Annie Keefe – Wisdom Goddess Project Participant

When I was 16 I did Lady Macbeth’s hand washing soliloquy as part of an English requirement at the girls’ school I attended in Massachusetts. I’m pretty sure I was terrible, but I got to dress all in black, and stand on the sweeping staircase of the school and people clapped when I finished. I didn’t think much about it other than that it was a strangely pleasant experience.

I headed off to college, figuring for no well thought out reason that I would become an interpreter at the UN after majoring in languages. The school sent its entire junior class abroad for the winter semester. So when January came in my freshman year, all the juniors left for Europe. My roommate cajoled me into auditioning for Charlie’s Aunt and because all the junior actresses were elsewhere, I got the part of Kitty.

I’m pretty sure I was terrible. But I got to wear a corset and some cool hats and people clapped when I finished. And that was it. I was completely and totally hooked. I graduated and headed off to the real world. I was completely unprepared. I had no idea how to become an actress. It wasn’t something anyone but conservatories taught at that moment in time. I
managed one audition for The Rainmaker at the Brattle Street Theater in Boston. I guarantee you I was terrible. I decided that acting was not for me and I’d better find a husband.

As luck would have it, before I found said husband, a friend called and offered me a job as a production assistant at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. I would fill out purchase orders, type things, I’d build a few props, oh, and I would act in the first production of The Three Sisters, playing a maid. This was it, I thought. Leading roles would follow as soon as they saw my maid. When that didn’t happen (yup, I was terrible), I knew I had to find something to keep me involved, because as mentioned…I was totally hooked.

At 23 I was hired as an assistant stage manager, something for which I was well suited, being as I was/am well organized, forward thinking and good at problem solving on my feet. Someone took a chance on me and I worked as a stage manager for the next 30 years at McCarter, Long Wharf Theater on Broadway and Off Broadway, and in the summers at The Shakespeare Festival in Dallas, and off and on at the Westport Country Playhouse. I married, had a child, divorced and married again. And then my life changed. Joanne Woodward asked me to be her partner in renovating the Westport Country Playhouse.

This amazing woman dragged me from behind the scenes and made me a public person. I looked at my skills and realized they were fungible. I had picked up a lot of useful information as a stage manager, I knew a lot of good and talented people. The real self-realization was that I could think like an artist. As such, I have spent the last 20 years working at this remarkable Westport institution. My pet project has been the Script in Hand program; a series of readings of good plays by excellent actors.

My second husband is a real keeper. He is a playwright, a novelist, a screen writer who still makes me laugh. Our combined family of three daughters and now four grandchildren keeps us both hopping. As I think about my next chapter, I think often about acting. Who knows? With 50 years of experience, maybe I wouldn’t be terrible.