By Jane Lethlean

At the age of 5, Laura Early saw the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” in New York City. She said vivid memories of that experience made her fall in love with the idea of theatre. Throughout her formative years in school, she auditioned and performed in plays.

“My first role was that of a bird, and when people laughed, I knew I was hooked,” Early said.

Early is the director of Highland’s Theatre Arts program and a theatre instructor at Highland. While many of her students hope to further their academic career in performing arts, she loves to foster a love for theatre in all of the students in her classes, and while many go on to study in other fields, she would like them to keep the performing arts in their heart.

“Performing arts gives a person a chance to collaborate, to work with others,” Early said. “Those willing to step onto the stage are willing to go out and make a mistake and learn from it, but more importantly, they learn to get in front of others and not cringe.”

She is quick to add that being a part of the performing arts is not just about being on stage. There is sound, lighting, and “so many elements to the theatre that give a person a skill set.”

“I learned how to use a hammer and sew on a button from theatre,” she said. “There are also leadership skills that go along with theatre. I love to help my students find their passion even outside of the theatre, but sometimes the study of theatre can awaken a passion in someone who never gave much thought to it. I love to help them nurture that passion and grow.”

Early has a master’s degree in fine arts in performance. She trained in voice and clown with Dennis Krausnick of Shakespeare & Company, and in Chicago at Shakespeare’s Rhetoric, The Training Center in the Meisner Technique, and with The Second City for improvisation.

She oversees five productions at Highland each year. Through the course of study she provides to her students and members from the community in Highland productions, she said she wants to help people develop skills as a theatre artist and to guide them to “study further and go beyond.”