Lauren Koval ’21 has had stars in her eyes ever since her first day in the Stage Management BFA program with the goal to one day work in stage management on Broadway. Now, as Koval takes center stage for graduation, it is fitting that she selected her graduation cap quote to be “we start with stars in our eyes.” As a long-time fan of Dear Evan Hansen, this quote has always resonated with her and continues to inspire Koval as she begins her next adventure: moving to New York for her career.
Koval has made a name for herself at UCF in several productions, including being a stage manager for UCF Celebrates the Arts 2021 and the lead stage manager for Theatre UCF’s The Rover and Scaramouch and the Assistant Stage Manager for Titanic: The Musical and Urinetown. Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented in her final year in the program, Koval has continued to thrive in pursuit of her dreams.
When reflecting on her time in the BFA program, Koval is most thankful for the stage managers she worked with over the years. Because only a few are selected for stage management cohort each year, Koval was able to build close bonds with peers and faculty, including Claudia Lynch, coordinator of the BFA Stage Management program.
“Her passion for theatre, her empathy, and her understanding of the artistic process and the unique requirements of telling a story live onstage shine through her work,” says Lynch. “Lauren also knows how to try and try again. She is focused, passionate and cares about the people as well as the work. She fosters not only the artistic work, but also makes deep connections with her collaborators, onstage and off.”
One of Koval’s favorite experiences in the program was meeting one of the Broadway producers of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder after he visited Theatre UCF’s production of the show.
“It was wonderful,” said Koval. “We have had so many awesome opportunities like that one in which we get to meet with Broadway producers and managers to ask questions and get a better understanding of our ever-changing industry.”
Unfortunately, like most budding professionals in the theatre industry, Koval’s plans took a turn when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Initially contracted to assistant stage manage at Stages St. Louis for its summer productions of A Chorus Line and La Cage Aux Folles, Koval felt like she was on the right path to achieve her career goals, but the cancellation of its season meant that she could no longer pursue the opportunity.
“While allowing myself ample time to be disappointed and a bit heartbroken, the UCF stage managers and Claudia found virtual ways to keep our morale high regarding the future of theatre. It helped to lean on each other during that time,” said Koval.
Her time to shine came a year after the onset of the pandemic, with the return of UCF Celebrates the Arts in April 2021. After years of working alongside the senior stage managers at the event, Koval was able to take what she had learned and apply it while stage managing the outdoor mainstage for the duration of the festival that celebrated the resilient return of the arts.
Now, as Koval heads to New York City and wherever else the future may take her, she will always be known at the College of Arts and Humanities for putting stars in the eyes of the countless people who experienced her productions.