UB Spectrum Feature: Leading Lady Leah Berst Juggles Academics and Acting
Leah Berst grew up watching Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn play the role of Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady. Berst, a senior music theater major, is now fulfilling the same role as two of her biggest inspirations as Doolittle in UB’s spring production of “My Fair Lady.”
For Berst, performing in My Fair Lady means simultaneously studying for midterms, maintaining a required 3.5 GPA and attending late night rehearsals. The rehearsal process nearly spans the entire semester, from learning the musical pieces to orchestra and dress rehearsals.The actress has to make sure the material she studies for classes doesn’t mesh with the lines she has to memorize for her performances. Berst keeps one notebook for My Fair Lady and another for the scenes she studies in her classes.
Benjamin Antar, a senior music theatre major, is playing Professor Henry Higgins opposite Berst.
“It is really hard being a student and being in a performance major in a show – like having a full-time job along with school,” Antar said. “It just means we have to work a little extra hard to make sure we can do what we love and be the best at it.
Berst said that the rehearsals are exhausting, primarily because they last for so long with few breaks in between.
“It’s pretty tough because, during those times, we’re so demanded on stage in rehearsals and we need to be there all the time,” Berst said. “There’s no calling off. You have to be there because they need you.”
Berst hopes to bring her success to platforms beyond UB and looks to go back to school to get her Master of Fine Arts degree. After she graduates, she’ll perform in “Light in the Piazza,” staged by Second Generation Theater in Buffalo.
My Fair Lady runs at the Center for the Arts from Friday, April 28 to Sunday, May 7. Tickets are $8 with a student ID, or $18 without, and can be purchased at the CFA box office or online.