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Alumna Kimbre Lancaster Lands Lead Role in Mama Mia!

Kimbre LandcasterUI Theatre Alumna Kimbre Lancaster ('08) 
Lands Leading Role in Mamma Mia!

by Kelly O'Neill

The lights of New York City may be thousands of miles from the west coast, but they reflect brightly all the way to the University of Idaho thanks to Kimbre Lancaster (2008, BFA, Theatre Arts).

Kimbre, who makes her home in NYC, recently won the role of “Sophie” in MAMMA MIA!, the international hit musical based on the timeless songs of ABBA. The production opens at the New Tropicana Las Vegas, on May 8.

Though she’s always had a passion for performing, Kimbre was initially reluctant to pursue theatre as a course of study, let alone consider it as a career. Growing up on a cattle farm in Kennewick, WA, theatre wasn’t considered practical. Kimbre sang in church, performed in high school plays and community theatre and loved every minute of it. But when it came to college, she enrolled at the University of Idaho as a business major with a full-ride scholarship.

That didn’t stop her from auditioning for, and getting roles in Directing Scenes within the theatre department. That’s when she caught the attention of Theatre Arts faculty, especially David Lee-Painter, who saw her potential and subtly encouraged her to explore and develop her talent.

“He made me feel supported as a human being and gently questioned how I had come to choose the path I chose,” Kimbre says. She realized her decision to suppress acting had been based on fear.

“I feel most grounded, alive, and most in line with my purpose, when I’m performing,” Kimbre says.
She changed her major to Theatre Arts. While at UI, Kimbre distinguished herself as a national semi-finalist in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan Scholarship competition, was the 2010 Oregon Shakespeare Festival Rex Rabold Fellow and graduated with a BFA in Performance Summa Cum Laude.

KImbre Lancater and Kevin Partridge in Oklahoma!“I have worked with people from all across county, and I think the UI Theatre Arts program is unmatched at teaching you not only how to create a character, but how to support your fellow actors on stage by giving them what they need to tell the story as well,” Kimbre says.

“It has been an invaluable asset knowing how to honor and respect the process of the other people in the room,” she says.

Kimbre credits UI participation in events like the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as having tremendous impact on where she is today. Both experiences offered her the opportunity to expand her network and build relationships that would help lay the foundation for future collaboration and work.

“This is a career you cannot build by yourself, and when you start to build your community early on, it’s not only easier, but you feel so much less alone,” Kimbre says.

Kimbre worked for two years for Idaho Repertory Theatre before moving to Seattle, WA. She was based in Seattle for less than a year before she was awarded the 2010 Rex Rabold Fellowship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).

Each year, one UI graduate is selected by audition to perform with OSF. The fellowship recipient receives an acting stipend and housing for one year, and many, like Kimbre, are invited to return to the company for two or three years following their award.

“This was a big reason why my career went the way it did,” she says. “In the theatre world, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is highly regarded. It’s work that’s respected in New York, and that’s how I got my agents. I was very, very lucky.”

Kimbre spent two successful seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, when she was snatched up by Harden Curtis and Associates, based in New York City.

Patience is a virtue in the world of theatre. “You have to sacrifice, you have to be really good at hearing the word no, and not taking it personally,” Kimbre says.

And all auditions are an opportunity. “ Every time you’re in a casting room, it’s a chance for the casting folks to get to know you,” she says. ”Acting has to drive and feed you.”

It also makes hearing yes, all the more sweet, and Kimbre’s days are now a blur of rehearsals, costume fittings and make-up, singing and dancing, not to mention preparing to move from NYC to Las Vegas.

“I know it sounds funny, but I feel more myself when I’m on stage, pretending to be someone else,” Kimbre says, and for now that means becoming Sophie and singing ABBA songs on a daily basis. “When you get to know a new character you get to explore a different aspect of your own personality,” she says.

“It’s so important that we have programs like Theatre Arts,” Kimbre says. “The theatre is a rare and wonderful place for people to do fantastic things.”

MAMMA MIA! will perform in the newly transformed Tropicana Theater beginning May 8, Sunday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. There will be no show on Fridays. Tickets and hotel packages can be purchased at http://trop.lv/TLVMammaMia, by phone at 800-829-9034 or at the Tropicana Show Tickets desk.