Where Are They Now? ANNABELLE FOX
One of the best things about living in a theater city such as Nashville - our city/region recently was ranked the number 4 creative community in the country, joining Washington, D.C., New York City, San Francisco and Minneapolis in the top 5 - is that it's big enough to attract a lot of artists who flock to the city to do what they do best. Unfortunately, the theater scene isn't quite vibrant enough to provide a comfortable existence for a large community of artists, dependent upon earning a living wage.
What that all boils down to, of course, is that we see a lot of journeyman actors weave themselves into the fabric of our city's creativity only to leave when opportunity or ambition summons them elsewhere. As a result, as a journalist covering theater in Nashville, we've met so many wonderful individuals who are here for far too short a time, but who have managed to leave an indelible impression on the creative community.
Among such actors is Connecticut native Annabelle Fox, a graduate of the Belmont University Musical Theatre program, now living in Inwood, New York City, with her husband Douglas Waterbury-Tieman (also a Belmont grad), whom she met in school in Nashville.
"We live right next to a park and have a farmer's market every Saturday," she says. "Aspects of the neighborhood definitely remind us of Nashville - maybe that's why we love it so much!"
Living in New York City for two years now - "I moved to NYC in January, 2015, and haven't looked back!" - she's very much been in-demand at theater companies all over the country: "I recently performed in a gala to introduce Summer Theatre of New Canaan's season, alongside Broadway's Mark Jacoby and Jazmin Gorsline, and am now prepping for my Summer contract with them where I will play Kathy Selden in Singin' in the Rain!"
Amid all the travel and packing (and unpacking) that a successful career entails, Annabelle was able to find time to tell us about her career, her start in Nashville and the projects currently occupying her mind for this week's edition of Where Are They Now?
What brought you to Nashville/Tennessee in the first place? My cousin was a Junior at Vanderbilt University when I started looking at schools for musical theatre. She mentioned that Belmont, just a few blocks from VU, had a great music program and so I investigaTed Further. Sure enough...the school offered the classes and environment I wanted and needed! I was also drawn to Nashville because some of our dearest family friends lived in neighboring towns. It's difficult to imagine myself at any other school after a life-changing four years at Belmont University in the heart of Tennessee.
How did your time in Nashville/Tennessee prepare you for where you are now in your career arc? My time in Tennessee prepared me for my career because I received an invaluable education that I apply every day in some way, shape, or form. The most significant skill I honed was classical voice training. The first two years of voice lessons we focused solely on classical technique. I came to college with a strong belt and hardly any legit sound but Ms. Nancy Allen, my voice teacher all four years, and helped me work diligently to help develop this part of my instrument. This year I have been in numerous auditions and callbacks for roles that specifically require a legit voice. Recently, I got the chance to play Magnolia in Showboat at the Alhambra. Singing in an operatic style every night for four weeks without any vocal exhaustion attests to the incredible training I received at Belmont! Additionally, I received a community of friends and mentors at BU which I now have in NYC. We pump each other up at auditions and feel genuine joy when an alum announces they've booked something great!
What's your most vivid memory of your time in the Volunteer State? My most vivid memory from my time in Nashville was playing Louisa in Studio Tenn's, The Sound of Music the summer of 2012. I had just finished my Sophomore year of college, and when I got the call I SQUEALED. I had seen all of their shows and was dying to work for them. They brought in Broadway actors, Ben Davis and Jessica Grove to play the captain and Maria and I soaked up every rehearsal where I got to watch them work and play with scenes. I also got to do the show with my now husband, and two very good Belmont friends Kelsey Hammock and Chris Rayis. I will never forget my costume fitting. I walked into the dressing room and all my dresses were hanging in order and were labeled Annabelle/Louisa. I felt so important and so professional. Studio Tenn definitely set the bar very high! I was lucky enough to be in two additional productions with them following this first contract.
Who were some of the people in Nashville/Tennessee who had a lasting impact on your and/or your career? Two very special people come to mind. Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, my former college boyfriend and now husband has changed my life. During our time in school I took note of his work ethic and the hours he practiced. As an adventurous freshman, I was more interested in social events than homework or finding an available practice room. Once we started dating in December, 2010, I soon realized the importance of practice and focus. Adopting his mindset enabled me to truly meet my greatest potential in school and to continue developing my skills now here in the city. Having each other's support in a sometimes-lonely place has been incredible. We have found that creating our own art fulfills us and keeps us moving when we are not working on a specific contract. Together in NYC we have developed a theatre group called Silent planet, participated in a musical workshop, two concerts at 54Below, and created our own folk duo called The Fiddler and the Fox.
The second person that has had a lasting impact on me and my career is Ms. Nancy Allen. All my teachers at Belmont University encouraged me to walk boldly on this career path but this one mentor has been at my beck and call during school and now having graduated. In school, she instilled in me confidence, technique, honesty, and the importance of being a light in the world. I recently took a voice lesson with her in NYC and it was as if no time had passed! She is the person I email or text as soon as I book something I am proud of!
What advice would you give to someone taking their first steps to becoming a part of the theater scene here? Be patient and kind and really prepare your auditions. The Nashville theatre circuit is so small and everybody knows each other so it is important to always be respectful. Once you book the job, really watch the pros and dig in. You can learn so much from just watching an actor work and interact with others.
Tell me about what's happening in your career now. In 2016, I took my Equity card and signed with Cyd LeVin and Associates in August. 2017 has been full of auditions and babysitting and playing ingénues! As I mentioned, this winter I played Magnolia in Showboat at the Alhambra and now I am about to embark on a contract in with Summer Theatre of New Canaan in Connecticut, right next to the town where I grew up! I have spent many summers attending their shows and I am ecstatic to get the opportunity to play Kathy (for a second time) in Singin' in the Rain July 6-30.