Jessica Alkire

Annie’s World of Theatre

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Annie

Twenty three year-old Annie Harris is wildly active in almost every realm of the creative arts including acting, singing, and writing. She even has formed her own theatre company, Thtr, which is putting on its first production, ‘Earwig’, this month. Annie plays ‘Tanya’ in ‘Earwig’, a black comedy production that will be performed at the University of West London 19-20 November 2013 and The Bell Pub 25-27 November 2013. I had the opportunity to speak to Annie about her pursuit of the arts and how it has led to where she is today.

At what age did you become interested in acting? How did that interest develop?
I was the typical show-off little girl who makes her parents sit down and watch them do a funny dance in the living room. I’ve been interested in performing for as long as I can remember, but a particular incident sticks out in my mind. I went to see ‘Fame’ at The Bristol Hippodrome when I was about seven years old, so about 1996/7. I remember looking at those sprightly dancers and actors jumping around and off that famous yellow cab and wanting more than anything to be up there, joining them. From there, my mother enrolled me in the local town pantomime, and it all spiralled from there, really! I went to plenty of drama groups and after-school theatre clubs at school, then after I’d finished my GCSE Drama and my A-Level Drama and Theatre Studies, I went on to the London College of Music to do my degree in Musical Theatre – so I finally got to be one of those kids jumping off the yellow cab!

Which medium of acting is your favourite (television, film, stage, etc.)?
I am a trained musical theatre actress, and about 75% of the work I’ve had since I graduated from LCM has been television and film. It’s really quite a mixed bag for me from day-to-day, but my heart will always lie with live stage performances.

What is the greatest challenge of being an actor? What do you most enjoy?
I’ve found recently that the organisation that comes with being a freelance performing arts professional is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before – and my ‘day job’ is administration! The sheer amount of grunt work is mind-boggling, but once I’m up there and performing, the frustrations seem to melt away and it all becomes worth it.

What is your favourite work or role you have done thus far?
‘Tanya’ in Earwig has been one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had to play. She’s very easily swayed by external influences – two other characters, to be precise – so at first I found it difficult to really hit that nail on the head. Once I cracked it, it all became so much clearer, and I’ve had an absolute ball playing with her range of emotions, her values, her background – everything! You’ll have to come along on the night and see what she’s like!

What does a typical day on the job entail?
Johnny, Betty and I are all professional actors – so, for anyone who knows what it’s like, we all work other flexible ‘day’ jobs to keep ourselves afloat. The day will usually consist of multi-tasking with emails, text messages to each other and finding the time to make phone calls to get our message and our name out there, all the while running another life on the side. When we’re in rehearsals, we’re all very committed to completing the task at hand. We’ve been known to almost get locked into our rehearsal space at the end of the night because we’ve been picking each other over an inflection or a slight turn of the head!

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You just recently opened your own theatre company, Thtr. How did you decide to open Thtr and how has the process been?
I think I was at home reading an article about something totally unrelated to theatre one day, and I saw a chap mention that there was no work available, so he created it. I thought ‘hey, why not do that with acting work?’. So I did! The process has been long; it’s certainly not been easy! It’s meant a lot of late nights on the phone, endless strings of emails back-and-forth to venues, promoters, social networking gurus, booking lines – anything you can think of! But it’s been more than worth it for the flexibility of creating exactly the type of theatre I’m interested in performing.

What can you tell us about Thtr’s first production, ‘Earwig’?
‘Earwig’ is a black comedy written by Fraser McFarlane. It’s been directed by the company of Thtr, and features Bethan Foster as Julie, Johnathon Neal as Kevin, and yours truly, Annie Harris, as Tanya. We’ve got two shows at the University of West London in Ealing (W5 5RF) on Tuesday 19th November and Wednesday 20th November, and three at the Bell Pub on25-27 November (50 Middlesex St, Aldgate E1 7EX ). Start time is 8pm. One of the very exciting things about this project is that admission to the show is Pay-What-You-Can. We haven’t set a ticket price, and would prefer to accept a donation that you, the audience, personally feel is appropriate. You won’t find many other theatre and fringe venues that do this in London, so it’s a chance to experience theatre for a price that’s right for you.

What barriers do you and/or young actors in general today face? What is your advice for young actors?
There’s a lot of us – that’s the first one of many! Standing out as a little fish in a big pond is a tough one to overcome, but I’ve found that that feeling really is just a feeling. If you know who you are as a person, and as an actor (and that took me a good few years to work out!) then you know how to effectively market yourself and your ‘brand’, and you know what makes you special. Getting over barriers and seeing yourself objectively as a marketable service really is quite the hurdle, because performing is such an emotional and personal thing to do, but once you’ve got that nailed on the head, you’re away.

What is your greatest achievement thus far in your career?
I’ve recently finished filming scenes for Disney’s Cinderella, and took direction from the one and only Kenneth Branagh. I was a little starstruck to meet him, but it was an incredible experience.

Where do you aspire to be in five years?
In five years, I hope that Thtr will be my full-time job. My ‘big goal’ in life is to own and run my own theatre, so let’s see how that one turns out! I don’t like to plan too much in advance because I turn myself crazy when I don’t get what I thought was going to come to me. There’s no point planning specific goals like ‘own a theatre in this place’ or ‘do this play in front of this person’. I prefer to keep open goals such as ‘be in a job where I’m performing, I’m happy, I’m healthy and successful’. It makes it an awful lot easier on those of us who are worriers!

‘Earwig’ runs 19-20 November 2013 at the University of West London and 25-27 November 2013 at the Bell Pub at 8 PM. Tickets are not a set price; instead, the price is “pay what you can.” Follow ‘Earwig’ on Twitter to see more.
To learn more about Annie, be sure to visit her website and follow her and Thtr on Twitter.

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