Entertainment :: Theatre

Tanna Frederick :: Does she ever rest?

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Monday May 7, 2012
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Does Tanna Frederick ever rest? The 32-year old Hollywood actress appears to always be involved in something. When she’s not starring in a feature film, she’s acting on stage; or behind the scenes directing the production; or working on the film festival she established in her native Iowa; or advocating for cleaning up the California coastline; or just surfing. Does she do windows? We didn’t ask.

Frederick is best-known for the numerous films she’s worked on with indie cult director Henry Jablom, the British-born, LA-based writer/director best-known for his intimate dramas and comedies.

Since 2006, the pair has worked on both film and stage projects together, including "Hollywood Dreams," in which she played a young woman, Margie Chizek, from Mason City, Iowa that’s comes to Hollywood to break into the movie business. In a positive review of the film, The New York Times described Frederick as having "tumbling Titian curls and a smile as wide as Hollywood Boulevard...

"Knowing but never jaded," the review continued, "’Hollywood Dreams is driven by Ms. Frederick’s no-boundaries commitment to her broken character, a performance that’s as startling as it is touching. In Mr. Jaglom’s maverick hands, the appeal of illusion over reality is both fatal and irresistible." For the role Frederick won the Best Actress at the 2007 Montana Independent Film Festival and the Best Actress Award at the 2008 Fargo Film Festival.

She repeated the role of Margie in the sequel to "Hollywood Dreams," "Queen of the Lot," for which won the Best Actress at WorldFest-Houston in 2011.

Perhaps it’s a case of life reflecting art, but like the character she played in that film, Frederick came from Mason City, Iowa to pursue a Hollywood movie career. Her relationship with Jaglom began with a fan letter she wrote him, after which he hired her to work in his office.

Nor is her stage and screen work strictly Jaglom-related. She recently starred in Jaglom’s play "Just 45 Minutes From Broadway" for eight months during the show’s Santa Monica run; she also starred as the title character in A.R. Gurney’s "Sylvia" (in which she played a dog) and is presently starring in and directing "Why We Have A Body (WWHAB)," Claire Chafee’s outlandish comedy that runs through May 6. For the final weeks of the run, Frederick is joined by actress Karen Black, who took over the role from Barbara Bain.

She plays a private eye named Lili that specializes in divorce cases. While on one case, she finds herself developing strong feelings for a married woman. EDGE spoke to Frederick about the play and her career recently.


Play stayed with her

EDGE: Tanna, why did you want to make your directorial debut with this play?

Tanna Frederick: It was a play that I had done in 1996 that stuck with me ever since I acted in it in college. The words haunted me, the themes, the story, the poetry of it kept playing through my mind at different moments in my life and I could never shake it. When something has that affect on you, the wise thing to do, I believe, is go for it and direct it!

EDGE: One of the characters in the play says at one point that the three sections of a brain are "memory, lust and hammering doubt." What do you think of that assessment?

Tanna Frederick: I completely agree with that. In every human being, the pie graph, presents itself differently. I can’t speak for others but in myself I know lust and hammering doubt are pretty big. I have a lot of memories I try to block out but I do think that is a genius line and very true!!!

EDGE: The play was written in the 1990s. Things have changed greatly in the way we view LGBT characters. Has the play stayed current with the times in its portrayal of its lesbian detective?

Tanna Frederick: Absolutely! What’s really sick and twisted is that play was written almost 20 years ago and we are still dealing with Prop 8 and people like Kirk Cameron. The fact that that type of mentality exists proves that this is a bigger battle than we ever imagined. The issues that this play was based on, love and acceptance, and it couldn’t be a more perfect time for a play like this to keep the "elephant" in front of people’s faces until this battle is won and bigotry is null and void.


Working with Henry Jaglom

EDGE: Has Claire Chafee reworked the play at all?

Tanna Frederick: Not that I’m aware of.

EDGE: She has said that there is a "whispered conversation between the audience and the play" - why do you think she uses the world "whispered?"

Tanna Frederick: Both literally and figuratively it’s true. When I say my line to the audience, "What’s the definition of insanity?.. say it, say it.." three quarters of the audience literally whisper, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". On a figurative level, the words and themes are so strong sometimes they hit you and take your breath away. You can hear audible hits to people’s pyche.

EDGE: The play has surreal elements. Are they difficult to conceive of in terms of your staging?

Tanna Frederick: No, not at all. I constructed a Terry Gilliam, Baron M√ľnchhausen-like journey for this work of pros to be saddled upon and people ride along the story very well by creating a literal through line with Mary’s character. There’s a lot of leeway for magic with the other characters. A lot of room for flights of fancy. I have added a five piece band to show the balancing out the estrogen and testosterone on stage and also having the band act as another character in which to hold the glue of the staticky plotlines of the other women together.

EDGE: You have worked quite a bit with Henry Jaglom. What is it about him that makes you want to collaborate with him again and again?

Tanna Frederick: Our Imaginations-our aesthetic is the same. He and I see eye to eye on the vision that he wants to accomplish and I seem to pull it off.

EDGE: You helped find the Iowa Film Festival, which you’ve been a part over the past three years. Why did you start it?

Tanna Frederick: I wanted to give people in Iowa a chance to believe in themselves and make films. There seems to be this humble minded group thing in Iowa in which people think films can only be made on the East or West coast. Since we started this, local film makers have started to make films about Iowans as well as non- Iowans and there is an wave of confidence coming from these filmmakers that is inspiring. They are starting to send their films off to festivals and some are winning awards. Nothing makes me more happy than to see people inspired and excited by their work and by the idea of possibility!


Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.

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