HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – A Hollywood dream was ushered into reality when an usher moved her way from the back of the theater to center stage to star in Rent.
“Here we are," Lencia Kebede said as she walked through the front door of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. “I just can’t believe this."
Kebede grew up in Los Angeles and saw shows at the Pantages as a child. Years later, a friend of hers got a job as an usher, and helped her land a position as well.
“I was like I think that’s a pretty good side job I can have between gigs because I get to see shows at the same time," said Kebede.
However, seeing shows was not her goal; performing in them was.
“I absolutely aspired to it," Kebede said, "but I couldn’t have imagined it being so soon and so real.”
Kebede has been touring with Rent for a year, playing the role of Joanne.
“That’s me!" she said, pointing to a photo of herself which hangs in the same area where she once checked tickets.
She has performed all over the country, but this is her first time on stage at the Pantages. Looking at that stage from what was once her position at the back of the house, she said it is a view she is very familiar with.
It has been a little over a year since she was last at the theater. Looking through the Playbill with her mother drove home just how much her life has changed in such a short time.
“This is kind of weird that I’m going to be signing these that I used to hand out that said Hollywood Pantages on them," said Kebede. "So I’m very excited!!!”
Kebede feels like she learned a lot during her time as an usher. To her, it was a great way to meet and learn from other artists who were writing scripts, and performing in different things.
"So I think it’s a great way to network as well as to literally be in a master class every day by watching some amazing performers on stage,” said Kebede.
As tours came through, she would talk to performers, who gave her advice that she took to heart.
“Probably just to keep going," said Kebede. "To keep pushing and persevere. It’s cliché, but it’s 100 percent true.”
This is her final week with the Rent tour. It’s an emotional moment, but she couldn’t think of a better venue for her last stop.
“It just feels so surreal to get to share this story with so many people I love in a space that means so much to me," Kebede said. "Just watching the two worlds collide, it feels like a movie honestly. It’s a dream.”
Rent is playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from July 9 through 14. Information on tickets and the digital lottery, can be found here.