Readers of TheatreBloom! You’re about to have an O-P-P OPPORTUNITY to find out just what is so special about Kendra from 13: The Musical that everybody wants to date her! In the 12th segment of our ongoing exclusive interview series, “A Little More Homework” we sit down with Anastasia Johns to get the details on Miss Popularity herself at Third Wall Productions.
Thanks for giving us a minute, Anastasia, if you want to introduce yourself, we’ll get started.
Anastasia Johns: My name is Ana Johns and I play Kendra. I go to Carroll Community College and I will be transferring to Towson University in the fall. I’m a sophomore in college, I’m 20 and that makes me the oldest person in the cast.
What is it like being 20 and in college and playing a 13-year-old with a bunch of other young teenage performers?
Anastasia: I figure that since I look so young it’s very easy for me to play younger characters, I already look the part. I want to teach theatre at a middle and high school level so it’s been very easy for me to pick up mannerisms and adjust myself accordingly.
Do you have a favorite subject?
Anastasia: Well theatre, because I’m a theatre major. I’m getting my BA in Theatre Studies.
You’ve obviously done theatre before, what are some of your previous experiences?
Anastasia: Let’s go with my three most recent productions. I’m currently the assistant stage manager for Taming of the Shrew at Carroll Community College. Last summer I was Brenda in Hairspray with The Purple Light Theatre Company, Brenda’s the pregnant one. And this past fall I played Lily in The Giver, based on the book, at Carroll Community College.
Tell us a little bit about Kendra.
Anastasia: Kendra is your very stereotypical pretty, popular cheerleader. She is the girl that all the boys want and all the girls want to be her. I’m not used to playing that. That is very much not me in real life. But she’s also very naïve. One of the characters, her “love-interest” in the show, Bret— he wants to take her out on a date so that he can kiss her with tongue. That’s something that he’s never done before and he wants Kendra to be the first girl that he does that with. But Kendra thinks that Bret wants to be boyfriend and girlfriend with her, because you know she’s very sweet and naïve.
She’s very “perfect.” There’s one song where her “Best Friend” Lucy is singing, “You got the solo in choir because I told you what to sing, you got the lead in the fall school play because I coached you all last spring, you got to be the head of the cheerleading squad because I taught you everything.” Kendra just does everything. How can somebody be that perfect? But she does have flaws. Her naivety is definitely a flaw.
You gave us a great run down of how you and Kendra are not alike, how are you two similar?
Anastasia: Honestly? I think the naivety is very similar. When I was 13-years-old, I was definitely— “Wait— people kiss with tongue? What?” I didn’t know that. It’s really fascinating now being on the over 18 side of that line now. I’ve definitely had to go back to thinking about how I was when I was 13-years-old and the people around me when I was 13-years-old. In terms of characters, when I was 13, I was definitely more of a Patrice than I was a Kendra. So I have to remember what were girls Kendra like from when I was in middle school. I tried to avoid the Lucys. The Kendras were fine. They were very nice, but you might also think they’re kind of annoying because how can somebody be that pretty and popular and perfect? I have played children before. Lily, in The Giver, was seven-years-old. And I understudied Little Red for Into the Woods at Carroll Community College, and she’s ten. So I’ve definitely played younger characters before. It’s not like I’m totally going off of nothing here.
What has been the biggest challenge for you being a part of this show?
Anastasia: Currently it’s just getting everything done. I’m actively in rehearsals for Taming of the Shrew, we open while we’re still in rehearsals for this. I’ve had to miss quite a few rehearsals here so I could be there. Making sure that I get everything down and doing my best to practice everything at home and making sure that I’m relatively on the same page as everybody else as much as I can. I’m doing a lot of memorizing on my own, working on the songs when I’m at home, and working with my vocal coach outside of rehearsal, stuff like that.
The show talks about bullying. How do you feel about bullying?
Anastasia: Oh, man. I was bullied a lot throughout my entire life, actually. In elementary school I was made fun of because I openly watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune with my family. In middle school I was that weird girl who sat and drew and wrote stories all the time. In high school I was made fun of for doing theatre. It’s something that’s really stuck with me. I think that’s what’s great about theatre, everybody tends to be on the same page. We all have our quirks but we all come together to do that one thing that we really like to do. And we make something that people can enjoy. That’s what I really like about theatre. We all end up being a family by the end of it. This is not a place where there is bullying.
It’s really difficult to come from the bullied person to kind of being one of the bullies. Kendra doesn’t really know that she’s being a bully, but she doesn’t want to hang out with Archie, and Evan, and Patrice. And she only doesn’t want to hang out with them because they’re not “cool.” She does have this almost redeeming moment at the end where she could decide that she wants to be with these people but then she doesn’t. It just shows that she’s 13 and that she still has a lot of growing up to do. That’s actually one of the songs in the show. We sing about, “we all have a little more homework to do.” It’s interesting to come from the other side of things.
