Living abroad, actress Laura Hope-London marveled at how the United Kingdom preserves its buildings. She wandered city streets and saw businesses repurposed out of old jails and encountered many shop owners and locals who took pride in their history. She also visited sites of trauma, such as Auschwitz, and emphasizes the importance of these places as well.
Now living in Tallahassee, Hope-London is pursuing her doctorate in theater at Florida State University. She is also holding onto her eternal wanderlust by turning it into Wanderlust, a site-specific theater company.
“What motivates my desire to travel is to experience new places and learn about new types of people and cultures,” says Hope-London. “I think theater can do that, too.”
As artistic director of Wanderlust, Hope-London is looking forward to debuting their first show, “Musicals on the Move” on July 18. The premise of the company is to transport musicals and place them “on location” in their authentic backdrops.
Kicking off at Hawthorn Bistro & Bakery, audience members are invited to move in tour groups around the block and see musicals performed in local businesses. Participating sites include Vocelles Bridal Shop, SoDough Baking Co., Chop Barbershop, A Country Rose, Finnegan’s Wake, and Fire Betty’s Arcade Bar.
“It turns out there’s a lot more theater nerds who own small businesses in Tallahassee than you would think,” laughs Hope-London, who is keeping the selected musicals for the performances under wraps. “We wanted to introduce site specific theater to Tallahassee and show what it can do.”
Hope-London was born into a musical family. Her grandfather and father were jazz musicians, so she grew up singing jazz standards and classic songs from the golden age of musicals. Among her favorites are “Carousel,” “The King and I” and “Oklahoma.”
She earned her BFA at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. As a scholar, Hope-London is drawn to musicals that capture a specific moment in time. Her research at FSU delves into “Hamilton,” as well as Beyonce’s relationship to musical theater via her visual album “Lemonade.”
“I think there’s something really special about telling stories through song,” says Hope-London. “In musicals the emotions and stakes are so high that people can no longer speak, they have to sing, and there’s something really beautiful about that.”
While her career has taken her from performing in London’s West End to film and TV production in Hollywood, Hope-London always wanted to start her own company. The seed was first planted in her time at NYU under the guidance of her late mentor Elizabeth Swados. Swados was a theater writer and director who pushed the boundaries of musical theater.
Hope-London was part of Swados’ original musical “From the Fire,” that told the story of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that claimed 146 lives. The remains of the factory have been rebuilt and converted into a classroom building for NYU.
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