Alum spotlight: Lauren Leinhass-Cook (BM ‘83) and Larry Cook (BFA ‘87)

group posing at wedding

Lauren Leinhaas-Cook, Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance, 1983   

Larry Cook BFA in Performance, 1987   

man looking at camera

Lauren’s senior prom date took her to a restaurant in Petersburg for dinner. They started talking to the owner and found out he was looking for entertainment. “I auditioned the day after my prom with the worst hangover I ever had.” But Lauren sang there for several years during the summer.

After Lauren received her Bachelor’s of Music degree in vocal performance from VCU, “the only thing I knew how to do was type, so former theatre major Patty Noonan told me the Theatre Department was looking for a secretary.” Ken Campbell (former department chair ’70-83) hired her, and she worked for the next two chairs Tom Holloway (’83-89) and Richard Newdick (’89-96). She later helped Dr. James Parker, former head of graduate studies, grow the grad program.

Larry grew up in Richmond and graduated from Tucker High School. “When I started at VCU in 1983, we were a class of 81 students and later there were 12 graduating.” Larry knew Lauren from her work in the department office, “but I was also friends with Patty and she introduced us.”

Lauren and Larry’s wedding reception. (from left) Lauren, Larry’s brother Robert, and Larry.

After dating for 3 years, Lauren recounts, “We were sitting on my bed talking and we just said ‘we should just get married.’ It was kind of a mutual agreement. A few days later we were getting on I-64 and he said, ‘Oh, by the way, will you marry me?’”

Lauren and Larry on their 25th wedding anniversary

While Lauren worked at VCU for nine years, she also established a career as an actor, working in most Richmond theatres. She then began her day job as a legal secretary for McGuire Woods, finally moving to Williams Mullen, where she’s now a paralegal.

Larry toured with Theatre IV for two years, then did a series of temp jobs while acting at night. When Lauren got pregnant with their second child, Matt (22 months after their first child, Sam, was born) Larry, “decided to get a real job.” He first worked for US Healthcare as a customer service agent and has been working in HR for Dominion Energy since 1998.

Larry and Lauren in I Do! I Do! (Virginia Rep, 2018)

Lauren and Larry have been in ten shows together, including some at Charlotte Shakespeare and Cadence Theatre.  When Dan Kryston (VCU grad student, ’87) opened the Windy City Café on Grace Street and decided to produce plays upstairs, the first one was The Great American Backstage Musical—Larry and Lauren were both cast members. They agree that it was a terrible show, but the cast also featured their friend Emily May (also profiled this month with her husband as alum couple!).

Larry and Lauren in I Do! I Do! (Virginia Rep, 2018)

As for the balancing act of raising two boys, Lauren explains, “We decided early on, that we’d alternate shows. Once the kids became teens, they were happy to have us out of the house.” Larry remembers, “When we did I Do, I Do at Virginia Rep’s Hanover Tavern in 2016, it was the most collaborative we’ve ever been, because it was just the two of us. We spent a lot of time moving furniture around in our living room to rehearse.”

Lauren and Larry’s two sons, Sam and Matt, as kids.
Sam and Matt all grown up at Matt’s wedding

Remembering back to their days at VCU and their friends David and Emily May, “The four of us were there at the same time. It was a community that was established in the early 80s and has lasted almost 35 years.”

Larry and Lauren in Small Mouth Sounds (Virginia Rep/Cadence, 2020)

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the February 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter