IMAGE: Actress Anna Snapp brings her one-woman show, “I Found that the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow” to the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre on January 26, 27, and 28th. Photo by Jeff MacMillan.
BY SANDRA MOORE
The director who cast Anna Snapp in her first stage role as Marilyn Monroe could see she wasn’t your average six year old.
She was irrepressible. Vivacious. Wickedly funny.
Those traits won her many plumb roles as a teen – from Puck in Lumina Studio Theatre’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream to Mrs. Lovett in Blair High School’s musical production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In the summers she studied musical theater at the prestigious Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in New York. Off and on during her years at Temple University in Philadelphia she performed with the Philadelphia Young Playwrights and performed an original theater piece about teenage girl bullies called Odd Girl Out.
Behind the scenes, Anna’s life was a lot more tumultuous than her acting successes might indicate. In fact, there were times when physical illness (from Crohn’s to lyme disease) and debilitating mental illness (including depression and bi-polar disorder) required hospital stays or intensive inpatient therapy. And though she rarely auditioned or acted for nearly six years, theater remained her enduring love. In 2015, Anna felt compelled to transform her personal passage from “darkness to bright sunrise” into a one-woman show.
Here’s what she had to say about her journey, and the play inspired by it:
Most of the roles you played as a girl and teen were pretty traditional parts for a young actress. What made you decide to write your own play, dealing with much more raw emotions, and difficult subjects like depression and sexual assault?
ANNA: Theater has always been my love in life, my creative outlet, the place I feel most at home. These issues being so near and dear to my heart only mirrored how I feel about theater. Combining the two seemed so right, even from the beginning. I want, with this piece, to give voice to the survivors who feel like they can’t speak up. I’ve had the wonderful privilege of working under the amazing David Minton, who has helped me find the humor and light in this dark material.
Is there one playwright or actress whose one-woman show inspired this effort?
ANNA: Originally, this piece was going to be a verbatim theater piece, based off interviews with women who have dealt with physical or emotional ailments in their lives. Verbatim theater was made well known by the infamous Anna Deavere Smith. The show was going to be part autobiographical, part based on interviews with these women. However, last April, I decided to go in a different direction with my show. I had a realization that if I truly wanted to take ownership of my story, I didn’t want to recreate other people onstage, I wanted to be myself and tell my story.
So you are writer, actress and director of the show? What theater professionals, if any, have have provided guidance for this project?
ANNA. It has all been a collaborative process. I am the writer and performer, and the brilliant David Minton of Lumina Studio Theater is the director. It has been quite a lot of fun though—years later, working together again almost as peers. Last time he directed me was over ten years ago, and now, we were able to find moments where we could bounce ideas off of each other. Needless to say, this show wouldn’t be anything without his direction and guidance.
Who do you hope comes to see the show? Is there a target audience you hope to reach? Who do you think the show will speak to, or resonate with?
ANNA: I truly hope people who have dealt with physical and mental health issues, particularly mental health issues will come to the show. I want them to see someone on stage and say to themselves, “Hey, me too! I’ve been through that”. But I also want people who know nothing about mental or physical illness to attend. A huge part of this show is the educational component. There is such a stigma around illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, which I have, and I think if there was more discussion and openness about the issues talked about in this show, some of that stigma would start to die off.
The play sounds like it reveals a great deal about the most intimate details of your life as a young woman – from your health battles with Crohn’s disease to your mental health struggles?
ANNA. Yes, this show reveals all of me. I am putting my entire self out there and what I have realized is that it is so much bigger than just my story. This story isn’t just my story. This story isn’t unique. So many people have been through so many of the same things I have been through, just have maybe dealt with it in other ways. Me? I turned it into art.
Do you ever have doubts about whether you could share these stories? Where does your courage and resolve come from?
ANNA: There is not a single doubt in my mind about whether or not I could share my stories, or should share my stories for that matter. I’ve been in therapy for fifteen years, and it has given me the courage to be open and honest with myself and other people. Theater has given that to me too, in many ways. When you’re onstage, you’re vulnerable and exposed, much like you are in therapy. I believe I can help others and myself with this show. I think it speaks to so many types of people who might have never gotten their chance to perform their story on stage.
You have a blog that’s on the Huffington Post website. Can you tell me a little about it – the title, the range of topics you’ve written about, or perhaps your favorite post?
ANNA: I’ve written a lot on HuffPost—from my Crohn’s Disease, to my most recent diagnosis of Lyme disease, to being sexually assaulted, to living at home with your parents when you really just want to be independent. Being sick, whether it has been physically or mentally or both has kept me from being independent for years. I wrote a post called, “What It Means To Be 24 Years Old And Sick”, which talks about what it feels like to feel like you’re behind other people your age in a world where it’s all about going from high school to college to the real world in a flash. My life has been put on hold several times from my illnesses, and that article really speaks to that.
Do you have plans for the show after next week’s run at the Silver Spring Black Box?
ANNA: My show has actually been accepted to Washington, DC’s Capital Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland this upcoming Summer. So many more performances ahead!