Graduating students sometimes describe their time at the University of Florida to have gone by too quickly. Musical theatre alumnae and best friends Lauren Robinson (BFA Theatre Performance ‘18) and Brittany Bennett (BFA Theatre Performance ‘18) had the rare but special opportunity to relive their senior years by reviving their roles from their senior thesis performance of Kiss Me, Kate on the professional stage.
Post-graduation, Robinson was already performing with the Jacksonville Alhambra Theatre and Dining in their production of Annie when they announced Kiss Me, Kate would be produced in the following season. Robinson decided she had to be a part of it.
Coincidently, Bennett saw that they were having open auditions and has also worked with the theatre after graduation for a past production of A Fox on the Fairway. “When I learned about the open call for Kiss Me, Kate, I was excited to audition!” Bennett said.
Robinson was too young to play the role of Lili, who she played in the UF production, but by what she called “a strange twist of fate,” she was given the understory role. Robinson was even more thrilled when she found out that her best friend Bennett (who was cast as a dancer in the show) would be the understudy for her UF role as Lois.
“I got to go to work every night doing something I really love and really challenged me in new ways with my best friend right by my side,” Robinson said.
The two were the youngest members of the cast, and both girls had the exciting opportunity to play their understudy roles, the two female leads, on several nights.
Robinson credits her time at UF for giving her the ambition to pursue the role in Kiss Me, Kate at the Alhambra Theatre and for giving her the confidence to play a different role than what she originally pursued.
“I spent four years at UF getting to play these amazing, [wide-ranging], wildly different parts, that [I] absolutely never felt quite ready for,” Robinson said. “But I had teachers and colleagues pushing me and challenging the mold I envisioned for myself and training me constantly to be as well rounded a performer as I can be.”
Bennett also offers a recap of her time at UF:
“During my four years at UF, I had the opportunity to perform in many Mainstage, student run, and opera performances. It was truly a blessing to have the opportunity to work with so many different directors, students, and faculty members and expand my knowledge of musical theatre and opera repertoire. This has taught me to be adaptable and has made me a more well-rounded performer, which has really translated into my career because I don’t really feel like there is any style of theatre that UF didn’t prepare me for.”
Robinson and Bennett offered advice to students in the School of Theatre + Dance, emphasizing to always show up.
“Don't ever stop yourself from going to the audition or accepting the role or learning the material because you think you're not right for it,” Robinson said. “That's not up to you to decide. If someone tells you you're the best one for the job, believe them. Simple as that.”
Bennett had similar sentiments, advising students to audition for everything they possibly can.
“Just showing up to the audition is half the battle because sometimes it’s much easier to let your nerves and doubts get the best of you,” Bennett said. “Just have faith in yourself and trust the journey. Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid of rejection because it is truly inevitable but it makes you stronger.”
Brought together by the University of Florida theatre program, the best friend duo recently made the move to New York to further pursue theatre.