A stageworthy evolution

Actress Anna Lou Hearn, a theater alumna, portrays resilient women at a new production in Fringe Arts.

Standing in front of the entire Temple theater department, Anna Lou Hearn nearly blacked out from nervousness. Switching rapidly between English and French, Hearn voiced her fury about her childhood home’s idea that being good at acting meant making a fool of herself.

While delivering this mandatory personal statement for a freshman acting course, Hearn found herself upon a great precipice in her life—on the brink of developing a new practice of her craft.

As she transitioned from York County to Philadelphia, Hearn was emerging from a time and place where she felt she couldn’t grow as an actress. In a rural community where both the theatrical opportunities and mindset were limited, she felt different from everyone.

But Hearn’s passion could not be contained, and the first traces of her method acting, a technique she continues to practice, surfaced amid three contrasting roles she inherited during her senior year of high school.

Cast as a middle-aged man in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Hearn channeled her energy into mastering Brooklyn dialect and a masculine walk in order to fully conquer the essence of her character.

“This was one of my first impulses as an actor, rather than just getting direction and taking it,” Hearn said.

She delved much deeper to harness these raw instincts through method acting courses Temple provided.

Shedding old layers of herself, Hearn noted an internal change toward positive choices in her acting before she started getting parts. These choices entailed willingness to be vulnerable.

During her junior year, Hearn was given the role of Kit in Temple’s main stage production of “Top Girls.” Donna Snow, the head of undergraduate acting at Temple, directed the play.

“Anna Lou worked tirelessly on those scenes with Angie [Kit’s mother] in and outside rehearsal,” Snow said. “Every rehearsal, you could see changes and where things had grown, and there was a lot of experimentation.”

The emboldening character of Kit preluded other roles of young women Hearn would come to play, which she describes as intensified forms of herself—something easy for her to access.

Hearn said she is “always living on high stakes,” and those are the roles she is cast in—because she knows how to “need that need.”

In Hearn’s latest endeavor, she takes on the role of Queen Marie in Eugène Ionesco’s “Exit the King” with the experimental theater company, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, through FringeArts.

Hearn’s commitment—maneuvering through the audition with a broken foot—and connection to the character were particularly striking to director Tina Brock.

“Despite her difficulty in walking and moving, she committed to the text, to the emotion and to the experience,” Brock said. “I knew this was someone I wanted to be in the same room with for four months.”

Hearn exposes her character’s vulnerability in order to reveal the underlying complexities—she wants audiences to find comic relief in Marie’s absurdity, but to also be moved by her sincerity.

“I believe her methods help her work to be consistent and ever-evolving within the framework of the parameters established in rehearsal,” Brock said.

“I would describe her performances as having what James Joyce refers to as a ‘radiance,’” Snow said. “A beautiful, talented young woman who has a unique combination of wisdom and innocence and a work ethic that is unparalleled.”

Grace Maiorano can be reached at grace.maiorano@temple.edu.

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