(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – A sea of darkness. One shining light. A solitary woman on the stage.
The music begins and a melodic voice fills the theater. The last note of the song fades and the audience applauds.
“Just being on stage, being someone else, that’s definitely my favorite part,” Eggimann said.
This is the thrill Leah Eggimann experiences during a show.
Eggimann is a UCM junior theater major who’s performed in several productions on campus, she’s performing in “Footloose” as a dancer, which opened Oct. 4. She has also performed in “Chicago”, “The Taming of the Shrew”, was Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden,” a soldier in “Nine Circles”, and was Sarah, the blind librarian, in “The Toxic Avenger.”
“I had a lot of fun with that one (Sarah.) Definitely a challenge trying to play a blind person because obviously I’m not blind,” Eggimann said. “It was super hard to portray a character like that. Sarah’s completely opposite of me. She’s super confident in her skin. She’s sexy. She really is super forward with all of that. But once I finally got into that character, it was a lot of fun.”
Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles, junior piano performance major and Eggimann’s best friend, said she has the experience and the skill, along with the charisma, to go far in her career. Jurkiewicz-Miles said Eggimann is valuable to the UCM theater department.
“There a lot of people who work really hard, but there’s none quite with the combination of hard working, humble, talented and charismatic. She is the best of what we have here,” Jurkiewicz-Miles said.
Eggimann has been into theater since she was 7 years old. She said she was in her first show when a friend got her to audition for “The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever.”
After that, she said she didn’t do any more theater until middle school. That’s when she performed in “The Music Man,” joined a performance troupe called Youth Players, and learned musical theater style singing, dancing and acting. In high school, she joined Y.E.S. Troupe and was varsity for three years. She also attended summer institute-camps at St. Louis University, from ages 8 to 18, where they put on a show every two weeks.
Eggimann’s main inspiration for her love of theater is her aunt and namesake, Karol Leah Richter, who died at age 27 in 1992. Richter was an actress on a Broadway national touring company.
“Karol was definitely a huge influence in getting me to audition for stuff and my mom always joked about how she never pushed me into theater, all she did was name me after her sister,” Eggimann said. “Then I kind of fell into it, and she also says I look a lot like her.”
Eggimann not only performs, but she also writes.
Louie Sharp, junior digital media production major, said he first met Eggimann in a poetry writing class and was surprised at how good of a writer she was. He said with her theater background, she also read the poems well. Sharp said he and Eggimann would go to the Old Drum Open Mic in downtown Warrensburg to listen to her read them.
“She performed it incredibly well and it was very personal,” Sharp said.
Eggimann is not just interested in performing but also the theory, history and technical aspects of theater. That’s why she is applying to study abroad in London at the University of Roehampton. London is the theater capital of the world.
“It’s going to be an adventure. I’ve never been out of the country before. I’m very excited. I’ve always wanted to go to London,” Eggimann said. “I might as well travel and extend my worldview.”
Levi Taylor, teaching assistant in English, said Eggimann is an inspiration to others and said studying in London would be a great step for her career in theater.
“Her going to London is such a huge deal because it helps her make those international connections and it helps those across the pond maybe see that American performers are just as dedicated and inspired,” Taylor said.
Taylor said if you have those skills, the crowd can really see it make a difference. He said Eggimann seems prepared for her future.
“That’s why she’s one of the gems of the theater department right now,” Taylor said.
“Leah’s a freaking gem. I would agree with that,” Sharp said.
Eggimann said after she graduates, she might pursue working with touring companies. She said her dream job is being a Disney princess, but she really just wants to travel.
“That’d be so much fun, being in a different theater every week,” she said. “But I still got some time, and I’ll definitely be auditioning as much as possible. It’s interesting where your paths take you. That’s why I’m not really set on one thing.”