Meet Lauren Bartelt: aspiring actress

As You Like It, the result of an interim theatre class, drew to a close on Saturday and won over St. Olaf audiences with its unique presentation: a video in the first act and free seating on the stage in the second.

Theatre major Lauren Bartelt ’12, also an Ellingson JC and a Chapel Choir singer, rocked not only her role as Rosalind in the production, but also everything from men’s pants and a neon-plumed hat to a corset and a flowery dress. Her Campus St. Olaf sat down with this future star to hear more about her journey as an actress. Make sure to grab an autograph while you can!

Her Campus St. Olaf: When did you start acting?
Lauren Bartelt: I started acting when I was very, very young, and I’ve been acting at St. Olaf since my freshman year. I started out in really tiny parts, so this year has been great. I’ve gotten to play some really amazing women, and I’m very lucky to have had these opportunities.
HC: Are you going to keep acting after college?
LB: I want to be a professional actor; that’s my goal, and I’ve always taken it really seriously. Right now I’m starting to think about auditioning for MFA programs in about a year. I have a lot of work to do before then, but we’ll see what happens. Right now it’s just my hobby, but every time I’m in a show, I’m like, “I can’t imagine getting paid to do this!”
HC: What made you decide to come to a liberal arts school?
LB: This is actually the only school I applied to. My parents both went here, and I wasn’t one of those “Ole freak” kids – not that that’s a bad thing – but I visited for the first time my sophomore year of high school, so it wasn’t like I was one of those little kids teetering around here. And my parents didn’t push me, but I’m really attached to my family, so I like to be close to home. I also couldn’t bear the thought of giving up liberal arts classes right away. I think it’s really important to be well-rounded as an actor. I’m passionate about a lot of different subject areas, and I love that theatre can tie all of them together because when you’re playing a role, there’s so much research involved. It’s great to have a base of knowledge in other things because I can just draw from that. I feel like theatre has tranferrable skills too, like problem-solving and communication, so if I change my mind and want to do something else, I’m not screwed!
HC: Are you going to stay in the cities after you graduate?
LB: That’s tough – I don’t know. Recently I’ve been wanting to break away a little bit. There’s a really great theatre community in the Twin Cities, but just because I’ve always lived in the Cities, I want to break away a little bit, which is why I’m looking at graduate programs in other parts of the country. It’d be nice to spend a few years somewhere else. But Minnesota is home, and I’d love to come back and be a professor at the end of my acting career! I think that’s the strongest part of St. Olaf’s theatre program: the professors. They are just such great mentors to me, and I’m so thankful that they are always available for me to bop into their offices with a question. I think part of the nature of that is how closely we work together in the theater. The theatre community here is almost like having a company. We know each other pretty well!
HC: How did you like being in As You Like It?
LB: It was my favorite show I’ve been in to date, and my favorite role. That was my first Shakespeare, and the first time I’d worked with Dona Freeman as a director. What was really cool about the interim experience was that you got to take ownership in more than just your acting role. I worked on publicity and did a little bit of props and costumes. And it was just an incredible role – like, wow! I’m going to miss Rosalind. She’s such a smart, clever woman. I think the play is about the power that she gains through disguise. There were also themes of leaving home, leaving a familiar world, self-exploration, which really resonate on a college campus. I learned a lot about myself through the process.
HC: Was it more difficult to connect with this character because she’s from a 400-year-old play?
LB: I don’t think so – she’s spunky! I think things like infatuation and love at first sight aren’t necessarily as antiquated as it seems. The idea of feeling that you need to hide behind something in order to reveal something of yourself I think everyone experiences, too. Rosalind’s relationship with Celia is also quite contemporary. Their relationship kind of dissolves when Orlando comes into the picture, and it’s sad! It still happens: the boy comes into your life, and you want to say that friends are the most important thing, but you get preoccupied. It’s so human. And the language itself got easier to wrap my mind around. We spent a lot of time really combing through the scenes and figuring out exactly the nuances of what they mean. By the end, I almost started thinking in that language!
HC: What was it like acting in film?
LB: That was a first for me. It happened so early in the process, and that was difficult because I didn’t have much time to let the character evolve. It was stressful to know that I was committing to this performance after so few rehearsals. But I had a blast filming it! I spent 14 hours in a corset and I couldn’t breathe, but it was thrilling to be working in that way. It’s such a different style of acting because you can be subtle. My vocal work has always been my strong suit, but film acting is more about facial expression and tiny little details.
HC: What was it like being surrounded by the audience?
LB: It was exciting; I’ve never done something like that before. The biggest challenge was probably projecting and knowing that there are people behind you at all times. We kind of expected the audience to move around and engage the space a lot more, and we thought the center of the stage might be filled with people standing in it and that we’d have to weave around more. We made it work, though. But on Friday night, I came down the stairs and tripped and fell forward into the laps of like five people, and somebody screamed. I was like, “Oh, God, I just broke someone’s leg – what do we do?” So I just stood up and said, “I am so sorry!” Everyone just laughed, so I was like, “I guess I’ll just go on!” I felt like I had to spend the rest of the performance earning people’s trust back, because I would approach a group of people and the looks on their faces were like, “Are you going to kick me?”
HC: What is your dream role?
LB: I’ve gotten to play a lot of great roles – I’ve been really lucky, and I got to play a lot of great musical theatre roles. I’d love to be able to play Rosalind again. But I think it’s less about roles for me than the kind of work I’d like to do. Theatre for me is about engaging the audience and telling stories, so I want to play roles that make people think and have good stories behind them.
HC: What’s is the best costume you’ve ever gotten to wear?
LB: As You Like It was really fun because I got to wear britches and dress like a man, and the coat was awesome because it was rented from the Guthrie costume shop, but I was also in that corset for 14 hours! In middle school I got to play Anna in The King and I, so I got to wear a giant hoop skirt and a dress that was hand-sewn to fit me.
HC: Fill in these sentences:
St. Olaf men are…either already snatched up or not interested!
St. Olaf women are…more evolved than the men.
HC: What advice do you have for St. Olaf women?
LB: The thing about St. Olaf is that it’s hard feeling so average among so many incredible people. Just realize where you’re unique and what makes you unique. It took me a long time to find my place in the puzzle here, and I spent a lot of my freshman year comparing myself to upperclassmen. I had impossibly high standards for myself. So try not to compare and realize that everyone here has different gifts and special qualities that they bring. You are a standout no matter what because you’re you – it sounds so campy, but it’s true. There’s a place for everyone to use their talents here.