Singing, Dancing and Adopting Kittens, Laura Hodos is Crushing It!

By Kimberly Dijkstra

Laura Hodos is a well-known actress in the regional theater circuit, with credits in a variety of shows all around the country – “Man of La Mancha,” “The Light In the Piazza,” “Always…Patsy Cline,” and an all-female version of “1776,” to name just a few. Based in Florida, she is also a familiar face in venues around the Sunshine State as the creator of several solo cabaret shows, including “Julie and Mary and Ethel and Babs,” which celebrates four beloved women in musical theater.

Because many regional theaters are non-profits and, unlike Broadway, have season subscribers, Hodos points out that they often have the opportunity to push the envelope and be extremely thought-provoking.

“Regional theater doesn’t get the credit that it’s due because it’s lacking that [Broadway] name, but instead what you get is the same experience, but on a smaller stage,” she explained. “You’re getting a much more intimate and close-up, immersive experience.”

Shows that make it to Broadway almost always start regionally. Hodos was in the last incarnation of “Bonnie and Clyde” at the Asolo Repertory Theater right before it went to Broadway with the majority of the same cast.

“Regional theater is the breeding ground for feeding Broadway wonderful shows, so actually in a regional theater you are getting a Broadway experience before it gets to Broadway,” she said.

Hodos loves playing iconic roles like Patsy Cline because she’s able to bring back lovely memories for older audience members with her performance.

“It’s almost like a mental split screen where they are not only seeing you, but they are also seeing all the wonderful memories of a time that has now passed,” she said. “I say, isn't that part of the magic of transformational theater? I love everything about it.”

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Hodos became a certified COVID-19 compliance officer with the Actors’ Equity union. She was trained and certified as an infection control specialist who is in charge of safety throughout the whole production of a show, and recently fulfilled that role for an Orlando Shakes production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Lake Eola Bandshell, a gorgeous location.

A lot of work went into putting up the production safely, and the position comes with a lot of responsibility.

“It was so worthwhile because guess what we did? We did live, in-person, unmasked theater, and no one got sick,” Hodos said. “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of bringing back Equity theater to central Florida and giving those audiences a safe night out.”

Hodos is also a standardized patient with AdventHealth, which entails acting in the role of a patient while medical students and other health care professionals train and practice their skills. Recently, she acted as a patient presenting a specific set of symptoms for first-year physicians assistants as part of their final exam. She found it to be a very valuable experience.

Furthermore, Hodos did several cabarets, Zoom readings, and master classes when the pandemic closed down most in-person theater, and she has written and performed in online monologue festivals, which have served as a vital resource for actors and theater professionals who were struggling financially.

“This particular artistic director said, ‘I see my people and my people are struggling. What can I do right now that isn’t going to cost us money that we can do to create some kind of content so that people have some source of income?’” Hodos explained. “And it was fabulous.”

Late last year, Hodos was invited to put together a cabaret last-minute at the Gainesville Hippodrome and, through some good fortune, was able to make one of her long-held dreams come true.

“I always thought it would be funny to bring out a basket of kittens and not allow the audience to leave until they’re adopted,” Hodos said.

The video editor/sound designer for the recording of the cabaret happened to also work with a local animal rescue and was able to obtain kittens for the show.

“We had a literal basket of kittens that we brought out. I sang to them. It was hilarious…and adorable, and we got these kittens adopted! It was fantastic,” Hodos said. “I love that we are using our powers for good. It was amazing.”

These positive, uplifting moments went a long way during the bleakness of the pandemic, which has taken a toll on the mental health of performers around the country.

Hodos is thrilled at the prospect of hugging her family again and simply sharing a meal with people she hasn’t seen in person all year. She’s also excited about the return of live theater.

“I can’t wait until we have so many in-person theater choices that we can’t even see them all,” she said. “I’m so excited for herd immunity so that everyone feels safe being back inside a theater.”

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