Ann Sonneville, Ali Burch & Max Monnig in Dracula.
By Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Ali Burch is a Louisville native who studied at Kentucky Country Day, Walden Theatre, and Loyola University. She has been working in Chicago since graduating, but is currently back in Louisville as a member of the Apprentice/ Intern Company at Actors Theatre, where she is also a part of the cast of Dracula.
Keith Waits: #1. You are a member of the Apprentice/Intern Company at ATL this year, in the acting program. Having grown up in Louisville, was this always a goal for you?
Ali Burch: I was always aware of the program and its reputation, but no, actually. There was something full circle and cosmic about growing up with Actors Theatre, the audition last January, and the ability to “professionally” stalk Les Waters that made it impossible to refuse.
KW: #2. Right away you got cast in Dracula. How exciting is that?
AB: Crazy surreal. To be in a show that I have idolized since I wasnine years old is truly a dream come true. It’s also exciting because horror, in a theatrical setting, is so hard to do, and no one does it like (Dracula director) Bill McNulty.
KW: #3. Was screaming a part of the audition?
AB: Yes! If you get called back for Mina/Monster, they ask you to do your own version of the chase scene with full vocals. It’s not everyday you eat lunch while listening to blood curdling screams from the next room.
KW: #4. William McNulty built special effects into this production to really “unnerve” the audience; does it ever have that impact on the cast?
AB: I can’t speak for the rest of the cast, but I am still a hot mess when I watch the Dracula/Van Helsing throw down. It is not only the special effects though. I am usually pretty unnerved by Randy’s performance in the Dracula/Sullivan scene. Not much acting required there to be terrified.
KW: 5. You were a student at Kentucky Country Day and Walden Theatre for several years. Can you describe your educational progression from KCD to Walden?
AB: Even at the time I was aware ofwhat an incredible education I was getting at KCD, particularly with our English department. KCD was where I first read Heart of Darkness, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc and began to understand my love of the horror genre.
With Walden Theatre, it will always be the place to shed your invisibility cloak and shine and feel human and a member of an artistic community. Even if you don’t want to be an actor, being at Walden heals parts of you that feel like you don’t belong. I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for Walden.
KW: #6. I remember you played some plum roles while you were at Walden. What stands out for you?
AB: Oh man, I was very lucky at Walden. Hermione in The Winter’s Tale really stands out for me. That was the first time, as an actor, I had the realization that victimhood is not an interesting thing to play on stage. To be entrusted with some of Shakespeare’s greatest heroins as a hormonal teenager is a gift, and I am so proud of Walden for imbuing us with a sense of worthiness to tackle Shakespeare at such a young age.
KW: #7. Where did you study after that?
AB: I attended Loyola University Chicago and am based in Chicago now. I studied in London for a semester, took a First Folio class with Larry Yando at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Things pop up here and there.
KW: #8. What do you feel you have left to learn?
AB: Oh lord. So much. And hopefully I’ll never stop feeling that way. I would love to do more TV/Film work in the future.
KW: #9. What shows have you done outside of school? What are the challenges of finding work in Chicago?
AB: There is a plethora of amazing storefront theatre in Chicago, which is great at this point in my career. I recently worked on a world premiere adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment with Lifeline Theatre. I’ve done new work with Victory Gardens, Red Tape, Redmoon and Shattered Globe this past year too. I think the challenge of storefront theatre is mostly financial, being that there is little to no money in it. Finding a “day” job to make ends meet without burning the candle at both ends is something I am still navigating.
KW: #10. You’ve spent time working with playwright Philip Dawkins. What was that like?
AB: I adore that man. I quit this miserable desk job, and a few days later got an email from him asking if I wanted to be his personal assistant. I think he is a unique and fascinating new voice in American Theatre and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I would love to see someone do his play, Failure: A Love Story in Louisville. Theatre ? Spread the word and somebody get on that.
AB: #11. Did it inspire you to write?
AB: Yes and no. I have only written one thing, which happens to be a full-length adaptation of Frankenstein, which I also directed and choreographed. Cliff Notes version: the Creature is a woman and its set in Appalachia. It was two years ago and I still feel drained from it. I’m not so good at the writer’s schedule. Philip is so adept at handling multiple projects all at once and structuring time to write. That is a skill I still need to learn.
KW: #12. Speaking of writing, what can you tell us about your work in the upcoming Solo Mios, the Apprentice Showcase shows that will run through November?
AB: At the moment, it is still a mystery to me. We are divided into three groups and my group doesn’t go up until November. The September group just performed their solo mios and they were truly incredible. A/I Ensemble Project #1 (aka: Elsewhere) goes up this Wednesday and Thursday. Come check it out!
KW: #13. What are you hoping to take away from the apprenticeship at ATL?
AB: I am hoping that Les Waters will adopt me. If that doesn’t work out, I look forward to a more expansive sense of community by the time I leave. The guest artists that come through have made a huge impact on me already. I’m also very excited to see the process of new work development as it relates to the Humana Festival and all of the playwrights. God, so many exciting people pop up in Louisville for Humana. I can’t wait.
KW: You did the zombie walk in Louisville this year, so here is #14: What is the fascination among theatre types for the undead?
AB: I just had this conversation with Ann (who plays Lucy in Dracula). We were very macabre kids growing up, which seems common amongst actors. I have always been obsessed with death, so the prospect of being part of a piece that explores the physical embodiment of death is so intriguing. Actors feed on stakes (yes, OPPOSING PUNS!) and what could be higher stakes than the life and death circumstances of this play. Full discloser: if it comes down to zombies vs. vampires-I’ll choose vampires any day.
KW: #15. Was it scary to be part of a shuffling horde of zombies?
AB: I was feeling pretty chill till some guy showed up with a real chain saw. No thank you.
KW: #16. What are your long-term goals? New York? Hollywood?
AB: Chicago for the near future. After that, who knows what the future holds. I do hope to work with Actors Theatre again.
KW: #17. If you could do anything else besides theatre, what would it be?
AB: I can’t imagine that life, nor do I wish to.
See Ali in these ATL productions:
Actors Theatre Apprentice/Intern Company presents Elsewhere
The first in a trilogy series of devised workshop productions
September 24 & 25, 2014
Tickets are FREE
Fifth Third Bank’s Dracula
September 12 – October 31, 2014
Actors Theatre of Louisville
315 East Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202