For someone who’s still able to check the “18-26” age group, Laura Floyd has a resume that older peers might kill for, and the versatility to leapfrog from production to production. One minute she’s singing her heart out in a musical, and then she’s tackling Shakespeare’s tricky text.
Few local actresses had the year that Floyd did in 2012. She was one of the leads in Aurora Theatre’s much-lauded “Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale,” bringing Bonnie Parker to vivid life, then shortly afterward appeared as Hermia in Serenbe Playhouse’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” That fall, she continued her hot streak as part of Serenbe’s two-person musical “Time Between Us.”
Floyd is as sunny offstage as on, chipper even on a dank, rainy weekend afternoon over coffee. When the Atlanta native made her college plans, she opted to stay local, getting a degree in theater and voice performance from Shorter College and then a master’s in music performance from Mercer University. After finishing her education in 2010, she turned to teaching full time, introducing grade-schoolers to drama and Stanislavsky at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School while performing on the side.
She was on the stage before she took the theater classes. “I was lucky that I worked for the [Atlanta] Lyric [Theatre] the first time when I was 18, while in high school,” she says. She played Ermengarde in “Hello, Dolly!” and followed that up with “H.M.S. Pinafore” with the Lyric. She kept her feet wet after graduation with the “Smoke on the Mountain” shows, which she played in approximately 10 times at Theatre in the Square, playing Denise, the girl twin.
In addition, Floyd has been seen in Aurora’s “A Catered Affair,” Theatrical Outfit’s “A Confederacy of Dunces,” Stage Door Players’ “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and many other local productions. She has appeared twice as a guest soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, singing selections from “West Side Story” in 2005 and “South Pacific” in 2006, and while at Shorter she was cited as “Most Outstanding Performer in the Nation” by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for her role as Maria in “West Side Story.”
The actress sensed that she wanted to be a performer from an early age. “The minute I watched a clip of Tom Key doing ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’ when I was eight, I knew,” she recalls. Working with Key later in “Confederacy of Dunces” was a career highlight for her.
When she heard that “Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale” was getting a world-premiere staging at Aurora, she knew she wanted to play bad girl Bonnie Parker. But she didn’t have a good feeling about her audition. She was “sick as a dog” the day before, she says. “I was calling my mom, ‘I’m not gonna go, I’m not gonna go.’ I didn’t have any head shots printed. It was amazing that it happened. I feel I was a mess going into it. I did it, and [director] Lonny [Price] was there, [writer] Hunter [Foster] was there.” A few days later, she got a call offering her the part.
The musical sold out at Aurora, got lots of national attention and won more Suzi Bass Awards than any other production of the 2011-12 Atlanta theater season. Floyd was nominated for the lead actress award but didn’t win. (She did win a Suzi, however, as part of the “Mount Pleasant Homecoming” ensemble a few years before.)
With “Clyde ‘n Bonnie” under her belt, it was off to Serenbe for a Shakespearean summer. Floyd calls it one of her favorite places to work. The year before she was part of the Serenbe musical “Ordinary Days,” and later this year she’ll appear in “The Sleepy Hollow Experience” there.
She feels fortunate to have been in several world premieres, although it can make for adventurous runs. The day of the first preview for “Clyde ‘n Bonnie,” she says, the cast was still getting revisions of songs. “Dunces,” too, went through structural changes. “It was a live, breathing work,” Floyd says. “By the time we opened, the script was 10 different colors.”
But that kind of energy is why she chose the business — and why she relishes Atlanta. “People in New York and other places are recognizing that this is a place where new work is encouraged and supported and loved,” she says. “More and more people are coming here. I feel lucky to have worked on eight or 10 shows and so many new works. You succeed in New York and you could be doing the same show for two years.”
A lot of her success she attributes to being in the right place at the right time, as well as a healthy attitude. “For every show you get, there are five or 10 you didn’t get, but you have to keep with it and don’t get discouraged. I tell my students that it’s not enough to be talented; there are a lot of talented people. You have to do the work, know when to be there and be someone people want to work with again. That’s very important. Not everyone is going to be your best friend, but you don’t want to be known as unprofessional.”
As with most actors, she has gone after a lot of roles and felt the sting of rejection. “But I will say I am lucky that when I have my heart set on a role for the role’s sake, I have gotten it,” she says. “When I have my heart set on a role because I needed to book a gig or wanted to work with a specific person, that hasn’t always worked out.”
Ann-Carol Pence, associate producer at Aurora, has worked with Floyd several times and readily admits that she’s a fan. “When I see her name on a cast list, I know the stakes of the show will be raised just having her as part of the cast,” Pence says.
She remembers when Floyd auditioned for a musical while still in college and being struck by her musical depth and her ability to effortlessly sing a variety of styles.
“We were lucky to first work together in ‘A Catered Affair,’ ” Pence says. “What sets Laura apart is that she is an accomplished actress. It really helps in musical theater to have someone really driving the story, not just singing pretty. Laura can really wring the emotion out of a lyric. Lonny Price loved her as much [for “Clyde ‘n Bonnie”] as we did; that sealed it. She was captivating as Bonnie Parker, and I still tear up thinking of her singing a song called ‘No Going Back.’ ”
True to her nature, Floyd has stayed busy this year. Her 2013 summer production was yet another new work, albeit not an onstage one. “My show this summer was my wedding,” she laughs about her marriage to actor Jeremy Wood. “He was a senior when I was a freshman at Shorter. I always thought he was cute, but he was touring the world with shows.”
After he moved back to Georgia, the two played twins in “A Sanders Family Christmas,” then both appeared in “A Catered Affair.” That’s where the romance started. It helps that the two have so much in common. Not only is he a teacher, but he knows the life of acting.
“I think it’s great,” she says. “We both understand what the other is trying to do, as well as the long hours and all the angst.”