Kennewick native Kimbre Lancaster has traded a planned career in business to chase her dream in theater.
It's a dream that's rapidly becoming reality, as she's spending the year acting with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore.
A graduate of Kamiakin High School, the daughter of Stephen Lancaster of Richland and Tami Paycheck, of Great Falls, Mont., enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow after winning a full-ride scholarship in business.
Though she had parts with the Academy of Children's Theater in Richland, Lancaster backed away from drama her last two years of high school to concentrate on academics.
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But she missed the stage and decided to audition for a UI production -- and her corporate ambitions evaporated.
"David Lee Painter (chairman of the university drama department) told me, 'If you pursue acting, you will succeed.' I knew I had the talent, skills and determination. He helped me believe in myself as an actor."
She transferred her major to drama and was awarded a second full-ride scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in fine arts. She also was named the 2010 Rex Rabold Fellow, the highest honor for a graduating senior in theater arts.
Lancaster moved to Seattle after graduation to try her hand in performing arts before taking the fellowship. She found an agent, did commercials, landed roles in regional theater and was cast in the soon-to-be-released movie Finding Bliss.
With OSF she faces the challenge of a repertory company where every actor has three rotating roles each season. It may be the lead one night and a "two-liner" the next.
Lancaster is charming and believable as "Kitty Bennet" in the 2010 OSF production of Jane Austen's masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. As one of the five unmarried Bennett girls, she is on stage much of the time but has a minor speaking part. Her role is a prime example of the importance of attention to minor roles, as they make the body of plays work.
In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, she is one of two "ladies in waiting." She moves about the stage with grace and humor as to belie her lack of dialogue. The same is true in She Loves Me, the 1957 musical by Joe Masteroff, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, in which she must dance, sing and act.
Dressed in elegant period clothes, wig and hat, it is difficult to recognize her as a mature woman of 1930's Budapest having just seen her as a teenage "Kitty Bennet."
Lancaster also recently took a chance and auditioned for the hit TV series Glee.
"I went to the Fox television website and uploaded their video with the audition details. Basically, it required that I choose a song from their list and that I make a video of myself singing the song. They put my video on their website with all of the other applicants and opened it to a national vote. I received 16,000 votes."
The result? "I'm still waiting to hear."
Lancaster also has auditioned to return to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a regular member of the actors in repertory next year. She has received a callback for a second audition and will know the decision by mid-summer.
If she is not renewed at OSF? "I plan to relocate to New York City. I have used my business acumen to save money. I can support myself in New York and give myself a chance to make it."
*Marlo Faulkner is a freelance writer based in Coeur d'Alene. She has covered the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 1990.