Theater student makes NYC debut

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Theater student makes NYC debut

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UW-Whitewater senior Jake Lesh has officially made his New York debut.

On Jan. 15, the theater major reprised his role as Edwin Booth in a staged reading of “The Edwin Booth Company Presents….”

“It was really amazing,” Lesh said. “I was extremely excited, and I was confident in my abilities to perform well, but I was also extremely nervous.”

The reading, performed by Lesh and members of the TITAN Theatre Company, was held at The Players Club in New York City, a club founded by Edwin Booth himself.

“To have the play performed at Edwin Booth’s theater, when it’s a show about Edwin, is amazing,” Lesh said.

Theater and dance lecturer, Angela Iannone, wrote and directed the play, a historical fiction that follows the life of Edwin Booth as a young man traveling to Boston for an extended engagement.

Iannone said she and Lesh have been working on the play for over four years and, she wrote the role specifically for Lesh.

“It wouldn’t have been possible to do the play without already having an Edwin,” Iannone said. “Jake was marvelous.”

According to Iannone, the theater held 150 people and was filled to capacity. For a Tuesday night in New York City, that’s pretty impressive,  she said.

“It was really, really incredibly successful all the way around,” Iannone said. “In a city where people can be doing a million other things, it’s remarkable how well it worked out.”

Lesh said the experience felt like the culmination of four years of hard work.

“I’ve never felt so rewarded after a performance, but I really feel like this isn’t the last page in our journey,” Lesh said. “Personally, for my New York debut this is the cream of the crop. It was a glorious opportunity. I feel very blessed.”

The actors Lesh worked with on the play were all professionals in the New York circuit. They only had 15 hours to learn the material, but Lesh said they still really knew their stuff.

“The actors we had for this reading, they were fabulous,” Lesh said. “The [Whitewater cast] have been 100 percent supportive, and it’s a shame because it would be lovely to have had them come to New York, but this was still a very genuine and supportive group.”

Lesh isn’t ready to leave UW-Whitewater quite yet, but said he knows how great of an opportunity this was.

“I’m not going to be bold and say my success is determined, but I’m glad to at least have a foot in the door,” Lesh said. “It’s given me the renewed confidence that I have the ability to possibly be there if I want to.”

According to Iannone, UW-Whitewater was instrumental in the success the show has had so far, not only in Whitewater, but New York as well.

“The theatre/dance department faculty has been incredibly supportive, and the original cast of the show was absolutely astounding as well. Whitewater has had a great deal to do with the success of the play itself.”