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Interview: Annika Isbell of BRINGING UP BABY MAMA at Smartmouth Comedy Co.

This production runs on select dates from July 15th through July 23rd

Interview: Annika Isbell of BRINGING UP BABY MAMA at Smartmouth Comedy Co.

It's Maggie's baby shower, and not only is she throwing it herself, she's also giving no details as to who the father is. Her family and friends arrive with games and gifts to celebrate the arrival of her child, but as the party moves forward tumultuous activities occur, the truth about the baby's father comes out, and a rideshare race determines whether the baby gets delivered at the hospital, in a car, or on the front lawn!

We chat with Annika Isbell who plays Maggie in the production.

How does it feel to have live audiences and performances back?

It is a bit surreal! I remember a moment in our very first rehearsal when our director called "places for the top of act one", and it was quite emotional!

What inspired you to pursue performing?

I have been performing since I was little. To me, nothing is more magical than creating a shared experience with an audience. Whether it's the saddest tragedy or silliest comedy, I think it is so special to create an experience with each other that can't be repeated because it's all happening live!

How does this role compare to other roles you've played?

My character, Maggie, is very much the "straight man" in this comedy; she's experiencing the chaos and commotion alongside the audience. She's also hugely pregnant, so giving a strong physicality to a character who has to take the action of the play very seriously and be something of a "silent observer" at times has been a super fun challenge! I feel so spoiled to watch my castmates be hilarious. It is so hard not to break character!

What was your process for developing your character?

Well, for starters, I've never been pregnant onstage or in real life! Talking to people who have actually been pregnant, and digging into that physicality was my starting point. Thinking about how to sit, how to stand, what a person can and cannot do when they're in that condition informs a lot of other choices that I make as an actor.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

My favorite part of the show is the very first scene. It's a scene I share with my "sister", and in a play with so many characters who are all onstage at the same time, it is the calm before the storm. Bailey Murphy, who plays my sister, is so hilarious, and being able to verbally spar with her for a few minutes helps me get amped up for the rest of the show!

Did you face any challenges with your character or the production?

I think the biggest challenge I faced is one that is impacting performers all over the world: how do we come back to this after so much time away? My life changed so much over the course of the pandemic: I moved, I changed jobs, and I met my wonderful partner. Every performer had to navigate a huge lifestyle change because of the pandemic. Of course, it is a huge relief to be performing and creating again, but it doesn't come without new challenges.

How was working with the cast and the creative team?

This cast and creative team are truly amazing. Our director, Kelliann Kary, created such a positive and safe environment, and put together a truly wonderful group of people. For a lot of us, this is the first time we've been back in a rehearsal space, and I wouldn't have wanted to take that first step back into performance with anyone else.

What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing this production?

When all is said and done, this is a play about a woman having a baby through the power of her own choices. Each element of her pregnancy has been on her terms, right down to throwing her own baby shower. Even though there's no shortage of laughter and hilarity, I hope the audience considers how powerful and necessary it is for an individual to be able to make their own choices, especially when it comes to their community, their family, and their own body.

What are your favorite local spots?

I love walking and running around Lake Harriet, and grabbing brunch at Victor's 1959 Cafe!

Thank you Annika for your time!

For more production and show information, click the ticket link button below.

Photo courtesy of Annika

From This Author - Jared Fessler

Jared [He/Him] is originally from Iowa and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up doing theatre and studied music, dance, and theatre with additional training in BFA musical theatre.

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