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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Annie Freeman: Versatile, Theater Actress who lives in L.A., loves being on stage, and is damn proud of it!

El Comandante likes to raise his fist in the air to those actors that are committed to their art and who do things their way- REVOLUTIONARY STYLE!  Annie Freeman is one of those actors.  She's always prepared, professional, talented, ego-less, and very generous with her fellow actors.  She gives you so much to work with. She is a GAMER!  Not like the gamer in my one of my earlier entries.  Hehehe!

She is my first "Spotlight on an Actor" type of story, interview, thing....

Our conversation went, something like this:

EC: When did you start training as an actor?  

AF: I started my training in elementary school.  I was cast in a production of the "Wizard of Oz" when I was seven years old.  I was one of the munchkins (laughs).  I remember waiting in the wings and watching everyone in the show, studying their performances.  I learned the lines to the whole show.  My mom was a house cleaner.  She would take me along to various jobs, and I would perform the whole show while she cleaned houses.

EC: Imagination.  Crucial part of an actor's training.

AF: Definitely.

EC: Can you recall, when you were "bit by the acting bug", and decided that this was what you wanted to do professionally?

AF: When I was cast in the "Wizard of Oz". Then, instead of growing out of a childhood hobby,  it grew into a career. I have studied many forms of acting disciplines, dance, musical theater, classics.  I went to a performing arts school in Junior High and High School.  Around High School, I realized that I preferred straight drama as opposed to musical theater.  

EC: Where else have you trained?

AF: I went through the theater program at USC.  During my junior year, I spent a semester at BADA in London.

EC: L.A. is the film capital of the world.  For many actors, theater is a waiting room for to stay sharp while their number gets called for a film or television role.  How do you respond to this?

AF: I think it's unfortunate that theater is "just a stepping stone" for film and television work.  I love working in both mediums, but you don't get the same spontaneity from film work.  There's a lot of stop and start.  It's a different discipline, very visual, and it relies on editing.  I love it too, it's just a different art form.  With theater, you have a connection with the audience.  You have to be on your game all the time.  At the Archway Theater, where I have worked on two productions directed and produced by my business partner, Steven Sabel, we have had the privilege of working with some talented actors who love working in theater and are dedicated to it.

EC: You've done quite a lot of Shakespeare?  Where are some of the notable venues and companies that you have worked in?

I have played Ophelia twice, in London and at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.  I played Rosalind in "As  You Like It" at the Redlands Shakespeare Festival.  Recently I was Lady M at the Archway's inaugural production of "Macbeth: Shakespeare's Natural Born Killers". 
EC: You created a physicality for Lady Macbeth that I haven't seen in your previous work.  How do you prepare for a role?  What was different about your preparation for Lady Macbeth?

AF: I approach every role differently. Sometimes from the outside in, and sometimes from the inside out. I have had the privilege of studying various techniques, from physical acting methods such as LaBan and Viewpoints, to text training with scansion and determining operative words. As I learn more about the character through reading and re-reading the text, I discover what approach I want to use with them. Steven, the director, and I really worked on finding the center of energy for Lady Macbeth.  She references in the play that she wants to have the will, strength, and drive of a man to fulfill her desires.  Steven and I collaborated on where in the body this drive would be centered and worked from there.  Working with classical text is extremely helpful, because there is so much in the words that you can work off of. Once you understand the text, it's much easier to figure out what direction you want to go with the character.

EC: You're a certified  Yoga teacher.   You apply Yoga to your prep work and to your process.  How is Yoga helpful in achieving the ultimate goal for an actor of "being completely in the moment"?

AF: Yoga helps connect your body to your breath.  Through deep breathing, fluid movement, and held poses, an actor can develop a deeper level of body awareness.  This can help an actor connect his voice with his movements on stage.  In turn, the actor will be less distracted by tension, allowing the actor to get out of their head and live out each scene in the moment.

