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November 15, 2012
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Local actress rediscovers there's no people like show people

ASPEN - At age 8, in her first theater experience, playing a munchkin in a community-theater production of "The Wizard of Oz" in suburban Chicago, Lauren Koveleski fell off the stage and landed in the orchestra pit. She got up and continued munchkining, and when the show was over, instead of a scolding, she got praise."I got an award - for best recovery," she recalled.Koveleski currently stars as Polly Baker, the spunky daughter of a theater owner, in Aspen Community Theatre's production of the Gershwin musical "Crazy for You." The role ends a decade-long stretch of being away from the stage for Koveleski, and the 28-year-old is finding that all aspects of theater - the singing and dancing, the embrace from the community, the anticipation of being onstage, bonding with the rest of the cast and crew - are things she missed deeply."I realized I miss this way too much to not do it anymore," she said, affirming that she plans to make performing a regular part of her life.Probably what she misses above all is that feeling she got as an 8-year-old who made one misstep: the realization that everyone around her wanted to see her succeed."Everyone accepts you. You deal with accidents all the time. You laugh and get over it," said Koveleski, a cheerful Snowmass Village resident who moved to the valley two years ago. "You're doing the goofiest things with these people you don't know and relying on their support. You become family, relying on each other so much. It's crazy to me how theater people do that."Koveleski grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill., singing along to her mother's Barbra Streisand albums, with a particular fondness for "Hello, Dolly!" She went into Chicago to see musicals, watched Shirley Temple movies on TV and worked on her own chops, studying dance for five years and singing at home constantly. She shook off the "Wizard of Oz" mishap and participated regularly in productions that were presented by the Catholic school she attended but were open to anyone. Among the shows in which she appeared were "Once Upon a Mattress," "Cinderella" and "Fiddler on the Roof," always taking small roles in the chorus.Koveleski earned partial scholarships for both theater and tennis to attend Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. But after just one semester, before she appeared in a single stage production, she switched from theater to nursing. Part of the move was prompted by practical thoughts of her future."I wanted a more stable career," she said.Part of it had to do with her idea that, if she wanted to act, she would rather go straight to Broadway, and never mind pursuing a theater degree.But most of it, oddly, was her failure to connect with her fellow actors, which led to a significant amount of stage fright."I was not sure I fit in with the theater crowd," Koveleski said. "Most of my friends were outside of theater. I was still trying to figure out who I was."Nursing studies didn't allow time for acting on the side or even for her to think much about what she had given up."Nursing was hard - at least for me. I had to be way too focused on nursing," Koveleski said. Three years ago, she was one of a group of nurses from Chicago's Resurrection Medical Center to decide to take up travel nursing and relocated to Denver. After a year, she made her way to the Roaring Fork Valley, lured by snowboarding. Living in Snowmass and working at Aspen Valley Hospital, she was settled in enough to consider extracurricular activities. Koveleski began recording herself singing and then listening to it for flaws and getting input from friends on ways to improve. Her first attempts to break into local theater came up short: She was late signing up for an audition for Aspen Community Theatre's production of "Evita" last year and took a job backstage helping out with hair. She auditioned for Theatre Aspen's "Avenue Q" but didn't get a part. Finally, she landed a role for a staged reading of the new play "Hope & Gravity" at this past summer's Aspen Fringe Festival.Auditioning for "Crazy for You," Koveleski was optimistic despite her absence from the theater and her past feelings of stage fright."I'm feeling more comfortable with myself," she said. "And I'm confident that I know this stuff. Confident that I'm good.""Crazy for You" - the story of a 1930s New York socialite, Bobby Child (played by John Goss), who wants to be a dancer and ends up staging shows at a fading Nevada town and falling for the town's one available girl (Koveleski's Polly) - is hitting all the marks for Koveleski."It's a great mix of everything," she said, adding that her wish list of future shows is topped by "Sweeney Todd" and "Rent.""There's tap dancing, regular dancing, romance. There's acting. And there are all these great songs that everybody knows, that I get to sing," she said.Koveleski is impressed by the talent level surrounding her. "It's like a mini-Broadway here," she said. "Have you noticed that? Everyone is so good."That expertise has put Koveleski at ease."I'm just comfortable up there," she said. "I think it has a lot to do with John Goss. He's amazing, and he always makes me feel comfortable. I'm surprised that I'm not that scared. I have just the right amount of nervousness."stewart@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Nov 15, 2012 06:14AM Published Nov 15, 2012 12:53AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.