Little lady, huge personality
Some people are just born performers. Extravagant, grandiose and dramatic — in a good way, of course.
That's definitely true for Lake Oswego's Lauren Clark. And it's also true that great things come in small packages, as the petite, 8-year-old thespian will show you. She might be tiny, but she's brimming with an inexhaustible energy that she's now learning to channel on stage.
Lauren is one of several children featured in Portland Playhouse's upcoming production of "Scarlet," a rendition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's puritan classic, "The Scarlet Letter." Set in mid-17th century Boston, the play centers around Hester Prynne, who is condemned by her community and fights to build a life for herself and her daughter.
Funny, sweet and heroic, the new musical features Rebecca Teran, Isaac Lamb, Susannah Mars, Darius Pierce, Dana Green and many other Portland favorites. Lauren plays the role of Abigail Martin, but this isn't her first go-around with Portland Playhouse.
In fact, she's coming off a role in the company's version of "A Christmas Carol," which was performed in December.
"I like acting because it helps me read," Lauren says. "I also like making new friends and having fun."
As far as child actors go, Lauren has her priorities straight. She boasts that time spent with friends on set is by far her favorite part being involved in the productions at Portland Playhouse, and she's creating friendships that she hopes will last far beyond the curtain call.
Lauren's infatuation with performing started from a very young age, according to her mom, PJ Clark. Clark recalls being in the grocery store when Lauren was just a year and a half old, barely able to speak but singing to strangers in the isles of the store.
"She's had this attitude of, 'Let me perform,'" Clark says. "Some people are just very comfortable entertaining."
Clark says she's been thrilled for her daughter to work with Portland Playhouse, and particularly with Creative Director Brian Weaver — director of both "A Christmas Carol" and "Scarlet" — whom she characterized as particularly suited to direct children because he has small kids of his own.
Lauren's wild ride with Portland Playhouse began last April, when she was asked to audition by the Portland Area Theater Alliance, where several directors from different companies were waiting in the audience to scout fresh talent. Weaver was there, and he asked Lauren to be part of his production of "A Christmas Carol."
"I could not enjoy (Portland Playhouse) more," Clark says. "When she first started, I wasn't sure if she was quite ready. She was a bit squirrelly, so it was a great incentive for her to focus her energy into becoming a performer."
Acting isn't Lauren's only pastime. She's involved in dance, and competes on a regular basis. She's also a seasoned model, with gigs ranging from the 2017 Portland Fashion Week to Fashion Kids Magazine.
As she prepares for the upcoming production of "Scarlet" (which opens Friday, March 9), Lauren is hard at work, memorizing her lines and blocking. Despite living with dyslexia, Lauren says it's pretty easy to keep everything in her head. And in fact, theater is helping her with her schoolwork by improving her reading and comprehension skills, Clark says.
"Being in a play is great for kids with dyslexia because they're listening to the language instead of just reading it. You're verbalizing and memorizing movements. It makes you appreciate the words differently," Clark explains.
Looking toward the future, Lauren says she envisions becoming a professional actress — as if she isn't already! — and hopes to continue using her skills to connect with audiences, friends and family. One facet of her role in "Scarlet" requires her to pretend to be mean to one of her friends, and even though she's just acting, you can tell it breaks her heart to be rude to anyone, let alone a friend.
"I like this role, but I don't like that I have to be mean to (my friend)," Lauren says. "The best part is we get to spend lots of time together."
Portland Playhouse's production of "Scarlet" runs March 9-25. Tickets and showtimes are available at www.portlandplayhouse.org/scarlet.