EC: Lee Strassberg pointed out in his book "A Dream of Passion" that Yoga and meditation are great tools for relaxing the body, but they do not help address the issues of tension that an actor deals with- tension that stems from emotional blocks or trauma.  Obviously you disagree with this point.  Why?

AF:  I don't necessarily disagree with it. Take for example the role of Ophelia.  I feel that the character was purposely underwritten.  Her predicament was such that she couldn't express her thoughts, vocally, due to fear.  I believe that she carried a lot of tension in her throat.  To develop the character, I had to identify what causes tension in my throat, that would make it difficult for me to speak.  Yoga is mainly about creating space in the body, and with certain characters, you want to be able to have that space and liberation in the body part(s) where their motivating energy is focused. However, due to the emotional situations of some characters, I believe it is more important to tap into where they are restrained, where there isn't that "space". Yoga teaches you how to access those parts of the body, but I believe you must dig deep into the character's emotional core to be able to actually create that tension.

EC: You are currently performing in "The Trojan Women" at the Archway Theater, under the direction of Steven Sabel.  What character are you playing?  How did you approach this character?

AF: I'm playing Andromache.  Unlike Lady M, I developed Andromache from the inside out.  Andromache is dealing with a lot of internal pain due to the war, having witnessed the terrible slaughter of her husband. I use visualization, imagination, and some substitution to relive the pain that she is going through. 

EC: Is there a contemporary spin on "The Trojan Woman" like there was with "Macbeth"?

AF: No. Steven and I felt that it was important to keep the original Greek setting.  Aside from the Getty Villa, there aren't many places in Los Angeles where you can see Greek tragedies in their original context.

EC: Why do you feel this play is relevant today?

AF: It deals with the loss of loved ones due to a war.  That really hits close to home now with troops being pulled out of Iraq.  It's amazing the reaction we are getting from the audience.  I've had people come up to me after the show, not expecting to be so affected by the play.  

EC: Do you have plans to pursue bigger film and television roles?

AF(laughing):  Yes!  I have an agent, and he sends me out.  For now, I'm really enjoying being on the stage.

EC: Do you have dream role?  What is it?

AF: Hedda Gabler.

EC:  Ooohh!  I could definitely see that.

AF: Yeah.  It's a role I would really love to tackle.

Annie Freeman 

Annie has been training in the practice of yoga for more than eight years, and has been instructing students for four years. She completed her 200-hour instructor training in 2009, and has since been teaching a wide variety of styles and levels, including Yoga for Kids, Mommy & Me Yoga, Pre-Natal Yoga, Yoga for Seniors, and Hatha and Vinyasa Flow Yoga for all levels of practitioners. Annie has taught at various studios and fitness centers throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, including Triad Yoga, Sports Club LA, Avalon Senior Center, and the USC Lyon Center. Annie developed the original yoga classes for the NYSP Trojan Kids Camp in 2008, and has taught other workshops for kids at Triad Yoga and YogaWorks. Annie has served on the management teams at YogaWorks in Westwood and Triad Yoga in Irvine.

As a graduate of the theatre schools at the University of Southern California and the Orange County High School of the Arts, Annie has extensive training in theatre arts. She has also studied classical acting at the British American Drama Academy and Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Annie’s stage credits include a variety of classical and contemporary roles, including world premieres of original productions. For the past five years, she has also been teaching acting classes for children through after-school and summer programs.

"The Trojan Woman" runs for two more weekends, Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 26-29, and February 2-4. The show will close on Saturday night, February 4th.  Curtain is 8pm for the Thursday-Saturday shows and 2pm on Sundays.

The Archway Theater is located at 305 South Hewitt  Los Angeles, CA 90013, in the heart of the Arts District.

For tickets and information, go to http://www.archwayla.com/ or call (213)237-9933.


  1. Thank you, EL Comandante! Much love :-)

    1. Thank You.. you've introduced me to an "about to flower" artist of the stage.. We'll be watching her.

    2. You're very welcome Jo Ellen! The kid is going places (chomping on cigar)!