Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurel Farley Crowe.
Laurel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Ah. Well. I grew up in the theatre (there is a small group of us here in Atlanta who are “second generation”) and knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a part of this industry. When I was a kid, first in Anchorage at the Alaska Repertory Theatre and then here at the Alliance and GET, I would spend time with my father (Robert J. Farley, GET co-founder) at the theater, watching him direct, spending time with creatives, and witnessing stories unfold in front of me.
I found the process to be magical, and I knew that it was unique. As I got older, I committed myself to it. I attended Pebblebrook High School (Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts), where I was challenged daily to become a stronger artist. It was hard. It hurt sometimes. I wouldn’t change it for anything. After high school, I went to the University of West Georgia where I received a comprehensive Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Theatre. I was ready to come back to Atlanta and begin my acting career!
That’s where the story veers in a different direction, as so many stories do. I made some life mistakes, I learned from them. I met a guy and then I got married in 2003. We welcomed our first son (William) in 2004. To make ends meet, I started house managing at Georgia Ensemble. Which is a position I held for many, many seasons? I loved being the customer service representative for the theater, but it didn’t fulfill me creatively.
For a while, I thought that I was hanging up the creative hat altogether. One summer, I was asked if I could substitute for an improvisation class, and before I knew it, I was hooked. I became a resident teaching artist at GET, directed my first musical (ever) with 40 students in 2008, and then in 2009, I had an opportunity to interview for an education/administrative position.
After the interview, it was quite apparent that I had absolutely zero administrative experience, but my “big ideas” landed me an administrative support role as the first Education Associate here. That job changed my life. I have been so incredibly blessed to be mentored by some of the most incredible people (Rosemary Newcott, Dori Garziano, Tess Malis Kincaid, and my incredible parents, Anita, who has taught me how to lead in arts administration, and my dear, dear father Bob, who mentored me as a director).
My work at GET is very personal. To be mentored by my father, who celebrated 50 years in this industry, is one of the greatest blessings I can think of, and it makes losing him that much harder. This season I have another first; Directing Driving Miss Daisy for our main stage, which is a tribute to my late father, “Mr. Bob”.
My work here allows me to be a mom (to William, now 14, and Finley, 4), wife (to Sean), Educator, and Director. I wouldn’t change one moment of my journey.
Has it been a smooth road?
Oh, no. No, it has not. I went through some difficulties after college. When I was 25, I decided I needed to do some work on myself and face some difficult realities. In January of 2003, I admitted to myself and my higher power that I was an alcoholic. I was stunted in those years.
I have been sober for almost 16 years. I had my first child in my mid-twenties and was figuring out how to be a mom and a wife. I didn’t capture my momentum as an artist until a few years later. I tell you this because it is important to me to let people know that there is hope in the darkness.
You can come from a nearly perfect family and still fall prey to a disease like alcoholism. You must be willing to do the work to help yourself and lean into your support system, letting go of ego.
I am still a work in progress, we all are, but I know that I have a tribe of people, an incredible family. I am so, so lucky to be a part of the Atlanta theater community.
Now, my husband Sean and I have been married almost 15 years, we have a high school freshman and a kiddo in Pre-K, I work in an incredible environment. I am surrounded by a variety of great people. I would say that the work has been worth it.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Georgia Ensemble Theatre & Conservatory – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Georgia Ensemble Theatre is currently the resident professional theatre company at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center. GET is in its 26th season of providing professional productions and training here.
My parents, Bob and Anita, started this company when the idea of having a professional Atlanta theatre outside of the city limits of Atlanta was a daring venture. We have done an incredible job of serving our artists, our audiences, and our students with Bob’s concept of “selfless ensemble collaboration”, the idea being if I am giving my everything to you (my partner) and you are giving your everything back, then we make magic.
Over the years, and most recently after my father’s passing, I have heard about how people feel like GET is their theatre home (from actors, designers, and students), that this is where they were given an opportunity to grow. We apply this concept to all the work we do. I think that is what sets us apart.
I am the Education Director for Georgia Ensemble Theatre, which is a very diverse position that allows me to direct our Theatre for Young Audiences programming, teach, develop curriculum, mentor apprentices, and act as the lead administrator for the department.
This past season we launched an International Cultural Exchange in China, where my Education Manager (Michael Vine) and Teaching Artist (Jessica De Maria) traveled to Hang Zhou, China to teach workshops to young students, teachers, and parents.
In July they brought a group of students here to participate in our summer camp program, which was a truly inspiring week! This season, Future Star (in China) will bring three more groups, in February, June, and July, and we will be taking a group of our Conservatory students to China in April. This is such a dream come true.
For me, it has been a fascinating journey to watch this company grow from a seed of an idea to the prolific organization that it is today. We serve over 3,000 subscribers, over 30,000 students through our Theatre for Young Audiences programs, over 300 students in our conservatory program, and now we serve students internationally through our Cultural Exchange program with China. There is never a dull day.
We are constantly striving to bring new ideas to the table and to challenge each other to be the best version of ourselves.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I think our city has an incredibly supportive theatre arts community! I would say that almost always, you will find the leadership from the dozens of companies lift each other up and collaborate very well together. I would absolutely encourage someone who is starting out to begin their journey here!
GET has one of many successful apprentice/intern companies in the city, with a focus on building the strengths of our emerging artists, while challenging them to try things they may never otherwise have the opportunity to do (or consider doing). Our community loves our emerging artists, truly. There are a lot of resources that we put behind our apprentice company.
This year we took our acting apprenticeship to a new level by providing housing, a weekly living stipend, and moving it to a full-time experience. It has been incredible to see what people will invest in you when you invest in them.
What is really amazing is that all of the major theaters in Atlanta with professional internship programs collaborate together. We make opportunities for our companies to do events together. We work to create a community of peers, and now we are seeing the benefit of that as these artists move on to start their own projects. It’s pretty cool.
Funding for the arts in Georgia is an ongoing challenge. I see the benefit of the arts in education, and in society on a daily basis, and having to constantly advocate for that is hard.
- GET FamilyStage: A Wrinkle In Time, Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook, S.T.E.A.M. TEAM, And Then They Came for Me ($10/ticket)
- Main Stage Programming: Starting at $33
- Classes and Camps: Starting at $195
- Website: www.get.org
- Phone: 770-641-1260
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @gaensemble
- Facebook: @georgiaensembletheatre
- Twitter: @gaensemble
Jo Arellanes, Mary Saville