From High School Stage to Theater Star

Lauryn Hobbs reflects on her time at Shaker, and how her passion for theater and acting has flourished


Will McKnight

Senior Lauryn Hobbs portrays Cosette in the Shaker Heights High School production of “Les Miserables” in the fall of 2015.

After 10 years of bringing life to area stages, senior Lauryn Hobbs is embracing the spotlight.

“I’ve been in theater since the seventh grade. Really, I started in second grade, but I got serious about it in seventh grade,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs played Timoune in“Once on This Island” and Cosette in “Les Miserables,” and participated in the 2013 Freshman Show as well as various ensemble productions. However, she is a prolific perfomer whose range extends well beyond the Large Auditorium.

“Most of my experience is outside of school, just because I like to get a variety of experience and work with a lot of different people,” she said.

In fall of 2015, Hobbs played Susanna Walcott in “The Crucible” at the Cleveland Playhouse. She has also starred in two productions of “West Side Story” at Truenorth Cultural Arts, once as Francesca, and once as part of the ensemble.

Hobbs has always attended Shaker schools but did consider attending a performing arts school. “We have one that’s really close, but Shaker’s not part of its consortium,” she said.

“I would have loved to go to LaGuardia in New York because they are the number one performing arts school, but I didn’t want to leave.”

“What I like about working with Lauryn is that beyond her talent, she’s not afraid to stop and listen and consider different angles, different thoughts, different ideas.”

— Scott Sumerak

While in Shaker, Hobbs has taken advantage of the variety of arts classes offered, including Playwriting, Music Composition, AP Music Theory and Orchestra.

“I’d say my biggest inspiration is just the nature of theater itself,” she said.

Hobbs’ was inspired to pursue and continue theater because it’s a field that defies mastery.

“In terms of theater, it’s so subjective that there’s no endpoint in what you can do, and you’re always trying to get better at it,” said Hobbs. “I think the fact that you can’t master it is what keeps me wanting to get better at it.”

Hobbs has a very diverse set of special skills when it comes to theater. She can do a cockney and standard British accent, and is skilled in traditional Chinese singing and basic puppetry.

Many people have helped Hobbs on her path to get to where she is today.

“Definitely the teachers here at the high school, Mrs. McBurney and Mr. Sumerak. And then I have other great teachers here as well, like Mr. Moore, Mr. Durban, Mr. Kelly and I’m sure I’m missing other teachers, but all of my teachers here have been really helpful,” Hobbs said.

While performing in “The Crucible,” Hobbs missed 10 consecutive days of school. She also missed a week and a half while in Miami, Florida, for National Young -Arts Week, an event in which 170 finalists in the arts travel to Florida to compete.

Lauryn was named one of the 170 National YoungArts Finalists in 2016.

Hobbs still had to catch up on schoolwork. “In terms of when I have missed school so much and when I have so much homework, they give me leeway. They are like, ‘Turn it in when you can,’ ” she said.

Theatre Department Chariman Scott Sumerak worked with Hobbs in the high school productions “Once On This Island” in 2013 and “Les Miserables” in 2014.

“What I like about working with Lauryn is that beyond her talent, she’s not afraid to stop and listen and consider different angles, different thoughts, different ideas,” Sumerak said.

It wasn’t until Hobbs’ trip to Miami that she realized pursuing a career in theater was possible for her, and that she was already on the right track.

“Other people believe in me so that I can believe in myself,” Hobbs said.

“I can believe in myself to continue this, because it is a really hard field, and a lot of people don’t realize how tough it is, and how just getting a part at your high school show might not tell you that you should go into this as a career,” she said.

“She’s going to be working as a professional actor. I have no doubt,” Sumerak said. “Whether that’s what we consider a professional actor, like someone on Broadway, or somebody who’s simply making a living getting live work as a performer, I have no doubt she’ll be able to do it.”

After several years of rehearsal falling after school, Hobbs has learned how to manage her work.

“In terms of my earlier years, I think freshman year, I did, like, three shows at once and I didn’t get home until, like, 1 a.m., and it was horrible,” Hobbs said.

“And then my grades slipped and then you kind of just learn how to balance that as you get older, and the workload gets less and less,” she said.

As a senior, managing rehearsal and school has been easier due to having fewer academic classes and more focus on applying for colleges.

However, as a freshman, getting home after hours of rehearsal proved to be a challenge. “It wasn’t an option for me to get bad grades,” she said.

“It’s just something I look forward to everyday; like whenever school sucks I know I can just go to rehearsal and just do what I love.”

— Lauryn Hobbs

Following high school, Hobbs plans to attend college and continue her theater studies.

“My top school to go to would either be Carnegie Mellon or Texas State for musical theater,” she said.

“They accept six girls out of the 2,000 that apply, so I’ll see. But I think it’s possible.”

Hobbs hopes for life after college range from practical to pioneering.

“Hopefully [I’ll] get a nice apartment, a pug and make some money, probably have a day job, too. That kind of thing.

“Maybe start a theater company one day,” Hobbs said.

Asked about her favorite character to perform, she chose one of her outside roles. “I think Dorothy in ‘The Wiz’ was my favorite role, because it was my second time leading a show,” said Hobbs.

“I was a lead in ‘Once on This Island’ here, but that was a student cast.”

While a part of “The Wiz,” she enjoyed the chance to create her own version of the role of Dorothy, and embraced the rare chance to lead a professional show.

Hobbs said that going forward, she would love an opportunity to play Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

“She’s just so dynamic, you know. In ‘Helpless’ she’s so flirty, and then just that arc from ‘Helpless’ to ‘Burn’ is just heartbreaking, and I want to be able to take that journey,” Hobbs said, referring to songs from the hit show.

After college, Hobbs hopes to move to either New York City or Los Angeles, depending on where her agent suggests.

“I think theatre impacts everything I do at this point,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs tries to keep her theater life separate from her social life, but eventually they begin to combine. Being involved with theater has provided a welcome diversion from the daily academic grind.

“It’s just something I look forward to every day. Whenever school sucks, I know I can just go to rehearsal and just do what I love,” she said.

Hobbs was recently accepted to the University of Michigan’s highly selective theater program.

“One thousand students apply,” said Hobbs, “so I was pretty shocked when I got admitted. But it’s my dream school, so I was over the moon!”

The Univsersity of Michigan program consistently admits only 20 applicants. It also offers Hobbs academic flexibility.

“[The program] also allows me to minor, which most musical theater programs don’t allow,” Hobbs said.

No matter where she lands eventually, Hobbs know performing will be part of life.

She said, “I think it’s just something that you always keep with you; it’s hard to explain, but theater is theater, and it’s a part of me, and one day I hope to make it a real career.”

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