All of us at Lifeline are busting our buttons over Elise Kauzlaric‘s recent acceptance into an intensive Master of Arts program in Actor Training and Coaching at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Elise packed her bags shortly after The Woman in White opening and will not return to us until late summer 2013.
First, I have to totally crow about this honor because Elise is too modest to do so. When I shrieked, “This is a hugely competitive program you got into, isn’t it????” She said, “Oh I don’t think….I really don’t have any idea….” Pressed, she admitted that her class is quite small and that no one she auditioned with seems to be in it. Doing my investigative journalistic research, I see that the school holds auditions in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — and only a handful of applicants are accepted. So…. am I right? She totally rocks.
Elise has been acting in Chicago since 1997 and dialect coaching since 2002. In recent years she has been directing more and loving it. She has also had the opportunity to teach as adjunct faculty at both DePaul and Roosevelt and loves that too. Her interest in graduate programs came from feeling she could benefit from focused work in her new areas of passion. The Master’s program at the Central School was perfect — it is geared specifically to directors and teachers so it will be useful to her in both areas. She’ll have the opportunity to explore different acting techniques and theories while also overlapping with the voice and movement departments. (And there’s an acting program there, so she’ll be trying out all her new methods on real actors!)
Elise was born in Louisiana, spent five years in California and then went to elementary school in Anchorage, Alaska. There was little theatrical opportunity there but her Dad likes to sing, her Mom plays piano and when shows came to Alaska Rep, her family attended. She remembers seeing the first Broadway tour of Annie in California when she was seven and finding it very exciting. At the age of ten, she saw Tartuffe at Alaska Rep., which also made a big impression.
The family returned to Slidell, Louisiana, where Elise attended junior high and high school. Here, too, there was little theatrical opportunity, but there was a high school speech club and it would go to a statewide forensics competition. The competition included dramatic interpretations: Elise did some monologues for these and, as a senior, she directed a one-act. (Her one-act won.)
Once Elise was old enough to drive, she was able to participate in Slidell’s community theater, where she was in the chorus of Cinderella, played Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, and was a Ronette in Little Shop of Horrors in a production by a local youth organization.
When Elise headed off to college, her parents headed off to Malaysia for her Dad’s job. Elise planned to study theater and her father encouraged her to consider a conservatory: if she was going be a theater major, he thought she should go to a place that specifically focuses on her area of passion. This turned out to be great advice. Elise chose Webster Conservatory in St. Louis, and she not only loved the school but she also met her husband Rob there. She noticed him in her early days on campus, but they got to know each other when they were cast together in John Patrick Shanley’s The Red Coat.
Elise’s first Lifeline show was when Shole cast her as an understudy for the 1999 version of Bunnicula. Then Sandy cast her in My Father’s Dragon. The Silver Chair and the original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle followed and in 2005 Elise became an ensemble member at Lifeline, where she acts, directs and adapts. And she’s a dialect coach. Did I mention she’s a singer too? And also a dancer!
Elise is probably our most-traveled ensemble member. Family visits alone have taken Elise around the globe as her parent’s stint in Malaysia was followed by 6 years in Scotland. In addition, Elise’s older sister works for the Foreign Service and her duties have taken her to Mali (West Africa), Italy, and Mongolia. Elise hasn’t made it to her sister’s current post in Mongolia (yet!) but she has also traveled to Hong Kong, Thailand, France, and Czechoslovakia.
With all that travel, Elise has never had the opportunity to spend time in London before. She’s been through London a couple times: once in college staying overnight at a hostel and one time with Rob when they were also just passing thru. This school year will be a real opportunity to get to know the city — and she is armed with a gift from ensemble member Paul Holmquist. Paul gave her a collection of “London Walks” that he used on his visit to London when he was doing research prior to directing the play Neverwhere at Lifeline. Elise, who was in that cast, will be able to visit these locations and immerse herself in London history — and relive Neverwhere as a bonus!
All of us at Lifeline are cheering Elise on in her adventure. Our buttons have totally burst off. We look forward to many stories — and we also look forward to benefiting from her new skills and expertise when she returns to Chicago.