The play's the thing for Annie Enneking
Annie Enneking remembers the moment that changed her life.
In 1980, Enneking, then 13, went with her mother to see the Children's Theatre Company's production of "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant."
"When it was over, I said, 'I want to do that,' " Enneking recalled. "I wanted to be on that stage."
Within just a few years, she was — performing the title roles in "Alice in Wonderland" and "Pippi Longstocking" and winning acclaim, though still in high school, as one of the Twin Cities' most-talented actors. She was a spritely ingénue who also could sing, dance and perform gymnastic stunts.
In those days, CTC operated its own secondary school and as a result, the Children's Theatre became Enneking's whole life, social and otherwise.
"We had math and science and English in the morning and in the afternoon all our theater classes," Enneking remembered. "If you were in a show, you also had rehearsals or performances and if you weren't performing, you were expected to work backstage. We lived, breathed and ate theater."
It was also a time when the sheer size of CTC's performing schedule was legendary; some considered it appalling. Enneking remembers doing at least 120 performances of "Pippi Longstocking" and laughs when she recalls a "meltdown" after about the 100th show.
No understudies then
"I turned to somebody backstage and started crying and said, 'I can't do it anymore.' And then I went on. There were no understudies. You had to do it. That's one of the things you learned — the necessary energy you had to maintain to do the work and the organic, supportive nature of theater. You knew how important it was."
Enneking graduated from the theater's school conservatory in 1985 — there were 20 in her senior class, she remembers — and almost immediately landed a job with the repertory acting company at Actors Theatre of St. Paul, a now-defunct professional troupe (another company recently adopted the same name) that was doing some of the sharpest theater in the Twin Cities. She also worked at several other local theaters and at the Playwrights' Center.
Then, in 1990, she "switched careers," and spent the next eight years as a dancer, performing with Danny Buraczeski's Jazzdance, the Paula Mann Dance and with Shawn McConneloug and Her Orchestra. An injury in 1998 ended that career, and Enneking turned to songwriting and singing, releasing several albums, including a solo folk album and several rock albums with a band called Triangle Park.
She also married Jeremy Norton, now a captain with the Minneapolis Fire Department. They have two daughters: Flannery, 8, and Harper, 4.
And she returned to theater — including the Children's Theatre, where she most recently appeared last spring in "The Lost boys of Sudan." Self-described in the theater's staff listing as "more hag now than ingénue," Enneking works with the theater's "Neighborhood Bridges" program that places theater artists in public school classes.
"We build a relationship with kids in their elementary classrooms, working through storytelling and things like theater games," Enneking said. "They learn about the use of narrative in structuring not only plays, but life. That's what it's about."
The phrase, "theater is my life" is a cliché that is generally spoken sarcastically by actors. But there is truth in clichés, Enneking says.
"The Children's Theatre had everything to do with me becoming an actor," she said. "Even as a kid, I felt so satisfied working on the stage and being a part of that community. I don't know what I'd be if I hadn't participated in that school and became an actor. It has everything to do with me as a human being."
More like this
- The envelope, please: This year's Ordway Sally Awards go to ...
- Old favorite, '500 Hats,' returns at Children's Theatre Company
- Video: Rhiana Yazzie's "Rainbow Crow" opens at the SteppingStone Theatre
- Children's Theatre's 'Biggest Little House in the Forest' perfects the art of child's play
- High stepping: The Irish Day of Dance and Steppingstone's 'Get Up Your Irish'