Funny, passionate, and insightful, longtime Warehouse collaborator Anne Kelly Tromsness brings her comedic chops to our Main Stage one more time in the sci-fi farce, Important Hats of the Twentieth Century. Whether she’s stoking fires or thinking about tossing a stapler out of a window, the lady is always a joy to watch on stage. We caught up with her recently to collect her thoughts on her latest roles at The Warehouse.
WHT: Just curious, have we met before?
Anne: You’re funny. A funny, funny man.
WHT: Okay, okay. Here we go. Time for the hard questions. For a script that is so fast-paced and covers so much “time,” where does your approach start for a show like Important Hats?
Anne: I play multiple characters in this show – like most everyone else. For me, I start with where they each fit into the story, what their truth is – and then the fun begins – rehearsal is like playing dress up with contrast, vocal and physical choices, and style, based on who they are to those around them!
WHT: Tell us a bit about the discoveries you’ve made from your initial read of the show to now being in performance.
Anne: This play is filled with so much humor, but also a lot of very substantive and timely gems…philosophical, political…my hope is that we will get the audience laughing. And thinking…
WHT: What struck you as most important in the first read (or additional reads) of the script with your role?
Anne: Most of my interactions are pretty brief, so listening and supporting the story is key while making specific character choices…even if a character only has four lines, they have to have a life.
WHT: What’s been the most significant change you’ve made in your portrayal of your character(s) since rehearsals started?
Anne: Deepening their truths. And going from broad strokes to specificity and precision. I love that comedy requires both an artistic and an almost mathematical approach. Fires a lot of neural pathways in the brain.
WHT: What’s been your greatest challenge in bringing this show to life?
Anne: Costume changes. There are some pretty rapid ones. It’s fun, though… an adrenaline rush for sure. And we have an awesome crew. And Alley Steadman, our costume designer, rocks.
WHT: What strikes you as the most fun element about the show itself?
Anne: Oh – so much. The style ranges from cinematic to broad and back again. I love working with this landscape…and the lights and sound. It’s so fun to have an aural landscape that is like another player…fun to respond and play off of it.
WHT: There are like a million characters in this show. So if you were given the opportunity to swipe a character in this show from one of your fellow actors…which one would it be and why?
Anne: Hmmmm. Maybe Dr. Cromwell. He seems really fun. Or one of the radio announcers.
WHT: Cromwell has been a popular answer for sure. That Andy Croston…always stealing the best roles! You are performing in the round for this show? When is the last time you performed a play in the round? Talk about what this experience is like preparing for the audience to be so close to you no matter where you run on set.
Anne: The last time I performed in the round was in The Seagull at The Warehouse. It’s challenging for a comedy, because so much of what makes an audience laugh is about shared experience, things revealed and responded to together. So figuring out how to negotiate that has been really fun.
WHT: Often actors find that certain scenes in shows are just flat out fun to play every night. Is there a scene in this show that bubbles to the top for you? That you simply look forward to playing every single night?
Anne: There are several. I love the Nurse and Cromwell’s time together, and Bev’s act two scenes are pure fun.
WHT: What’s it like working with a brand new draft of a script?
Anne: I love the evolution from the first edition of the script we read, to the one that was subsequently published that we are working with in production. It’s great. I love classical work because it gives you a chance to step into the footsteps of those who have gone before, but new works are great because it’s like trailblazing. And the conversation the playwright is having with our culture is happening NOW.
WHT: What’s the process been like working with Jay Briggs as a director?
Anne: Jay creates such an atmosphere of collaboration and productivity in the rehearsal space. He approaches the work with humor, intelligence, and joy. I don’t recall any rehearsal where I haven’t left inspired by someone in the ensemble. And that is a credit to the director.
WHT: Was there anything in the scenic, lighting, or costume design that affected your choices on stage?
Anne: All of the above. We have an awesome design team. But I have to say wigs. The wigs make the woman – or the man – on this one.
WHT: Piece of advice for an audience member coming to see Important Hats?
Anne: Make sure you secure your glass of wine so you don’t kick it over in act two. And turn off your cell phone. They weren’t really part of the landscape in 1937 or 1998. And get ready to have fun.
WHT: What’s next for you this season? You have another gig coming up in the near future?
Anne: Co-directing Othello with Maegan Azar for The Warehouse Theatre Educational Tour. Very excited.
Catch audience favorite Anne Kelly Tromsness in her many, many roles in Important Hats of the Twentieth Century now through February 18th!