Laura Gregory: One Half of the Phantom Towers
Laura’s a newbie to us. Fresh out of undergrad and full of song, dance and general merriment, she’s combining with Claire Richardson to form the tallest phantoms in Rocky Horror Show history (we have not fact-checked that in any sort of fashion so please don’t take us seriously and sue us). She’s jumped right into the ole Warehouse fray and we dig her style. So much so, that we just had to grab an interview with her.
WHT: So fresh out of school, yeah?
Laura: Yes. I graduated in May from UNC-Greensboro with a BFA in Acting. Go Spartans!
WHT: Yes, yes, go Spartans, but Laura, please don’t stand in the chairs. Greensboro, heh? Where are you from originally?
Laura: I’m from a small town just West of Asheville called Waynesville. I auditioned for this show with a friend of mine from Greensboro, so this is my first stint in Greenville. She’ll be performing here later in the season as well!
WHT: What’s your favorite production you’ve ever worked?
Laura: That’s a tough call. I have to choose the production of Twelfth Night I did at UNCG last fall. The whole experience was a whirlwind, and it was truly one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever played. We had a live jazz ensemble on stage with us which breathed so much life into the already rich text and honestly just made you feel like a rock star. It doesn’t hurt that Olivia is one of the craziest characters in literature, and she was an absolute hoot to play. We performed for high schoolers in several matinee performances, and it was so thrilling to watch them go from grumpy teenagers being forced to watch Shakespeare to engaged and enthralled audience members. All in all, it was incredibly rewarding.
WHT: What’s your favorite part of being an actor?
Laura: My favorite part is the environment. Actor, stage manager, technician, costume designer, choreographer, dramaturg, etc… whatever role you play in making a show happen is crucial, and I love the respect and admiration that we all have for one another. I feel like it’s a home away from home, and I love collaborating with and meeting new people.
WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy or admire?
Laura: Okay, so I might fangirl a bit here, but Miranda Barnett is always so enthralling to watch. We were in school together at UNCG for two years as she got her master’s degree, and I have always admired her performances and her incredible focus and dedication. I never had the opportunity to work with her at UNCG, so I’m pleased as punch to have the opportunity to do so here.
WHT: Person that has influenced your acting, stage management, or process the most?
Laura: When I was in high school, we didn’t have any kind of support in the school for theatre. We read some of the greats in English class, but other than that, there was no way to get involved through the school. I searched elsewhere and found a home at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre and a mentor in Steve Lloyd. He taught me that theatre can be part of my life, and he gave me numerous opportunities to perform, stage manage, and otherwise be involved in doing what I love. He is a huge advocate for the arts and for young people, and I definitely wouldn’t be working here if it weren’t for him. He also makes a delicious jambalaya.
WHT: What is you favorite part about experiencing the arts in Greenville?
Laura: So far, I’m loving just going out and talking to Greenvillians about the show and hearing what they have to say. Rocky has been making a splash here for a few years, so mentioning that it’s coming again has been so fun. It’s an honor to contribute to the tradition and to add our own flare to it.
WHT: How does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Laura: It’s really about being comfortable in what you’re doing enough that the audience can’t throw you. It’s your job to throw them, so knowing that you’re in control and you hold the cards is the most important part. Especially as a phantom, there’s so much freedom and fun in the audience interaction. You have to invite them to come along with you, and stay with them and enjoy them every step of the ride.
WHT: How many times have you caught yourself singing Time Warp in the shower since mid-August?
Laura: There were a few weeks there where I would find myself going through the whole show, song after song, until I reached the end, and then it would start over. It was an endless loop of Rocky Horror. I find myself clinging to a few favorites, Science Fiction being one of them. It’s such an exciting song to be apart of, to draw the audience in, and I catch myself reliving that on our days off.
WHT: How did your research for the show affect your performance?
Laura: As an ensemble character, it’s crucial to craft your own personality and let the design elements influence you on your way. Our costume designer Abby was an AMAZING collaborator, giving us little puzzle pieces to our much greater picture. I found myself looking at 70’s fashion ads, looking at the bodies of the models, the poses, and the general attitude that they carry. There’s an element of freedom in the photos that I think is crucial to me and what I’m trying to accomplish in the show. I also watched many dance videos, listened to good ole rock and roll, and left all my shame at the door. Give yourself over to absolute pleasure!
WHT: How many times have you actually seen the movie version?
Laura: I saw it for the first time at a midnight screening when I was fifteen or sixteen. I remember being horrified and having no idea what was going on. They painted a red V on my forehead. I wasn’t a fan at all. I later watched it with a friend in the safety of her living room and enjoyed myself much more thoroughly. Since then, I’ve probably seen it once, but after this run I’d love to head back to a screening and shout my heart out.
WHT: What has been your favorite thing about working on a script for the first time?
Laura: It would have to be that I never realized that this began as a theatrical production, and finding all of the challenges that live theatre presents in something like this. Particularly, what do we do about the car and the flat tire? Where do Janet and Brad’s sweater and coat wind up? Filling in the blanks with my fellow phantoms has been a blast. The choreography is also SO FUN. I’ve never considered myself a dancer, but April made sure that we’re all shakin’ it from beginning to end.
WHT: Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Laura: I know everyone is saying this in their interviews, but Once in A While has changed so drastically. It started out as a confusing song which I wasn’t familiar with (it was cut from the movie), and with Janice’s keen direction, April’s choreography, and Matt and Chris’ antics, it’s become easily one of my favorite songs to perform.
WHT: Greenville’s shows usually run from three to four weeks with approximately 12 performances. What have you done differently this time in order to be physically ready to perform a musical that runs for seven weeks and over 30 shows?
Laura: SLEEP. That’s priority. Water, stretching, being gentle with myself on days off, eating as clean as I can, and caffeine. It’s definitely a marathon, and you have to be in good shape to do it. I also take an Emergen-C pack every day. I’ve never been a vitamin taker, but I’m afraid if I stop now I’ll fall deathly ill.
WHT: Favorite part about this rehearsal process or show’s progress?
Laura: Getting to know everyone. As an out of towner, I was intimidated to come into a cast of mostly strangers, but everyone has been incredibly loving and incredibly fun. This group has a heart of gold.
WHT: One thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered?
Laura: More of a reaffirmation, being in the ensemble is just as taxing as being a frontrunner, and because of that it’s equally rewarding.
WHT: Any piece of advice for a virgin audience member coming to see The Rocky Horror Show?
Laura: Don’t be afraid! Groove, enjoy yourself, sing along, get up and dance. It’s a party, after all!
WHT: What about someone who has seen it a number of times?
Laura: You know the drill, but look for surprises you haven’t seen before!
WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song in the show and why?
Laura: Sweet Transvestite, without a doubt. The beat is undeniable, Brian GETS IT, and it’s just so fun to dance to. The antici…………..pation is tantalizing.
WHT: If Matt Reece suddenly couldn’t break away from his auction-addiction and refused to perform in the show this Saturday, who…and you can pick anyone in this world…would you want for the Narrator?
Laura: This is tough, because nobody could do it better than Matt Reece, but Ian McKellen could be some serious competition. That spooky voice…
See Laura Gregory on our stage as one of the mighty Phantoms in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!