When Evan Pride began his first semester as a freshman at the University of Kentucky in August, he already had locked down the lead role of Seymour Krelborn for the UK Department of Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The Louisville native was finishing up his last semester at Trinity High School when he first connected with UK Theatre faculty, twice: first at a college and career day event and again at an audition for department scholarships. He liked how department chair Nancy Jones described UK’s program and knew he wanted to major in theater, but he didn’t imagine he would start his college career in the spotlight.
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“In March, I got a flyer in the mail saying they were doing “Little Shop,” and “Little Shop” is one of my favorite roles,” Pride says. “I was like I would kick myself in the head ’til the day I die if I don’t at least go audition.”
Pride drove an hour each way to audition. Then he drove an hour each way again for callbacks.
“I’d been called back for Seymour, which I did not expect, and to my surprise they told me that I got the role,” he says.
“I had to leave callbacks early because I had an A.P. (advanced placement) exam the next day,” says Pride, who is a double major in theater and English education.
An alumnus of the Governor’s School for the Arts, Pride cut his teeth on many roles in high school, including “The Robber Bridegroom” and, most recently, “The King and I.”
“I just did a ton of theater in high school, went to GSA, got in with the theater and arts community and I just grew to love it.”
He says his training in high school and GSA helped him hit the ground running, and he is enjoying a new level of professionalism and resources at UK.
“We might spend a month on the music in high school, but for this show, everyone came in knowing the music,” he says.
“We had two music rehearsals and went into staging. We got the entire thing staged in under a month, and we were off book before October even rolled around. It’s just a lot more professionalism.”
Pride isn’t the only freshman diving deeply into his chosen craft.
Under the leaves
Columbus, Ohio, native Alex Ramsey is a freshman theater major with a prominent “Little Shop” role. Although he appears on stage, you’ll have to look beneath the elaborate mechanical puppet that is Audrey II, a large, bloody thirsty plant that resembles a Venus flytrap.
Also a theater major, Ramsey says being the plant operator for Audrey II has been a fun and instructive way to begin his college acting career.
“I thought it would be a great thing to get my foot in the door, get to know people and make new friends,” he says. He operates the plant’s movements while another actor voices the character.
“Its definitely a different form of role than I’ve ever played before. I still think of it as acting. It’s really a collaborative process between me and him,” Ramsey says of playing the physical role in tandem with a voice actor.
“It is helpful in the sense that it prepares me for any type of role,” he says. His favorite role in high school was Troy Bolton from “High School Musical.”
“It’s just been a blast, and I love working with everyone,” Ramsey says. “It’s been a really good introduction to performing in college.”
Pride echoes Ramsey’s sentiments.
“Everybody doing the shows here — they come to work, they come because they love to do it and they’re not messing around so it goes on a lot quicker,” Pride says. “There are higher expectations of a college show than a high school show. I’m trying to do my best to fill the shoes that I need to fill to play the lead. It’s been so much fun.”
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.
If you go
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
What: University of Kentucky Theatre production of the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26, 27; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, 2 p.m. Oct. 29
Where: Guignol Theatre, UK Fine Arts Building, 465 Rose St.
Tickets: $20, $15 students