Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet Aneesa Folds. Ms. Folds will be making her Broadway debut in Freestyle Love Supreme which was created by Thomas Kail, Anthony Veneziale, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Aneesa has also performed in the National Tour of Ragtime as well as regional companies such as North Shore Music Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Mac-Haydn Theatre, Palace Theatre, and Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre. Freestyle Love Supreme is one of the shows this season that I am most excited for so to have the chance to interview Aneesa was just wonderful!
1.) How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
In 5th grade, my music teacher Ms. Zerner made our class sing "We are the World". She split up the solos so everyone had a go at it. I was a very shy kid but when I sang my part she did a double-take and made me do it again. From there she pretty much forced me out of my comfort zone, even though I didn't want to she made me sing at school assemblies and then made me audition for the 6th grade musical. I ended up being in South Pacific that year and because of her, I haven't stopped performing since.
2.) Where did you study? Are there any mentors that truly helped make you the performer you are today?
I studied musical theatre at the Hartt School of Music, Dance, and Theatre (University of Hartford). My true passion for the arts started back home in New York where I attended summer and after school programs that pretty much shaped me into who I am today. I owe it all to Wingspan Arts and the Young People's Chorus of New York City. These programs gave me countless amazing opportunities before I'd even decided to make this a career path. I've been blessed with many mentors from both of these programs who continue to be in my life today. I've even been given the opportunity to work with some of them professionally in my adult life. Francisco J. Núñez, the founder and Director of YPC has brought me on board as an artist for a wonderful organization called American Young Voices 3 years in a row now and it's always the highlight of my year. I am beyond thankful for these relationships, and for the people that pushed me to be great before I even knew who I wanted to be. Support the arts people!
3.) Congratulations on making your Broadway debut in Freestyle Love Supreme! What are you most excited for about this show?
Thank you! Making my Broadway debut is something I've dreamed of for a very long time. Making my Broadway debut with THIS show? I could not be more grateful. I've been a fan of Freestyle Love Supreme and everyone attached to it for years. I used to attend their shows in high school/college and stand outside of the venues waiting to meet the cast. Fast forward to this past March, I was able to take classes with their Academy and from there I was invited to audition for the show. If you told me this is how I'd be making my debut I'm not sure I would have believed you. This show is unlike anything you've ever seen, it’s fresh every night and just like the audience, we have no idea what is going to happen. This is what makes it so special and unique. Come out and experience the magic for yourself!
4.) Are there any other shows that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
I was Deloris Van Cartier in 'Sister Act' at The Mac-Haydn Theatre and it was an absolute dream! For some reason, I had convinced myself that someone like me would never take the last bow on a stage and I had made peace with that. I don't know who I thought I was filling my head with these lies and holding myself back from my true potential. I am super grateful to the creative team at Mac-Haydyn for seeing something in me that I failed to see in myself. I made sure to stop and take it in every time I took that bow. From that experience, I've learned to remind myself I belong. I’m where I'm supposed to be.
5.) What advice would you give a young artist who wants a career in the performing arts?
Keep Going and do not stop. This is not an easy path we've chosen; it has its ups and boy does it have its downs but we do it because of the fire burning inside of us. Just remember, your journey won't be the same as anyone else's so do your best not to compare. Your time is your time, no matter how long it takes be patient because I promise, what is meant for you will NOT pass you!