BWW Interviews: Lauren Potter Talks Career, Advocacy, and The River's 'Dream Out Loud' Celebration
Theater Under the Stars' (TUTS) The River Performing and Visual Arts Center (The River) is gearing up for their annual "Dream Out Loud" celebration. The River's celebration includes the giving of a Sammy Award, which is an award named after The River's founders' daughter Samantha. Samantha was denied access to dance lessons due to her disability, so Cathy and Bob Binstock founded the organization to provide arts educations for children regardless of their physical ability. At this year's celebration, the award, which recognizes individuals dedicated to serving, supporting, or advocating for individuals with disabilities, will be given to Lauren Potter. Most people will recognize her as the sassy cheerleader Becky Jackson on FOX's GLEE. In anticipation of this year's event, I recently chatted with Lauren Potter about her career, anti-bullying initiatives, and advocacy for people with disabilities.
BWW: How did you first get involved with acting?
Lauren Potter: I just always wanted to be an actress. My mom says I was dancing before I could walk, and I always acted out all the Disney movies for my family. I did a movie called MR. BLUE SKY when I was 16, and I loved it! I loved acting, and I loved working with the other cast members and the crew!
BWW: What initially drew you to GLEE?
Lauren Potter: I got a call to audition when GLEE was just starting. We didn't know anything about the show because it wasn't on yet, but it sounded fun. I auditioned with Robert Ulrich and got the part! I was so excited to be picked to play Becky Jackson, and I still love playing her! She's spunky, just like me.
BWW: Your advocacy against bullying is quite impressive. How did you get involved in that?
Lauren Potter: I started working with Abilitypath.org to fight against bullying because I was bullied when I was a kid in school. I did a PSA with Jane Lynch to end the use of the "R" word...you know what that is, right? I hate that word! And I also work with Defeat the Label. They are they are the same people who did "Hands Across America" and "We are the World," and they are trying to end bullying in all the schools in America.
BWW: What kinds of advocacy are you currently doing with President Obama's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities?
Lauren Potter: I've been on the committee for about three years to help the President make good decisions about people with disabilities. I'm so excited that President Obama trusted me to help him, but I still haven't gotten to meet him!
BWW: You will be in Houston to help TUTS with their annual Fundraiser for The River, which offers affordable arts educations to those with disabilities. What drew you to this opportunity?
Lauren Potter: I'm so excited to be coming to Houston because it is for a great organization, the River Performing and Visual Arts Center. They do amazing things for kids! I know the group was started by a mom so her daughter could take dance classes, and I took dance classes from the time I was 3 years old! They teach kids to dream big, and I'm all for that!
BWW: On a personal level, what do programs like The River mean to you?
Lauren Potter: Well, when I was little and I wanted to take ballet, tap, and jazz, my mom had to find a class for me too. I was really lucky because I had a great teacher, Jennifer Laurie, and she wanted to have a class for kids with disabilities. My Mom said, "I want Lauren to be in a class with all kids" and my teacher agreed. So, I was in the regular classes until I was 16 years-old. I did all the same recitals and everything. Kids with disabilities want to do the same stuff typical kids do!
BWW: What advice would you offer to America's youth who hope to join or start anti-bullying campaigns or advocacy campaigns for people with disabilities?
Lauren Potter: Just do it! We all need to just say, "Enough is enough!" I always say, we are all different, and different isn't bad; it's just different! We all need to stand up to bullies together and end the use of words that hurt too, like the "R" word!
BWW: What advice do you offer to those who hope to make a career in performing?
Lauren Potter: If you really want to do it, then do it. It is a lot of hard work, but I love acting. If it is your dream, then never ever give up on your dream!
You can support The River Performing and Visual Arts Center by attending the annual "Dream Out Loud" celebration on Friday, February 21, 2014 at The Junior League of Houston, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane, Houston, 77027. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and passed hors d'oeuvres followed by a seated dinner. The evening will also include The River Performance Troupe performing a new show for guests, a live action, and a silent action. Individual tickets are $250 per person. Tables of 10 start at $2,500. Sponsorship packages are also available. For more information and tickets please contact Ashly Alberto at (713) 558-2656 or at Ashly@TUTS.com. You can also visit http://www.TUTS.com/Celebration.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.