Senior acting major Austen Danielle Bohmer was born into the world of theatre. Both of her parents work in the industry – more specifically, Broadway – so she spent a lot of time in theatres growing up. But theatre is not the only thing she has in common with her parents: attending Webster University runs in the family, too.
Bohmer’s mother Leah Brandon was a dancer on Broadway and is now a dance teacher. Her father Ron Bohmer has spent more than 20 years as a Broadway actor. He has performed in roles such as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and Enjolras in Les Miserables. He was a musical theatre major at Webster University and graduated from the Conservatory in 1983.
Starting a life of theatre
At age 12, Austen began taking dance classes and singing in her church choir. However, when she was a child, Austen said she did not want to be part of the performing arts world.
“I did not want to follow in [my parents’] footsteps,” Austen said. “It was the same reason why I convinced myself I didn’t want to come to Webster. I want to forge my own path. I want to do my own thing.”
However, when Austen was 13 or 14, she said she knew she wanted to perform.
“It wasn’t really a choice,” Austen said. “If I really thought about one thing that makes me the most happy in my life, there was no doubt that [performing] is what I needed to do.”
Her father Ron said he always wanted Austen to make her own choices and be able to find joy in performing when pursuing opportunities at a young age.
“It gives us a really unique bond and allows us to communicate with each other in a very specific way,” Ron said.
A father and daughter bond
Ron and Austen performed together at the Daniel Webster Society (DWS) annual dinner this year in early November. The DWS board serves as a voluntary advisory organization exclusively for charitable purposes to advance and support Webster, according to the university’s website.
“I have been [performing with my dad] for so long so it sort of feels natural at this point,” Austen said. “But it’s definitely different than performing with anyone else. I never feel nervous.”
Ron said Austen was born to act and has seen her make progress over time.
“I love performing with her because I feel like it is always a master class from her in the most important element of acting,” Ron said. “She always brings me to a higher level, when I’m not struggling to hold down all the emotions that come from singing with my daughter.”
Austen said she was proud to bring her father back to Webster and perform with him.
“It is my place now,” she said. “This is the evolution of our family here.”
A gender-defying performance
Austen came to Webster wanting to perform Shakespeare and more. She said training at Webster helped her broaden her horizons and made performing Shakespeare possible for her.
Austen played Malcolm in the Conservatory’s latest production of Macbeth. The gender-bending performance gave Austen certain challenges. She said even though it was not hard to get into the soul and mind of the character, performing masculine gestures was difficult.
“This is a very different body than I am used to living in,” Austen said. “I just took on that body every night and trust that it would do its work.”
Austen found a lot of similarity between herself and Malcolm. She said Malcolm is observant and wise, attentive to details and quick on actions.
“I recognize a lot of his wants and needs and desires in myself, so it’s easier to attach to,” Austen said.
Past and future
Austen trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London the summer of her freshman year. The ten-week program was an intensive cramming of an entire year of classical training. She said when performing Macbeth, what she learned from RADA manifested and become second nature to her for the first time.
Austen is preparing for her L.A. showcase in May. She said she is aware of the difficulty and unsteadiness in the performing art industry, but she is determined to pursue her dream.
“I can’t think of anything else that I would rather do,” Austen said. “I would be happy doing a lot of things in this world, but I would have always wished that I had done this.”