Anne Kerry Ford is a remarkable performer who has been involved in just about every artistic medium imaginable. A classically trained actress, she has appeared on Broadway in two musicals. She has been on Days of Our Lives on television, and a variety of films, including Clean and Sober with Michael Keaton and Lovesick, in which she played Dudley Moore's wife. Currently, Anne has been working as a cabaret artist, often times venturing into jazz and blues clubs with her husband, guitarist Robben Ford. Her shows are a combination of songs and spoken word which run the gamut from poems and monologues to original writings by Anne. Joe Morris, from Drama-Logue, wrote of Anne, "Finding Anne is like finding something you never knew you missed, but once you got it, you can't imagine how you got along without it. A unique, talented songstress ... " I caught up with Anne as she was about to tour with husband Robben and pianist Roger Kellaway.
Jonathan Frank: Hello Anne, and welcome to our Talkin' Broadway family.
Anne Kerry Ford: Thank you. It's fun to be here.
JF: First of all, I would like to ask you some basic background questions. Where did you grow up?
AKF: I was born and raised in Texas until I was 12. Then my parents divorced and my mother went to work on Capitol Hill. So I ended up in Washington DC and went to a ballet academy. Not because I wanted to be a ballet dancer, but because I figured on doing something in the performing arts. And I loved to dance anyway, so I did some chene's and pirouettes and a lot of Nutcrackers.
JF: You then went to Juilliard.
AKF: I went to Juilliard when I was 16. I was a bit of a prodigy.
JF: And what was your field of study there?
JF: You were training to be a 'classical' actor instead of a musical actor, correct?
AKF: I was. But see, I didn't know the difference. When I was 16, all I knew was that I wanted to be an actress with a vengeance. At the audition for Juilliard, everybody had to do two audition pieces, a classical and a contemporary. My classical piece was a bit of Juliet, and the contemporary was Louisa from The Fantastiks. Because I didn't know better. I hadn't read all that many plays. And everybody else was doing Blanche du Bois. This is the most hoity-toity drama school in the world. There are thousands of people applying and they accept like 34. And much to my delight, as well as everybody that knew me, I got in. And I hadn't even graduated from High School yet. So, I told my mother I was going to go there and arranged it with the ballet academy.
JF: Did you find studying at Juilliard to be a positive experience, and did you survive through graduation?
AKF: It was fantastic. I spent four years there from 9am to 9pm. I learned a work ethic that I don't think I would have learned anywhere else -- that if you really apply yourself to something, whether it's learning a Scottish accent or playing Desdemona or playing somebody's 95 year old Aunt Tilly, you can do anything and actually do it well. It was fantastic, because I wasn't afraid of anything at that point. I hadn't learned the fear of performing or the self-consciousness that I think comes in later, when you have to market yourself and you start getting rejected or bad reviews. And at that point I was just shot out of a cannon. I was fearless, totally fearless. And it was a wonderful time.
JF: Unfortunately that feeling of fearlessness quickly vanishes once you enter the 'real' world.
AKF: It does. I feel like I'm just getting some of it back again, after going full circle.
JF: After Juilliard you primarily worked as a classical actress?
AKF: I was turning 21 when I graduated. I did a lot of classical parts like Miranda in The Tempest with the American Shakespeare Festival, which was my first Equity job. I played Desdemona in Othello and Roxanne in Cyranno. I played all those fabulous women. I worked all the time, because I was classically trained and I was 21. And then I got cast as Grace in Annie when I was 22, so I became a singing actress on Broadway.
JF: How did you make the transition from classical theatre to Broadway Musical?
AKF: I had great agents, and they sent me up for anything. They were just fantastic. They were 'old school' agents, which I don't think exist any more. And they would just submit me for everything that they thought I was right for. And I had been singing. I did summer stock in high school. So they asked me if I wanted to audition for Annie and I said "Yes." So I did, and I just waltzed in there, had a great time, and got the part.
JF: How long did you do Annie?
AKF: I was in it for 9 months.
JF: And who was your Warbucks?
AKF: I had six Warbucks'.
JF: My, those Warbucks burn out fast!
AKF: I can not tell you all the people who played Warbucks, but Marcia Lewis was Hannigan and she was a riot.
JF: Now we kind of touched on this when you mentioned that you got into Juilliard, even though you did a monologue from (gasp) The Fantastiks ... do you find that there is a kind of prejudice attached to doing musicals? That there is a perceived difference in quality between actors who do 'straight' plays and those who do musicals?
AKF: Yes, I do. There's a stigma, and it's a misconception. I think it comes from all these second rate summer stock kind of actors who just bounce from one production of Pal Joey to the next, who don't really have a craft. But there are these fabulous musical actors, like Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline or Bernadette Peters who can kick anybody's butt with their acting ability. It's just a challenge of a different color. And a really great actor in a great musical role is just fabulous.
JF: I did a workshop once with somebody from Circle in the Square. It was the biggest waste of time and money. I knew I was in trouble when the first thing he asked me was what I considered my self to be. I answered "A Sondheim singer who does Shakespeare" and he told me I had to choose. That I could do either acting or singing, I couldn't do both. And I just wanted to say "Kevin Klein, Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone ... "
AKF: Why didn't you!?! And it's funny. I think Kevin, Mandy and Patti all went to Juilliard, so they are all classically trained. And all of them, when they sing, whether it's in concert or in a show, it's informed by their acting technique. They go hand in hand. I think anybody who wants to be a great singer needs to learn how to act. You have to be able to make up a whole story that makes sense to you as to why that song needs to be sung at that moment. That's how I approach it. It makes the song much more free. "I'm stranded on a beach and singing this song" as opposed to "I'm standing in a club singing this song." I love to do that. I'm acting all my songs.
JF: Now I also noticed that you were in the infamous Three Penny Opera production with Sting.
AKF: It was awful! A terrible production.
JF: But it had such great people. You, Sting, KT Sullivan, Maureen McGovern ...
AKF: KT and I sat next to each other in the dressing room and tried to keep afloat the boat that was sinking. It was a dreadful production.
JF: What made it so dreadful?
AKF: The director. He was not a well man. It was lovely to work with all those fabulous people, and I think the reason I did it, besides the paycheck, was because karmicly I needed to get to know them. Maureen is still a good friend. And KT. And I have to say Sting is a friend, and invites me to his shows. If he were to see me on the street he would stop and talk. A delightful man.
JF: Where you living in New York during the time between Annie and Three Penny?
AKF: No. I moved to LA the first time to do a play with The Olympic Arts Festival in 1984. And I met my future husband shortly thereafter in LA. And then we were bi-coastal for a while, which was terribly confusing, because every time you go to get something, you realize it's 2500 miles away. So we moved back to New York and lived there between 1986 and 1990, which is when I did Three Penny.
JF: Do you have any desire to go back?
AKF: Only if somebody offers me a wonderful part on Broadway!
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