Taking Center Stage 5

Local woman lands career in theatre

She walked into an audition her freshmen year at Lakota West for the spring musical, The Sound of Music. That was the first time director Kim Eldridge encountered Lauren Sprague.

“I didn’t know anything about her,” Eldridge says. “She walked in and blew me away with her acting, her dancing, her singing. She was not a typical freshman, that’s for sure.”

Come to find out, Sprague had been in dance classes, voice lessons and much more for years. As unusual as it was for a ninth grader to land a main role, Eldridge cast the young Sprague as Liesl, the eldest Von Trapp sister.

“She was such a joy to work with, humble and beautiful; she had everything going for her,” Eldridge boasts.

Throughout high school, Sprague took Eldridge’s acting and musical theatre classes, where she learned how to excel in auditions, rehearsals and performances.

“I was so lucky to go to Lakota West, which had an incredible high school theatre program which helped prepare me for my college auditions,” Sprague says. “It was that preparation that helped me get into [Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music (CCM)] which was a dream come true, being one of the top programs in the country for musical theatre.”

Sprague was one of only a handful selected to attend CCM out of a pool of 800 young women. During college Sprague took a senior trip to New York City to perform in front of casting directors, agents and industry leaders. From that audition, Sprague got an agent and moved to New York after graduating from CCM in 2010.

“Moving to New York to pursue theatre is a big dream with a lot of reality checks along the way,” Sprague says. “One of the biggest surprises to me was just how many talented people there are. There is such a saturation of actors looking for jobs, who are all incredibly talented, and [there’s] not a whole lot of jobs for such a huge number of people.”

Sprague’s strategy was to go on as many auditions as possible in order to be seen by as many casting directors as possible. She says once a casting director recognizes you, they start to get to know you better. Her first job booked was a production of The Producers at a theatre in Florida.

Fast forward to today; Sprague just finished her third Broadway National Tour of Cinderella, a show that’s given her the opportunity to perform right here in Cincinnati at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. If you caught Sprague on the Cinderella tour, you would have seen her in the ensemble or as the understudy of the Fairy Godmother and Wicked Stepmother. She has also starred in the Broadway National Tour of The Wizard of Oz, as the Wicked Witch’s understudy and the female swing, meaning she understudied all of the female ensemble women (eight characters).

The hard work that Sprague has put into her career has come from a work ethic she developed at an early age. When she’s not on tour, Sprague is consistently working on personal development by going to auditions, working out and getting into classes. During her “free” time she enjoys spending time with her husband, Michael Linger, who she met in show choir at Lakota West.

Ultimately, Sprague knew that she wanted to be in this industry for life.

“I look back at my time at West so fondly. I learned so much from Kim [Eldridge]. She continues to be a mentor and inspiration to me,” Sprague says. “She really allowed me to find my own voice and style while molding me and others as our teacher and director.

For Eldridge, after 19 years as theatre director at Lakota West, she’s stepping out of the role, but she couldn’t be more proud of Sprague.

“It’s awesome to see this,” she says. “It is just amazing; although, at the time, I knew that if she pursued this, she would do it and she could do it.”