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Inside With: Ann Carr, Character Actress By: Andrew Singer

Ann Carr | Photo: Heidi Kikel
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Ann Carr is a versatile character actress who has appeared in numerous live shows, films, commercials, and web series. Although she has had success with her current set of identities, she is always redefining herself and pushing against any limits. We recently chatted with Anne about her new direction and about her upcoming show Use It, at the UCB Theater.

I hear you have a funny story about the first feature film you were in?
I do. There was this screenplay. It was written by a friend of mine and he invited me to participate in a reading for it. Usually with these kinds of things, they go a few steps and then result in a dead-end. I've been in New York long enough that I'm a bit jaded, so I wasn't expecting much. About a month went by and then one night, while I was out getting mojitos with my friend Adira, I got a call. It was this woman who said she was the costume designer for the screenplay I had read for and was wondering what my schedule was because she would like me to come in for a fitting. I was skeptical, so I said, "Well, this is the first I'm hearing of this. I haven't even spoken to the director, so I didn't even know about this." There was a long pause and then, "Sure, okay."

I mean, I don't even know what I'm committing to, you know? I asked her what role they wanted me to play and she said they weren't sure. By this point I was thoroughly confused. I was thinking: "You don't even know what ROLE you want me to play and you want me to come in for a fitting? Probably not a project I want to get involved with." So she said, "Tell you what, I'll send you an email with the roles we were thinking of."

The next morning, going through my emails, I found the one addressed to me from the costume designer with three sides attached. Except she signed off casting director, not costume designer. Confused, I googled her and found she was the principal casting director on several feature films. And she was calling me in to audition! I felt like such an asshole. I was so, so nervous for the audition and I was sure she would remember what a total freak I was on the phone. She was really sweet though. It's a funny story, but I'm lucky she was cool and the writer/director was a friend.
Do you have a dance background by any chance?
I assume you are referring to my International Modern Dancer, Ms. Laurel Fields? I actually LOVE dance and dancers. I studied dance as a kid but I would get in trouble for being goofy in class. In college, I would watch the modern dance performances, fascinated by that sort of lovely, pained expression on their faces and the beautiful lines and shapes they could make with their bodies. I picked up Twyla Tharpe's book The Creative Habit which is actually very good for artists to read. It's also very self important and I would laugh out loud at some of the stuff she would say. So Laurel is a bit of Twyla and a bit of my memories and impressions of dance with just a peppering of Mark McKinney's character Darill.

Is your new show Use It an evolution of or a complete departure from your previous material?
Definitely a departure. A lot of my stuff relies on character and physical comedy. It's funny and dark, but it doesn't have a lot of shape to stick it together and mostly relies on the strength of the character to propel it. I would do these shows that were very interesting and fun to create, but the material wasn't necessarily accessible to a more general audience and it wasn't stuff an industry person would see and say, "I totally can see her in that role." So, at the last SPANK, I got some notes about what to strive for in a new show. Then I parted ways with my director, with whom I'd worked on all my shows up to that point--I felt I really needed a new director and a new perspective. Which brings us to the wonderful Eliza Skinner who I eventually asked to work with me. I had worked with her on this cute, funny short she made for the 24 Hour Film Festival, Just Talk, and then I saw her solo show Eliza Skinner is Shameless. Both events thoroughly convinced me that this girl is going to follow in the footsteps of Tina Fey. More probably, she'll blaze her own trail.

So we started working together and she asked me, "What do you want to say?" And really, the show is directly from our first conversation about that question. I circled in my notes "Creative Struggle & worst nightmare: trying to 'make it' will all be for nothing." It was all stuff I was grappling with, I still am, really. And so I had that in my head while I was observing life around me and writing and that's really the core of the show. There are also elements of the fairy-tale we're sold about Hollywood and how it can corrode our uniqueness and corrupt our inner-life.

You have done many shows and videos with a specific group of female comics. What is it that draws you together, besides all being women?
That would be the quintet that goes by the moniker Liquid Gold: Adira Amram, Becky Yamamoto, Sara Schaefer, Katina Corrao and me! Just a really cool bunch of ladies who are all very talented but also down to earth and super nice. Sometimes this business and the whole scene can get a bit wearying and it's just nice to find common ground with folks you both respect and admire.

You have booked some prominent roles in both commercials and award-winning shorts. What tips can you offer to aspiring performers to help them get the gig?
I feel like I wasted a lot of time thinking I had to do things a certain way and living within self-imposed limits. Just do the work and dedicate yourself to it. Energy begets like energy. Keep close to what engages and encourages you and stay far away from the people, places and thoughts that disenchant and discourage you. And don't ever be shy about asking for help. You may be better for it and you'll never be any worse.

Have you done non-character-based standup as well?
Please God, no. I have the utmost respect for stand-up but I hope I never fool myself into thinking I want to do it. I'll leave that to my very talented boyfriend and stand-up friends.

What are you hoping to accomplish for 2009?
I'm really excited to see where this show can take me. This is the first time I've been given the gift of a run and I just want to see what I can accomplish with it. It's all a process. It will lead me to some other show or idea or place and I'm excited to take the journey.

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard." He recently wrote about DJ Hazard and Matt Little.

Use It debuts at the UCB Theater, Thursday, January 22nd.

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Reader Comments (4)

Ann's talent is matched only by her personality. She's one of the funniest and coolest people I've ever met.
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony DeVito
nice work! incidentally, ann was one of our 1st honey shots:
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeithhuang
great work on all these interviews, andrew! i especially liked what an said about self-imposed limits.
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenkwok
So funny! I love the videos can't waite to see the show! Especially the dance teacher!Cathie Boruch
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercathie

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