Actress Erica Lauren McLaughlin has come a long way from her days as a theatre student at Howard Community College. After transferring to UMBC to earn her bachelor's degree, Erica followed her dreams to New York City, where she is now a successful actress, playwright and businesswoman. This month, she returns to HCC to appear in Rep Stage's "A Young Lady of Property," which is now playing in the Studio Theatre. Below, she reflects on her time as a student at HCC, and how those experiences have helped her "Get There from Here."
What brought you to HCC?
In high school I was very active: an honors student, lots of extracurricular activities, good grades, the works. I toured many campuses my senior year and probably could have gotten in to almost anywhere I wanted to go. I just wasn’t quite settled on what I would study, and was still a little afraid of going to school for theater -- I was afraid to take the risk. That summer, I went to a national playwrighting competition and won, and decided to take my winnings and pay my own tuition to enroll in acting classes at HCC. It was really a first step towards adulthood, and towards being courageous enough to follow my dreams of becoming an actress.
What was your next step after leaving HCC?
I had amazing support while at HCC -- I was taught by professional director Kasi Campbell, and professional actor Bruce Nelson in the acting program. I participated in student activities including student government and study circles, and worked for the Office of Student Life. I even sat on a college council board to choose an architect for the new performing arts building, which I now have the pleasure of performing in! All of these things made it very easy to transition to UMBC, where I completed my bachelor's degree in Acting.
How has your education helped you as an actress in New York City?
I would say, more than anything, the real life “practical” experience I earned in the work I did while on HCC’s campus has helped the most. I watched Robin Saunders (Director of the Office of Student Life at the time) coordinate student orientation down to the minute. And now I use her strategies when writing production schedules for films I work on in New York. I worked on my first professional equity show at Rep Stage, learning so much as an assistant stage manager for "The Swan." In the student production of "Pippin," I was the dance captain, which later lead to me instructing classes at Dance Foundations, a studio run by the choreographer. I came out of there with so much practical work experience and connections -- I don’t think many university experiences can compare in that regard. And the work/education balance is important when you are in a bustling city like the Big Apple.
What would you say to current Howard Community College students that would help them learn from your experience?
Get involved. Take advantage of the resources. The “community” in Howard Community College is real. There are lots of opportunities on and off campus as almost everyone -- from the adjust faculty to the support staff -- is a part of the real world in Howard County and beyond. Also, sometimes on a four-year campus, it is easy to tune out the rest of the world. But at a community college with great resources, it forces you to find the balance between your life and your education. So take advantage of this time to organize and plan for your life’s next steps.
Erica appears as Minna in Rep Stage's "A Young Lady of Property" through September 29. To puchase tickets, visit www.repstage.org or call 443-518-1500. Learn more about Erica by visiting www.ericamclaughlin.com.