We recently caught up with Atlanta Theater Fan Award Winner Laura Floyd as she was preparing for the opening of Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. Written by Jeff Daniels and directed by Robert Farley, this play opens the 2011-2012 season for Georgia Ensemble Theatre. In this feature Q & A, Laura talks about her roles in Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid, her recent Atlanta Theater Award win and more.
Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid by Jeff Daniels opens the 2011-2012 season for Georgia Ensemble Theatre. What can audiences expect when they come to see it?
Jeff Daniels did an incredible thing in capturing the iconic, Western style so many people know and love and combining it with a really unique twist. Bob [Farley, the Director], the production team, and the cast are working to bring this really creative script to life. I think audiences will immediately be drawn in by the nostalgic style and then be unexpectedly and profoundly moved by Daniels’ simple but powerful message.
What character will you be playing?
I’m playing a couple of roles: Panhandle Slim’s mother and, primarily, his former love interest. Her name is Annabelle. Both women represent goodness and light. Annabelle is described as having “a spirit bigger than the sky,” and she has been a really fun role to study and explore.
How did you first get involved with this project?
Like a lot of actors, I go to a lot of auditions, hoping to land a job. The production manager, Gretchen Butler, called me in for it. I didn’t know a lot about the show, but I love GET. I knew Bob was directing, so that was big motivation. Also, Rob Lawhon is playing the Oklahoma Kid – we’ve worked together before, and I was really excited to do another show with him.
What has the rehearsal process been like for this show and how has it been working with fellow cast members Ryan Richardson, Rob Lawhon and Geoff McKnight?
Rehearsals have been a really collaborative, and because of the nature of the show, it is a really unique process. Much of the show is a running dialogue between Panhandle Slim (Richardson) and the Oklahoma Kid (Lawhon). Geoff McKnight and I appear throughout the piece to help facilitate the story. Bob is such a thoughtful and respectful director. He really is great at guiding the actors and allowing and helping us to make discoveries and new choices. It has been a really pleasant, supportive, and cohesive process and really ensemble driven. It’s always great rehearsing a show at GET with Gretchen Butler as the SM. She’s so organized and provides a ton of support to the entire production company. In fact, EVERYONE on staff at GET is just so nice. And, of course, playing with the three boys is super fun! Sometimes, it’s nice to be the only girl in a cast!
How has the experience been working with Director Robert Farley who is also Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director?
I don’t feel like I would ever be able to say enough great things about Bob. He is wonderful to work for and with. He has a tremendous amount of passion and joy for what he is doing, and that is so evident and contagious. Like I said before, he is so great at facilitating the process of an actor and not just dictating direction to them. He is always kind and always positive and supportive. I think that may be the nicest thing of all. He is truly an actor’s director.
You previously appeared in Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s Beyond the Rainbow. Any particular special memory you’d like to share from that show?
That was just a really special show for me. I have always LOVED Judy Garland – I think she is probably the greatest entertainer of all time – and being able to portray her was one of the most exciting and intimidating things I could have imagined, especially as it was RIGHT after I graduated from college. It was a show I REALLY wanted and an experience I would never trade for the world. I love Judy even more now – there has just never been anyone quite like her.
You recently won the Atlanta Theater Fan Award for Best Actress in a Musical for playing Deb in Ordinary Days at Serenbe Playhouse. Was the nomination and win expected? Did you like performing outdoors at Serenbe?
Both were totally unexpected and exciting! Facebook told me about both. It is really special and a little shocking to be honored along side people like Tom Key and Heidi Cline McKerley. I LOVED my experience at Serenbe. It is seriously the land of milk and honey, but the most challenging aspect has to be the heat, for sure. Brian Clowdus said it best when he said I had “cotton candy hair” at the end of the show, and that is not a good look for me! I wondered what the drive was going to be like, but my mom gave me a lot of books on CD to listen to, and it wasn’t a problem at all!
You acted alongside a talented cast and crew in Ordinary Days. What was it like to work with Brian Clowdus, Dustin Lewis and Christy Baggett?
I’ve just been really lucky, especially in the last couple of years, to have some really wonderful artistic experiences, and Ordinary Days has got to be one of the best of my life, not just because of the material (which is outstanding), but because of the people involved with the show. Brian Clowdus is such a visionary, and we clicked so fast. It was like I had known him for years. He was so easy and fun to play with on stage. He is doing such a great thing in Serenbe. It’s unlike anything else we have going on in Atlanta. Everyone needs to check it out down there. Dustin Lewis is hilarious and super talented. I actually worked with Christy for the first time when I was 14 in a production of Pippin. Since then, the first time we worked together was in A Catered Affair at Aurora last year. Getting to do Ordinary Days with her was so special – she is such a talented and compelling performing – she’s amazing.
What was it like to work with Director Justin Anderson?
I think Justin Anderson is the person to watch in Atlanta. First of all, he’s a great performer. As a director, he is so much like Bob Farley, in that he is one of the most supportive and positive people I have ever met. That is such a great quality in a director. He was so prepared and on top of the material in Ordinary Days, and, at the same time, so excited and encouraging about what the actors could bring to the table. He created such a fulfilling artistic experience for me. Everything I have seen that he has been involved with is amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing more and more of what he does. Will Shuler was the music director and he has to be one of my new favorite people to collaborate with in the whole world, and just in general. He has a double major in Piano Performance and Theatre, and he is amazing at both! I didn’t know people were allowed to be that talented.
Have you seen a play or musical recently that has moved you?
I think we are all really lucky to be in a community like Atlanta that consistently produces pieces of such high artistic value and excellence. There is something for everyone here. I was particularly moved by The Young Man From Atlanta last season at Theatrical Outfit. To me, it was a really dense play that was a summation of the tragedy of intolerance and dysfunctional relationships, and how, in spite of that, there can still be hope for people came together to understand and support one another. Not to mention, the cast was spectacular!
Do you have any plans for your next project?
I have several cabaret gigs in October – I’m excited about that, as it is one of my favorite things to do! Other than that I have Sander’s Family Christmas at Theatre in the Square in November and December, so y’all come see us! I also teach theatre full-time at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, and I will be directing some there later this year. I’m still on the look out for spring and summer projects.
See Laura in Panhandle Slim and the Oklahoma Kid at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. The show opens the 2011-2012 season and runs September 1 through September 18, with previews on August 30 and 31. All performances are at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., Roswell, GA 30075. Tickets range from $23 to $33 and are on sale now at the box office. Call 770-641-1260 or go online at http://www.get.org for tickets or more information.