Most new mothers feel like they’re leaping without a net, but Lindsey Roberts was literally flying. She was reprising her role as Peter Pan when she found out she was expecting a child, and the life change motivated her to add another role to her repertoire: Executive MBA. The lifelong performer now pursues her art as both actor and director, in addition to being the Director of Sales Development for Green Mountain Technology. She is a graduate of 2017’s Leadership Memphis Executive Program and was even named one of Memphis Business Journal‘s “40 Under 40” in 2017. Meet this week’s closeup-ready FACE of Memphis, Lindsey Roberts!
Where were you born, and what was your upbringing like?
I was born and raised here. I grew up in the Hickory Hill area. My dad was a home builder, and my mom ran the books for the company. All the houses that I grew up in were houses that my dad built, so that was kind of fun.
When did you first become interested in performing?
My older sister started dancing tap, ballet and jazz at Martha Scott Dance Studio. Then my mother became pregnant with me, and so I literally grew up in this dance studio. When I got old enough, I wanted to do the same thing that my sister was doing because it looked kind of fun. So I’ve been on stage most of my life, at least a couple of times a year.
When did you begin thinking of yourself as an actor?
My first semester of college, I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I wanted to be involved in theater. Somebody had mentioned Theatre Memphis, and I just one day walked in their door and said to somebody at the box office, “Who do I talk to about doing theater?” And around that time, the executive director, Mike Fortner, who has since passed away, was walking out of his office and he heard me talking, and he said, “Well, come to my office; I’ll tell you about when some auditions are coming up.”
I told him I didn’t act or sing, but I’d been dancing my whole life. He said, “Oh, wow, I’m actually looking for a dancer right now. We just had somebody drop out of Music Man. They’re rehearsing right now. Can you come back and meet the choreographer?” And I did. I showed up the next day and started rehearsals, and that’s really how it happened — just stupid, dumb luck. I’ve done show after show since then. And of course, I’ve realized, oh, maybe I can do that acting and singing part, too.
How did you come to be cast as Harper in Craig Brewer’s first film, The Poor & Hungry?
Craig called me at home and introduced himself using all of his names: “Hi, my name is Craig Houston Brewer, and I have called some local theaters, and they have all given me your name as someone to contact. I’m making a film, and I have a role that I feel like you might be good at, or at least I’m interested in talking to you about. Do you have a chance to meet with me?” I said, “Sure, that sounds fun.”
I didn’t even ask anything about the role because I didn’t know to ask anything. I get myself all dolled up to read for the character, and I realize that the character’s very, very gritty and that I didn’t dress appropriately or look the part at all.
He called me a few days later, and he said, “I’m not going to give you the part because I just don’t think that I can make you as gritty as I need you to be.” I didn’t hear anything about it again. But I spent a lot of time at The P&H just because that’s what we did in theater. And of course, [P&H Café owner, the late] Wanda [Wilson] is in the movie, obviously, and she found out that I had auditioned for it, and she said, “They still haven’t cast that role.” She called Craig, and he called me and said, “I want to get you on camera and give you another shot.”
So it ended up working out thanks to Wanda, who called Craig. The magic of Miss Wanda. Craig is truly an actor’s director. He is really the one who got me where I needed to be.
You have performed the role of Peter Pan multiple times. What are the most challenging parts of repeating an iconic role?
Wanting to make sure you find something different in it every time, which is easier than you would think because a different director gives you a different feel, different choreography, and different “lost boys” do completely different things for the show.
Why did you choose The Diary of Anne Frank as your first play to direct?
There’s a part of my background that not a lot of people know, but I spent most of my time in college studying the Holocaust. I worked with the Bornblum Judaic Studies program at the University of Memphis. My mentor David Patterson, who’s now teaching at the University of Dallas — I worked with him a lot, went to Israel with him, went to several Holocaust conferences, went all over the country … London, Oxford. I’ve studied the Holocaust pretty extensively. I knew that that’s the story that I wanted to tell because I had a lot of passion surrounding that.
With such a deep background in the arts, what drew you to pursue an EMBA?
I found out I was pregnant on the morning of a Peter Pan performance. I was flying and pregnant! I realized that I needed to provide for my child and that I was going to be doing that by myself. So, I had to really switch gears. I knew there was a lot I was missing — certain things that I just didn’t know because I had an English degree. I was relying on other people to help me fill in those gaps, and I just thought I should go back and continue my education.
Shifting gears, where is the first place you take visitors to Memphis?
I’m a Graceland girl; I’m a huge Elvis Presley fan. My son was born on the 30th anniversary of his death. I knew I was going to have to have a c-section when I had him, and they said, well, these are the three dates that we have available — the 15th, 16th or 17th. And I said, “The 16th. That’s what we’re doing!”
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What is your best advice?
One of my father’s professors was at our house, and he said something that really struck me. He said, “The most important thing that will ever happen to you is the one thing that you have no control over, and that’s the circumstances under which you’re born.”
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
I can’t live without the NBA. I do love the Grizzlies, but I’m a fan of the entire NBA. I have this side of me that’s very tomboyish, but the other side can’t live without my fashion and my makeup. And my cats — I have three cats. I’m an official cat lady.
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