream and wanted other things for myself. I was just too scared to let go of this dream. I was unhappy because I was too afraid to let go of this childhood dream that I had put my whole life into.
âWhen I got home and really pursued the life I wanted for myself now, it was wonderful. Over the past two years, I kept thinking, ‘I want to have my own business. . I want to carry on the arts in Hattiesburg. I knew I had the experience and the scope to do it, but it took a while for me to gain the confidence to continue. ”
In June 2021, Leake decided to produce a small show called âBad and Belty: A Cabareteâ to test both his skills and his business concepts.
âI didn’t know how it would sell, how people would receive it. But I wanted to test myself to find out if I could actually produce something, âshe said.
The show was a success, and Leake took it as a sign to take the leap and finally pursue his dream. The following month, she publicly launched the business on Facebook and called for nominations.
âI think it’s important for a community theater to have open auditions,â Leake explained. âIt is important to me that this show is not just music or theater students at USM. There are high school students. There is a teacher. There are a lot of people from different walks of life participating in this, and I really wanted it to be like that. ”
She added that she hopes to use the profits from small productions, like cabarets, to turn into large-scale shows that would allow more people to be involved.
âI would eventually like to do a full musical that would include groups of 20 or 30 people so that anyone who wants to participate has a chance,â Leake said.
Smaller shows, however, have the added benefit of flexibility as health guidelines and regulations change during the current COVID pandemic. Leake explained that this allows the company to select smaller, more affordable venues and tailor performance for a more personalized experience.
âWith the lack of small venues in town, I had to get a little creative,â Leake explained. âCOVID has forced a lot of creativity and thinking outside the box. ”
Following the end of âA Whole New Cabaret,â Leake plans to offer six-week classes in different aspects of performance – dance, opera, monologues, screenwriting – and one-day masterclasses that will also include counseling. on the hearings.
Leake started performing at the age of four at a local dance studio. She then performed in two to three theatrical performances per year between the Presbyterian Christian School and local groups like Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera (HCLO) and Treehouse Players.
In college, she studied vocal performance with Lori Guy at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is trained in ballet, pointe, musical theater, lyric dance and jazz; dialects, Meisner’s acting technique, Lessac speech and various vocal styles. In total, she has 23 years of performance experience.
Leake leveraged his extensive network of contacts in the Hattiesburg arts community to find support in his new venture. Organizations like the Hub City Players and HCLO welcomed her with open arms.
âTammy Mansfield and Mike Lopinto have been very generous in giving their wisdom,â Leake said. âWhen I came to them with the idea of ââstarting my own business, they totally agreed and said, ‘Whatever you need! Rebecca Chandler, president of HCLO, said the same thing.
âWe all want to work together to make the arts more accessible in the Hattiesburg area. This is the end goal. I am delighted to be part of the larger community that promotes the arts in Hattiesburg.
For more information on the Hattiesburg Community Theater, follow them on Facebook for announcements of shows and auditions.