The Company of Pittsburgh
is the newest, most innovative theater company in the city right now! I’m so honored to have been able to have interviewed its Founding Artistic Director John Biles as well as leading man Darrel Whitney in the upcoming season opener of Man of La Mancha. And now, to be utter delight, I get to interview the leading lady, Zanna Fredland! Enjoy this interview with this wonderful lady!
1. Thanks so much for being here, Zanna. Let’s just dive in, shall we? Tell me about yourself.
Yikes, the hardest question first! Well, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, started singing and acting when I was 15 or so. I have degrees in vocal performance from CMU and Rice University (Go Owls!) but have mostly done musical theater since I got out of school. Well, musical theater and all the other random things you end up doing when you’re working in theater: I’ve run a kids’ theater camp and directed some community theater, and now that I’m back in Pittsburgh I’ve been doing some teaching, privately and at CCAC, and I sing with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. I also love glam rock, YA fantasy, and am totally addicted to knitting.
2. How did you get involved in acting, and specifically, the Pittsburgh arts scene?
I think the acting was probably inevitable. My parents took me to a lot of musicals when I was a kid–I remember seeing Jesus Christ Superstar when I was three!–and eventually I had piano and cello lessons, and then singing lessons. Since you can’t really sing without acting, well, here I am. As for the Pittsburgh arts scene, I’ve been out of town a lot in the past 10 years, doing shows in Texas and Arizona and wherever else would come along. This is actually the first big role I’ve had in Pittsburgh since I was in college, which we’ll just say was many years ago! I’m really excited to finally get the chance to do something in town.
3. You are currently rehearsing Company of Pittsburgh’s Man of La Mancha. You play Aldonza/Dulcinea.. What a role! How are you crafting such an iconic character?
I started off by figuring out how I’m going to sing it–there are a couple of different ways you can go with this role–and sort of everything else has fallen into place from there. Right now I’m mostly concentrating on not letting the acting be too one note. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of Aldonza just being angry all the time and then surprise! there’s Dulcinea at the end. You have to remember that Dulcinea is actually in there somewhere the whole time, even though she may not show in every scene.
4. What’s an average rehearsal day like for you?
We’ve mostly had evening rehearsals, so I sort of spend the day going over my lines and stuff–and by “stuff” I mostly mean my fight choreography!–in my free time. I also have to make sure I’m warmed up really well, because the role is very demanding, both physically and vocally. Rehearsal itself is, as rehearsals always are, the usual mix of trying to Get It Right, trying to connect with your scene partners, and trying to have some fun doing it, because I think a lot of the best performances are the ones where you can tell the performer is having a blast, even if they’re doing something really depressing or horrible.
5. You’re acting opposite quite a stellar cast, including Darrel Whitney, whom I had the pleasure to interview. What a nice guy! How are you guys working out?
Well, he has this unfortunate habit of wearing a Yankees hat . . . no, really, he’s great. It’s always a pleasure to work with someone who commits so strongly to everything he does on stage, because then you can do the same without feeling any kind of constraint, or worrying that they think you look a fool. He makes my job easy!
6. Let’s switch gears a minute. The Company of Pittsburgh is still a very young company. What do you find is the biggest difference between a young company versus one that’s been around for awhile?
Probably just that I have to do a lot more explaining when I tell people about the show! Really the thing that distinguishes theater companies from one another is the competence and passion of the people in charge, not age.
7. The company is all about bringing musicals of all sizes to an intimate stage. How do you find Man of La Mancha is doing in such a unique venue? When I think Man of La Mancha, I think BIG!
So true! I think Man of La Mancha can’t help but be big, no matter where you put it. The characters are larger than life, the songs are–for the most part–not small, and the ideas are not little mundane everyday concepts. I think mostly what the venue does is to give the audience a closer look at it than they might get when there’s an orchestra pit separating them from the action. And–the best part, as far as I’m concerned–since we don’t need microphones, the audience gets to hear the songs coming right out of actual people, instead of a speaker. It’s pretty rare to hear the unamplified/unprocessed human voice in any form of musical entertainment besides opera anymore, and it really makes a difference in the immediacy of the performance.
8. What’s next for you, Zanna?
Viva Los Bastarditos!
with No Name Players
. I adore Man of La Mancha, but I’m also totally looking forward to doing a show that’s just good ridiculous fun.
9. Finally, the end question I always ask: What advice would you have for performers who are want to break into the arts scene?
Be on time. Be prepared. Don’t be a jerk. It sounds basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many people fail at these things. It’s important to remember that if you aren’t cast in something, it’s usually because you’re not what they’re looking for, not because you suck. And really, just be on time.
*Tickets to Man of La Mancha are available now. And if you go through Showclix
, you can get $4 off to any show seen during opening weekend! Don’t forget to type the password QUIXOTE!