She was back home in March for the Omaha Film Festival, making her directorial debut with The Hope Chest has a Secret Drawer. Her award-winning script explores the intersection of women, motherhood, and the darkness we hold, but rarely speak of.
Laura lost her mother, Nonnie McCandless Frenzer ‘62, to Alzheimer’s disease, and although the story is not autobiographical, Laura was able to draw from her personal experience to develop a character with Alzheimer’s. It’s one of a lifetime of experiences she has been able to draw from.
As a young child, Laura knew she wanted to be an actor. At Marian, she participated in plays and musicals and took acting and dancing classes. She enrolled at Tarkio College, a small liberal arts school in Missouri, renowned for its theater program and home to the Mule Barn Theater. A few months before her freshman year, a fire gutted the 100-year-old theater, however, the theater program remained intact.
“The first thing we did in that program as a theater company, was to renovate a new theater. An old hotel downtown became our theater space,” recalls Laura.
After the fire, the small college was not able to recover and fell into financial ruin. Her sophomore year the entire theater program transferred to Westmar University in LeMars, Iowa, where she completed her BFA. “The education I got there was so intense. It was such a great actor training program. We had so many performance opportunities. It was really strong. So I’m really grateful for that experience,” said Laura.
After graduation, she moved to New York with a group of friends from school and they started a theater company. “We did a lot of producing our own shows and student shows. Everybody knew how to do costumes and sets and props and lights. So we started a theater company and we managed to produce two bills of original one-acts, and then that was it. We thought, we’re gonna make a theater company and then we’re all gonna get discovered. That didn’t happen.”
So how does it happen? Laura kept working on her craft. “I did a bunch of plays in New York. I studied Shakespeare, improv and on-camera work. And so you just keep working and building and doing projects and meeting people and creating work for yourself.”
Gig work is a necessary part of life as a working artist and Laura has worked in restaurants and taught Shakespeare to kids in public schools.
In 2006, Laura founded a nonprofit, neighborhood arts organization in her Brooklyn neighborhood. It featured live music events, art shows and craft shows. The theater component produced six seasons of live Shakespeare for families in Prospect Park.
And you never stop learning. “I’ve done lots of fun stuff…the web series that I did was certainly a great learning experience, learning how to produce and write for film and television. At that point, I was more familiar with plays…so I went back to school to study specifically filmmaking and screenwriting in 2019. I also work at the New School, so I took classes there,” said Laura.
And you never give up. “I’m always writing and auditioning for things and doing small projects. You know, even still with this short film where now we’re in our film festival marketing phase, there’s always something to do.”
As part of the festival circuit, Laura made a recent trip to Omaha and stopped in at Marian to visit with students in a creative writing class. She credits Marian with helping her find her voice. As an all-girls school, “it fosters an environment where all these voices can be heard and where you can express yourself and your creativity…And there were fundamental academic choices I was making at Marian, like Shakespeare and acting. I had a good foundation when I got into an acting program in college.”
And, of course, no Marian memory would be complete without Field Day. “One of the biggest things we teach when we’re doing theater classes with kids, and in any production, is the importance of collaboration. And I think that’s fundamentally what you get out of Field Day. How do you come together as a group? You’re creatively collaborating on an outcome. That’s what every production is…every production is people coming together to creatively collaborate. I think I had a good foundation of what that felt like and what that looked like. It translates great into theater and film,” said Laura.
Laura has two daughters, Daphne, 21, and Vivienne, 18. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and studying French. “Madame Binns would be happy. I work on my French every day.”
To learn more about Laura’s work, visit laurafrenzer.com.