Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon’s play about family, love, faith, and the fights that bind – a biting comedy with heart – is heading to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. We caught up with Anna Burgess, who recently toured the country in The 39 Steps, about what’s it like to tackle something like Bad Jews, her life and career, and a little bit of everything!
My name’s Anna Burgess. I’m a Melbourne based Actress playing the role of Melody in the Australian tour of Bad Jews. Theatre is my bliss.
You’ll be starring in the Australian premiere of Bad Jews. Can you tell us a bit about the show?
It’s a hilariously dark comedy that is brutally honest and relentless. Great writing combined with a wonderful Australian creative team.
What first interested you in the piece?
The humour. It’s a real page turner. I remember my first reading of it distinctly. It was in front of a beautiful open fire in winter and I intended to read it slowly over the night but couldn’t put it down. It swept me up in its pace and humour.
This is a show about family. Tell us a funny family story of your own.
My family are also unapologetically honest. It’s beautiful. Any dinner could end in tears of joy or any other gamete of emotion. I’m biased but I think my family are the funniest and most loving around.
Tell us about the first time you ever appeared onstage.
I studied ballet from a young age so my first appearance on stage would’ve been as a piece of popcorn! My career soared from there. Ha. In truth, I was an extremely shy child but all that disappeared when I was on stage. It was always somewhere I felt safe and at home.
You’ve trained at Deakin University, Lee Strasberg’s Institute, The Actor’s Lab and more. What is the strongest lesson you’ve learned through formal training?
That you never stop learning. My teachers words from as far back as high school to New York still hold the greatest value. Find the great teachers, work with them and keep moving forward.
Whose advice do you always take?
My teachers, directors, my Mums, my sisters, my close friends, my own.
What TV show/book/movie/blog are you currently obsessed with?
I’m knee deep in my obsession with plays. My next project Proof, by David Auburn, is my standard nighttime read but Shakespeare’s Richard III, Venus in Fur and Streetcar Named Desire are on heavy rotation as well. I love any skit Kristen Wiig does and cat/dog YouTube clips are my late night giggle indulgence.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Rufus‘s album Bloom. I love it. Music is a huge part of my day. I often play one song that I’ve fallen madly in love with on repeat all day.
What’s the most-used app on your phone?
Google maps. I get around a lot. I love road trips in my car, listening to great music and the buzz of not knowing what’s to come.
Do you sing in the shower? If so, what are you singing lately?
I don’t sing but I do scales and vocal warm ups unknowingly. My neighbours must really love that!
What’s the last play or musical you saw that blew you away?
I was lucky enough to see Matilda‘s Melbourne opening night. It was breathtaking. Theatre is my favourite place. To be onstage, to be watching, anything. I collect every ticket of every show I’ve ever seen and I remember each show specifically. I prefer to run off home after a great show so that the affect of the piece stays with me for as long as possible.
Who would you say your role models are?
My parents. My mother is a truly talented painter. She works at her art everyday. Both my parents are kind, witty, unconditionally loving, unapologetically uniquely themselves.
What excites you about the Australian performing arts industry?
The drive. It’s not easy on any scale to keep creating and putting up art but I love Australia’s artists pursuit to have their art and voice heard.
What do you think is most challenging about being a performer?
I guess it’s connected to the answer above. The greatest challenge I’ve found is the consistent pursuit to keep working with the knowledge that we don’t always know what’s ahead. But that’s life anyway. Art is always evolving, so I guess it’s what drives us but also challenges us.
What about being a performer do you find the most rewarding?
Working with wonderful creative teams, analysing the text of great playwrights, sparking conversations in foyers because of the work and getting to create and do what I love everyday. I get to work my artist each day and connect with people. That’s pretty special.
Do you have any party tricks you can tell us about?
I can not print those! Ha!
If you weren’t performing, what do you think you would do for work?
Motivational speaker. I’d love to create my own program for young adults to help them find and feel safe in their truest authentic selves.
What’s your favourite word?
Where and when can audiences see Bad Jews?
We’re touring to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Head to the Bad Jews website for all the tour date details.