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Interview: Annie Sertich Finds A NIGHT OF FAMILY & A Creative Home At The Groundlings

The Groundlings will be presenting A Night of Family for one-night only December 5th

Interview: Annie Sertich Finds A NIGHT OF FAMILY & A Creative Home At The Groundlings

Adding to their already extensive line-up of impro shows, The Groundlings will be presenting A Night of Family for one-night only December 5, 2022. This show features Main Company member Annie Sertich with three Groundlings alumni Tim Bagley, Michael Hitchcock and Mindy Sterling. I got a chance to pick Annie's creative mind, a long-time Groundling.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Annie! I have laughed at you on The Groundlings mainstage many times!

Thanks so much for coming and supporting the shows.

How does it feel to be collaborating with the three Groundlings alumni Tim Bagley, Michael Hitchcock and Mindy Sterling again?

I still pinch myself thinking 'Wow, I used to watch them on the main stage when I was a student and now here I am performing and producing shows with them.' It's surreal. Specifically, Tim was my Intermediate teacher, Mike was recently a backup dancer in one of my sketches fist-bumping to E.L.O.'s 'I'm Alive', and Mindy is my emergency contact. In fact, I lived with her after a crap breakup. (A premise for a sitcom? Call me to hear the pitch).

Will you share a funny story about interacting with each of them?

I'm sworn to secrecy.

A Night of Family will be your what number of mainstage shows. Have you lost count of how many you've done?

I've lost count.

Would you describe your Groundlings process, from your beginning introductions to The Groundlings, through the various levels getting to become a mainstage performer?

As a Midwestern kid I was taught two things: pick a practical career and keep your head down and do the work. So I double majored in philosophy and political science and was law school bound. However, before going I joined a volunteer program where I lived with four other volunteers in East L.A., made 75 bucks a month after bills, and worked at a job rehabilitation center on Skid Row.

During that year, one rainy Saturday, my housemates and I walked Melrose in search of some thrift store finds and popped into The Groundlings Theatre lobby to use the restroom. I looked on the wall, saw pictures of Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, and Phil Hartman, and said to myself 'I want to be on that wall someday' and then in the same breath, turned around and left.

I had no plans to even *think* about acting, writing, or improvisation. That was something I did as a kid or in a college play.

Little did I know some 10-plus years later, after some more social work, and one drop-in improv class in some random Santa Monica basement, I would be ON THAT WALL performing, teaching, and later directing. And in that attic amongst old costumes and Phil Hartman's ghost. I didn't follow the practical teaching advice, but I followed the 'head down, do the work' part - which was my mantra all the way through The Groundlings program. Cut out all the noise and just do the work. That was all you could/can control anyway.

When did you start teaching at The Groundlings School?

Easily over 10 years ago.

What is your favorite sketch that you wrote?

Interview: Annie Sertich Finds A NIGHT OF FAMILY & A Creative Home At The Groundlings It's a tie between a rage-fueled 7th-grade math teacher who uses a real overhead projector to factor polynomials (and goes too fast while the kids protest) and an older secretary who has one drink at the company office party and ends up dancing to 'In September' by Earth, Wind & Fire. She may or may not have also mounted her boss' lap and slammed her butt in his face. That was a co-write with the said boss, Tim Brennan.

What is your favorite sketch a fellow performer wrote?

Jeremy Rowley wrote a hilarious sketch where he played the father of a blue-collar family sharing at dinnertime. I played his wife. As the sketch ran week after week, he would find new ways to get upset - including launching tiny hotdog pieces from our plates into my wig. This leads to your next question...

Are you one who never breaks character when a cohort on stage totally lands a laugh? What's your secret to keeping your composure!

I would totally break especially when a rogue hotdog hit my forehead. However, to manage it, I often would press my thumbnail into the pad of my index finger as hard as I could or think very dark thoughts right before lights up. I still use those techniques today, neither which are very healthy, hi.

What comes first for you in developing a character - The sketch situation? Or your wig and costume? Or sometimes both?

The character itself comes first. That's why sometimes my co-writers and I would go to a weird mall and people-watch.

For me, discovering what makes people tick and why they act the way they do is equally important to why they make you laugh. It grounds the character in a way that isn't just a bit or a tagline. Sometimes I do find an odd costume piece and think - okay, who IS this woman who wears a saxophone pin on her tweed blazer, but rarely do I think in terms of a 'what if' premise or situation.

Any specific Groundlings technique you've learned that you credit booking your auditions?

My first-ever teacher at The Groundlings was Cheryl Hines who was shooting the pilot for Curb Your Enthusiasm at the time. She hammered home the idea of listening and responding. If you aren't really listening to your scene partner or the audience's suggestion(s), how can you respond in a true 'yes- and' fashion? Acting is listening and if you are just worried about what you are going to say, you aren't truly connected. I think she knew a thing or two. I also credit my bookings to luck and as my friend John says, being too stupid to quit.

What's in the near future for Annie Sertich?

I will be reprising my one-woman play How To Not Kill Yourself for 30 Days... and the next 330 at The Groundlings Theatre on January 23rd and February 6th, 2023. I toured New York, London, and Edinburgh with it and am happy to be back on the home field. I'm also in production on a couple very exciting projects coming out soon.

Thank you again, Annie! I look forward to laughing at you on stage.

Thank you, Gil for all your support for our theatre and its performers all these years. And if you need an emergency contact, let Mindy or myself know.

For tickets to the live performance of A Night of Family December 5, 2022; click on the button below:


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From This Author - Gil Kaan

      Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas of film, television, and stage in... (read more about this author)


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