Anne Kelly Tromsness:  Bringing It All Back Home

Anne Kelly Tromsness has been synonymous with The Warehouse Theatre for over a decade.  Whether acting on stage, directing blockbusters like last season’s Boeing Boeing, being the cornerstone of our teaching programs like This Wooden O, or leading our Forum Series…Anne’s fingerprints are all over The Warehouse Theatre.  We are fortunate that she’s back again, taking two turns on stage in Christmas on the Rocks.  We recently sat down with Anne to talk about her current work, Christmas memories, and the fun she’s having being back on stage.

WHT:  Anne, welcome back!  It is so exciting to have you back on the Main Stage.
Anne:  Thank you!  It’s great to be back.

WHT:  We always like to start these interviews off with a bit of the education spill.  Can you share your educational journey with us?
Anne:  Sure.  I have a BA in Women’s Studies with a minor in English from the University of South Carolina and a Masters in Arts Administration from Winthrop.

WHT:  Although you now call Greenville home, where’s your hometown?
Anne:  Columbia, South Carolina.  Been in Greenville since the fall of 2001.

WHT:  And remind our readers, you’ve been in how many…eleven million shows at The Warehouse maybe?
Anne:  Not quite that many!  At least 17 as an actor on the Main Stage, and I have had the good fortune of directing 4 mainstage productions at The Warehouse.  Last show on stage was Angels in America, and last show directed was Boeing Boeing.

WHT:  Do you have a favorite experience in a theatre?
Anne:  I would have to say Angels in America:  Parts I & II at The Warehouse Theatre.  It was an almost yearlong process…between the research, community engagement programming, rehearsals and performance.  Those two plays are special for me in every way…in the myriad ways they speak to us as individuals and collectively, in the beautiful writing and characterizations Tony Kushner created, in the amazing people I got to work with, and the joy of sharing them with the community.  And the director was pretty cute.

WHT:  He’s not so bad.  What’s your favorite part of being an actor?
Anne:  Not a day goes by in the process of rehearsing or performing a show when I am not reminded that I have loved telling stories through theatre since I was a child.  It’s a lot of hard work, and there is also such magic involved.  I feel fortunate to be able to do this thing I love in a theatre I love.  Oh…and making people laugh is pretty wonderful, too.  Intoxicating.  That shared experience of audience and performers.

WHT:  Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy?
Anne:  My husband, Jayce Tromsness, is a constant inspiration to me.  I love working with him and learning from him.  And Allison Janney is my idol.  And Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

WHT:  What’s your favorite part about being in the arts in Greenville?
Anne:  That there is so much going on at any given time, and that the community supports and embraces it.

WHT:  Do you have any other jobs outside of acting?
Anne:  I teach theatre to elementary and middle school students from all over Greenville County through the Fine Arts Center’s ARMES program and integrate theatre throughout the K-8 curriculum at Sterling School.

WHT:  What’s your favorite Christmastime show or film?
Anne:  I love It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.  Probably because of the style and I am a sucker for nostalgia.  Jayce and I are reduced to puddles every year watching those films.  The scene in Miracle where Kris Kringle sings the song in Dutch to the war orphan, and the final scene in Wonderful Life….thanks a lot!  Now you got me crying.

WHT:  How did your research for this show affect your performance?
Anne:  I don’t want to give anything away, but I was really intrigued by the vocal style of the golden era of Hollywood and especially that of child actors.  Also…the second scene I am in is embedded with all these delicious little references to other plays, Hollywood icons, and it is written almost in the style of “Borscht-belt” comedy.  So it was fun to balance homage with the immediacy of the scene.

WHT:  Was there anything in the costume, lighting, sound or scenic design that shaped anything you are doing on stage?
Anne:  Not telling.  But you’ll know it when you see it.

WHT:  Due to its limited run thus far in the theatre world, this script is not well known.  What was the greatest challenge or favorite thing about working on this script for the first time?
Anne:  Chip Egan always makes the process of discovering the complexities of a script such a joy.  He creates a collaborative environment and we all engage with the text like we’re on an archaeological dig…seeking out the humor and the humanity in each moment.

WHT:  Given that a different playwright wrote each of the scenes, did this give you any advantages or challenges in your process?
Anne:  My two scenes are really different from one another.  In tone, structure, humor.  Which is perfect when you are portraying two distinct characters.  It was almost like having the opportunity to do two different plays.  There is a unity to hang on to, too, that gives the audience a chance to both send up and embrace the holiday spirit.  Much fun!

WHT:  This show is coming directly on the heels of your last show.  How do you handle that change of pace and having two roles (completely different roles at that) slammed together back to back?  Do you like it when this happens between roles or do you really prefer more time?
Anne:  I was very fortunate to work on a Fringe series piece at Centre Stage this fall: Gidion’s Knot.  A completely different script in terms of the character’s journey and the actor’s challenges.  But I was just thinking last night about how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to do both shows this fall.  A little more sleep is always good, but I would rather work!

WHT:  What was your favorite part about this rehearsal process or the show’s progress?
Anne:  I always learn so much when I am in a show directed by Chip, and this experience was no exception.  And this is such a giving, fun cast, that watching the other scenes and the characters develop was a great joy.  It was fascinating to see the connections between the source material and this script emerge.

WHT:  What is one thing you learned during this process?
Anne:  Every performance there are these little gasps of discovery or whispers between audience members, as they put together who these grown-up versions of classic holiday characters are.  It’s part of the magic…as they make these discoveries…kind of like unwrapping presents…and it’s nice to be a part of that.

WHT:  Next production is?
Anne:  I am directing three plays this winter and spring with my elementary and middle school students in the ARMES program, so that’s where I will be for a while.  Can’t wait!

Catch Anne Kelly Tromsness playing a few of your Christmas favorites in our Christmas on the Rocks now through December 20th!