Chat with...Annaliese Kirby, New Canaan native who co-founded a theater group in NYC
NEW CANAAN — For Annaliese Kirby, acting has been a lifelong passion and one that has taken her from New Canaan to New York City to London and back.
The New Canaan native is part of the No Name Collective, a theater group comprised of 15 artists she co-founded with friend Maggie Hood. The name of the group, which emphasizes the artists’ shared and collaborative experience, derives from a line in “Romeo and Juliet” where the latter says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The group put on a gender-swapped performance of “Macbeth” from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 in Brooklyn, N.Y.. Midshow, Kirby, who started out as Lady Macbeth, traded with her co-star, taking on the role of Macbeth for the rest of the play.
The No Name Collective plans to perform another show by spring, though it hasn’t been decided which Shakespeare play.
Q: How long have you been acting, and what made you want to act?
A: I have been acting for as long as I can remember.
I thought that I really wanted to make a career out of it, and I decided that if I got into New York University’s Tisch (School of the Arts’) acting program, I would do it, and if not, I would maybe explore other options. This was a very pivotal moment for me at the age of 18, and when I got in, I saw it as a sign and said “I’m going to go for it,” and I think that was the moment.
Since I graduated, I have been acting nonstop. I graduated in 2013 from Tisch, and I’ve done theater and film and a little bit of TV since then.
Q: How did growing up in New Canaan motivate you to pursue acting?
A: All the schools that I went to, New Canaan Country School and then Greenwich Academy, they’re really wonderful places that encourage you to explore different things and to participate in sports or in the arts, and they have strong academics. I think they just encouraged a lot of exploration and openness to trying new things, so I think that was very helpful.
Q: When did you co-found the No Name Collective, and why that name?
A: I founded this last year with Maggie Hood. She and I have been through all of our acting programs together. We went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and we spent a lot of time studying classical texts.
We wanted to do more, and we had a group of friends from school who went to the Classical Studio at NYU, and so we decided to put on a show together. We wanted to create an accessible Shakespeare, from ticket sales to the directorial lens. We wanted to bring the show to a younger audience, one that may not be that familiar with Shakespeare.
We started off with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was pretty successful. We sold out the show and had an amazing reaction of people coming up to us and saying how they had never really understood Shakespeare and they now had gotten it and were very excited about it.
After that we decided to step it up a notch and go full force, and it was after that first show that we came up with the No Name Collective, a bit of a Shakespeare joke, which comes from “Romeo and Juliet.”
Q: Where did the idea come from of switching roles in the middle of Macbeth?
A: I think that there were a couple of inspirations for it.
One, that monologue where Macbeth asks to be “unsexed” and we also really wanted to look at the characters of Macbeth, not as caricatures, but as a more nuanced couple and explore that more. That led us to wanting to do a gender swap because so often Lady Macbeth is this evil, power-hungry creature and Macbeth is this submissive man and we wanted to look at this transformation of power and not having it linked to their genders. They’re two parts of one whole. We didn’t want to link any of this power to gender and we really wanted to explore power dynamics and take gender out of the equation.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: We will start to work on a new show, for sure. We don’t know what it is yet.
Part of the nature of our collaborative group is that everyone has a voice in this decision and once the show is over we’ll debrief and talk about the show and from there decide what would be the best show to put on next. Depends on what everyone is feeling after the show, but we are planning to put on another show this spring.