This show also talks about labels. How do you feel about labels?
Anastasia: Sometimes labels can help people with their identity. But putting labels on other people tends to be rather harmful. For example, a person’s sexuality: having a label for it can really help a person identify because it lets them know that there are other people out there like them and that they are not alone in the world with whatever they have going on in their brain. But labels in middle school— like being labeled a loser— is not a good label to have. Now, self-identifying as a loser is different. It’s not really a good thing? I mean if you’re joking about it and you don’t actually think you’re a loser, then it’s okay. But if someone else says you are a loser, that can definitely have a big impact on people that will stick with them forever. This is why we need to be kind to everybody regardless.
What is your favorite song?
Anastasia: Um…oh jeez. It’s a tie. Can I have a tie?
You may have a tie.
Anastasia: It’s definitely a tie between “Get Me What I Need” and “Bad, Bad News.” I mean that line in that song, “he fell for a slut with a fabulous butt…” when I heard they were going to use actual 13-year-olds for this production, I was surprised because this show has some pretty adult language and content in it. I mean the parents probably don’t’ want to hear their kids saying that stuff on stage…but I’m not the director, so that’s not my call. Now, I love “Get Me What I Need” because I just love Archie as a character. In every single show that I have been in there has been one character that I want to play but I can’t because I’m a woman or I’m white or I’m a white woman. And Archie for me is that character in this show. He’s so funny and his songs are so catchy! I would just love to play Archie!
What is your favorite part of the show?
Anastasia: Well, I do have a favorite joke. It’s me and Lucy talking and she’s telling me that Bret doesn’t actually want to be my boyfriend that he just wants to “do the tongue.” And she says, “Listen, Bret wants to take you to the movies for one reason only. He wants to do THE TONGUE.” And then I go, “The tongue??” and she goes, “The tongue! And trust me, you won’t like it.” And then I say, “But my mother says pretending you like it prepares you for marriage!” in my sweet innocent voice. That’s my favorite joke. I love giving that line so much. And I say it like it’s nothing and then I go back into “okay let’s continue cheerleading, guys!”
Do you have any cheerleading experience?
Anastasia: None at all! I did like one cheerleading class when I was seven years old but then I didn’t continue going to the class. It was literally just the one class. So going into this knowing I’m supposed to be the head cheerleader? Excuse me? And I barely have any dance experience either. I stopped taking dance classes when I was 14 or 15. So every time I dance I just pick it up from having done musicals. I’m just going with it.
What do you do in your free time?
Anastasia: When I’m not doing theatre and I’m not in class, I’m a photographer. I like to shoot people. I want to have my own photography business and eventually I’d like to do weddings, but I need to get some clients. I did the headshots for this show. I love doing headshots, senior portraits, and I love being a show photographer. All of the shows that I haven’t been on stage for at Carroll Community College I’ve taken photos for.
What has this show taught you about yourself?
Anastasia: It’s definitely helping me with my patience. Since I do want to teach kids this age it is definitely helping me learn ways to work with these kids and to know what it’s like to be at this level and working on stage with them. That’s a different perspective for a few years when I get my own company started up.
What do you think people will learn from seeing this musical?
Anastasia: I’m sure that a lot of people will have throwbacks to middle school and how much of a time that was for everybody. I’m hoping that people learn that everybody has room to grow. That’s the big moral of the story, Evan goes from wanting to just be popular to realizing that his friends are the most important thing.
Why do you want people to see you in this show?
Anastasia: Because it’s fun! It’s a really fun show. It has really funny lines and everybody’s really good. The singing sounds really great!
13: The Musical opens on May 13, 2016 and plays through May 22, 2016 with Third Wall Productions at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah— 5801 Hartford Road in Baltimore’s Hamilton neighborhood. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 443-838-4064 or purchasing them online.
To read Part 1 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Taylor Casalena, click here.
To read Part 2 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Jake Clark, click here.
To read Part 3 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Andi Rudai, click here.
To read Part 4 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Morgan Hewitt, click here.
To read Part 5 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Margaret Hamilton, click here.
To read Part 6 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Christopher Owens, click here.
To read Part 7 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Carly Victor, click here.
To read Part 8 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Ma’issa Wright-Kerr, click here.
To read Part 9 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Aidan Slowey, click here.
To read Part 10 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Maren Wright-Kerr, click here.
To read Part 11 of “A Little More Homework” featuring Anike Sonuga, click here.