Bruce Alan Johnson
Now that I’m retired from teaching, I can state that I had called in sick one Friday morning and traveled with my mother to New York City to see the original Broadway cast of ‘Avenue Q’.
I remember we had both seen trailers on television for the production and made the production a must-see. We were not disappointed in the least as we had a ball at the theatre that night and this very adult performance which probably seems tame by today’s standards.
I especially enjoyed watching Ann Harada as the character Christmas Eve whose fiancé didn’t have a job. They had bills to pay and all of the other responsibilities that come with living together. Ms. Harada was deliciously sassy and saucy as the adorable Christmas Eve. A quick bit of online research also led me to discover she has played Madame Thenardier on Broadway in ‘Les Miserables’ and was in the original cast of Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’. She’s also appeared in TV shows such as ‘Smash’, ‘Blue Bloods’, and ‘New Amsterdam’.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Ann graduated from Brown University with a double major in English and American Literature/Theatre Arts. We conducted our interview via email.
Thank you again, Ann, for participating.
It appears that after five exceptionally long months, we are slowly, very slowly, emerging to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Has your daily life and routine along with your immediate family’s life and routine been changed in any manner?
And how! Once my son’s school ended in June, we headed for my mother in law’s house on Cape Cod, where we’ve been ever since. And we’re not exactly sure when we’re going back since school is completely remote right now. When we look out of the windows here we see water and trees. Sometimes a squirrel, or a bunny. In NYC I have an incredible view of a back alley and I see my neighbor smoking pot. And I sure don’t blame him a bit.
Were you involved or being considered for any projects before everything was shut down?
I was shooting some episodes of a TV show, but I just found out my character’s storyline was cut “due to complications from COVID”. I am devastated. I was in ‘Emojiland’ off-Bway— we shut down in mid-March. I was supposed to go to the Kennedy Center and do ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ –canceled.
Describe the most challenging element or moment of the isolation period for you.
For me, it is being unable to hug my friends and not being able to talk to them in an intimate way, my husband is always pulling me away from people and saying, “That is not six feet!”
What were you doing to keep yourself busy during this time of lockdown and isolation from the world of theatre? Since theatres will most likely be shuttered until the spring of 2021, where do you see your interests moving at this time?
Like everyone else I have been doing things on Zoom and practicing making self-tapes, converting a closet into a recording studio, trying to fold my green screen, fun things like that. I don’t enjoy this part of the business at all. If I was interested in iPhone cinematography or home lighting, I would have pursued those interests. My interests will turn to reading more actual books and catching up on series I never paid attention to before.
Any words of wisdom or sage advice you would give to other performing artists who are concerned about the impact of COVID-19? What about to the new theatre graduates who are just out of school and may have been hit hard? Why is it important for them not to lose sight of their dreams?
Well, this isn’t the first time we’ve gone through a national shutdown or a pandemic. Our industry managed to survive both 9/11 and the AIDS crisis. Theatre isn’t going away, it just might take a while to sort out. I’m not worried about young people. They’ll figure out a way to do what they want because they’re not set in their ways yet. It’s the older people I’m concerned about. Without any way to earn health insurance, what’s going to happen?
Do you see anything positive stemming from this pandemic?
I hope we see continued respect for our frontline workers, from medical professionals to grocery workers and restaurant workers. It was beautiful to participate in the nightly 7 pm applause for them, and I hope we continue to appreciate their service.
In your informed opinion, will the Broadway and North American performing arts scene somehow be changed or impacted on account of the coronavirus?
Of course. How are we going to get audiences back in the theatre safely? How long will it take for people to want to come back, to not be afraid of crowds? How long will it take for me to feel comfortable in an audience? How will I feel safe onstage? Everything is a question.
What are your thoughts about streaming live productions? As we continue to emerge and find our way back to a new perspective of daily life, will live streaming become part of the performing arts scene in your estimation? Have you been participating, or will you participate in any online streaming productions soon?
I’ve certainly enjoyed the live streaming events I’ve seen. I’ve only done a few live streams, they were mostly educational. But I do think it’s a great way to bring people together. I don’t know that every play is satisfying performed as a reading but if it’s creatively done, it can really be extraordinary.
What is it about performing you still love given all the change, the confusion, and the drama surrounding our world now?
I love connecting with people, I love performing with other people, and we are still desperate for human connection. Maybe even more so now. I know that people enjoy what we’re doing, even if it isn’t live and in person. I’m happy to keep putting things out there if people enjoy it.
With a respectful nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are the 10 questions he asked his guests at the conclusion of his interviews:
What is your favourite sounding word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
Orchestra tuning, rain on a tin roof
What sound or noise bothers you?
Beeping noise when the freezer or fridge door is not closed
What is your favourite curse word?
Shite or bollocks
What is your least favourite curse word?
Refers to female reproductive anatomy
What profession, other than your own, would you have liked to attempt?
Novelist, photographer, museum curator, librarian
What profession would you not like to do?
Daycare, law, stunt person
If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?
“You didn’t do everything perfectly, but you always gave it your best attempt. Please have a seat.
To follow Ann on social media Twitter: @annharada Instagram: @iamannharada