One of Mobile’s most elegant multiple-threat talents is on the verge of her latest turn at center stage. It won’t be without trepidation.
“I still get nervous for every show,” Lauren Woods said of her stage work with Mobile Ballet. “Usually a few minutes after I’ve walked onstage, I’m better, but I’ve never lost the nervousness aspect.”
Considering Woods is portraying the titular character in the company’s production of “Snow White,” that’s not likely to dissipate on its own. Before the shows at Mobile Civic Center Theater on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 8, at 2:30 p.m., she’ll fall back on routine.
“We always take a full ballet class before we perform to get warmed up and I try to stand in the same spot every time. There’s a whole ritual where everybody tapes their toes and puts different things in their shoes. Then there’s make-up and it all kind of calms you a little bit because you’re focusing on something else,” Woods said.
She also refrains from reviewing choreography before taking the stage. It dispels butterflies.
“After it’s over I get a feeling of elation, like you’re giving people a gift, that’s the best part of it,” Woods said. “I think live theater, dance and music is still very important in the world. Recording doesn’t really capture it.”
Creative outlets aren’t just a sideline of Woods’ life, they’re the core of it. The accomplished visual artist with an MFA from New York Academy of Art teaches art classes at the University of South Alabama and Spring Hill College when not tripping the light fantastic.
Her physical expression began early. Woods said a childhood in relatively isolated south Mobile fed her imagination.
“I started dancing when I was three and my sister was three years older than me and that’s all we did was play dance recital all the time,” Woods laughed. “I would design the costumes and she would do the choreography. We never actually made the costumes, I would just draw them then we would find stuff around the house. My parents were good sports.”
A principal dancer at Mobile Ballet for 13 years, Woods said those childhood memories lend themselves to her acting. At 31, she’s older than most others on stage but is playing the most innocent character, so a “wide-eyed mentality” is vital.
This production comes two years after Mobile Ballet premiered the work created by Artistic Director Winthrop Corey. According to Woods, it’s a showpiece for the multi-talented man whose own more solitary pursuits match her fervor for painting.
“Every show we do, he designed all the costumes himself. They travel, too, since people all over the country rent them,” Woods said.
Even for repeat productions like the annual “Nutcracker” performance, extensive alterations are in store to fit each new dancer exactly. A sewing workshop at the Mobile Ballet facility is necessary and Corey has to elicit help with the volume of work, but it’s all the expression of his creativity.
“It’s one of his biggest passions. To hear him talk about fabric and stuff — he’ll talk all day,” Woods said. It even led Corey to a roundabout recreation of Southern mythology.
“Funny story: He made new Chinese costumes for ‘Nutcracker’ a while back and since he was redecorating his house, he told us he actually used his curtains, just like in ‘Gone With the Wind.’ That or tablecloths, one or the other,” Woods laughed.
Add in his set design and it’s easy to understand Woods’ appreciation for Corey’s production. Admiration is evident.
“He draws music from various sources, then kind of created it out of the story. It’s different than the Disney version and the fairy tale,” Woods said. “He designed the costumes and created the choreography. It’s all him.”
Those wanting to sink into Corey’s work can find ticket information at mobileballet.org or by calling 251-342-2241. Ticket prices run from $20-$60 with discounts available for children, students, seniors citizens and military.
In the 2013 version, Woods played three roles: one of Snow White’s friends, a lead wood nymph and a character in the bar scene. She discovered she was moving to the central character at the end of last season and studied the role before September rehearsals began.
“I work on my own, learn the part so I don’t have to waste time when we’re rehearsing,” Woods said. That involved a couple of hours a day, up to four days a week and ate into time otherwise devoted to visual art.
“I paint on the weekends right now. We finish rehearsals at 8 p.m. and I have to teach an 8 a.m. class,” Woods said. “I’ve been working on a life-size piece with two figures, which should be showing in January in a group show at Spring Hill, but I’m not ready to get into that right now. It’s pretty involved.”
If it’s on par with the rest of Woods’ work on stage and canvas, it’s more than involved. It’s bound to be impressive.
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