The first time I met Anne I was an understudy and she was directing Green Co, we worked together for a day. Whatever. Years later I would become a director at Second City and Anne offered(or was forced) to sit with me and help me in any way I needed to successfully do a job. Not only did she give me information but she gave me REAL answers and listened to me. She made me feel both capable and human which if you work at Second City is not always what you are made to feel. I am so thankful for her.
ANDEL SUDIK: How would you like to be described?
ANNE LIBERA: As a director, a writer, and a teacher.
AS: Where are you from? Where do you live? What do you consider home?
AL: I was born in Minneapolis, we moved to Grand Forks, ND when I was a month old, and then we moved back to the Twin Cities when I was 8. Now I live in Chicago - very near the Francisco el stop where the train in on the ground. Home is where my books, my husband, my kids, and my dog are.
AS: Life story in half a page, GO!
AL: Dorky kid who wore glasses and walked to school with her nose in a book, worked in theater to escape middle school bullying, went to college thinking I would be a serious theater director, got a job working in the box office at Second City. Stayed there. Did stuff there. Got married. Got divorced. Got married again and it was much better. Discovered that what I really love is figuring out how comedy and improv works. Had kids. Lost a lot of the people I love way too early. Made some things I like.
AS: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Why?
AL: The Comedy Studies Semester at Second City. Sometimes you have an idea, you see the shape of it, you build it (with a lot of help and ensemble and collaboration) and it takes on a life of its own and becomes the perfect expression of that idea. That’s Comedy Studies for me. There is this moment about two thirds of the way through the semester when the students who have been putting the work in just make this giant leap forward in their ability to create their art. It never fails to thrill me. Also, one of my students once told me that I had created Comedy Hogwarts. So there is that.
AS: What is your biggest failure? And what(if anything) did you learn from it?
AL: All of my biggest failures (and they have been many and varied) have all resulted from not being clear about my own personal intention for a project and then making sure that intention was aligned with my collaborators or bosses. I’ve learned to be better about this but it still trips me up.
AS: Describe your perfect day:
AL: Wake up early, meditate and when I get downstairs Kelly has a made coffee, read all of the newspapers. Kiss my husband as I leave to go the the Green CIty Farmer’s Market and get a bunch of produce for dinner. Go to Paulina Market and get meats for dinner. Putter in my garden and then get immersed in a novel for an extended period of time. Eat great cheese and proscuitto and drink Aperol Spritzes while listening to great music and having a long and wide ranging talk with a smart female friend (like my sister Julie or Jen Ellison). Make dinner with the stuff I bought in the morning and eat it with my family and whoever else is here. Someone who is not me does the dishes. And if it were really a perfect day, it would end with drinking Chartreuse with my much missed best friend Mary Siewert Scruggs.
AS: How did you get where you are?
AL: I just did the next thing. And then the next thing after that. I wish I could say that I had some organized plan but… nope.
AS: What are you most proud of?
AL: My kids - I love the fact that my son calls me to talk to me about how excited he is by a play he has just read or a discovery he made in rehearsal. He is genuinely and passionately engaged in the work. I love how my daughter can manifest things that she wants through sheer force of her considerable will. She made herself into a truly brilliant visual artist (and she is also a terrific performer in her own right).
AS: What is one of your fears?
AL: Alzheimers or some other disease that causes me to lose my mind.
AS: What keeps you going every day?
AL: About a year ago, I forced myself to start exercising every day. I go up to the attic first thing before I do anything else and ride the stationary bike for at least 20 minutes and then I meditate. It’s a whole new world - I am clearer, my mood is better, I deal with stress better. All of it.
AS: Favorite podcast?
AL: 2 Dope Queens and Pod Save America
AS: Last piece of art that spoke to you?
AL: I can’t wait to go see The Hypocrites’ Aristophanesathon in a couple of weeks. All Our Tragic was the whole package of what theater should be - a deeply communal experience.
AS: Tell us an embarrassing story:
AL: This is a weirdly hard question for me to answer. I can only come up with deeply shameful moments that I am loathe to share.
AS: Pump up song?
AL: What Do You Love More Than Love by Dar Williams and Reasons Not to Be an Idiot by Frank Turner
AS: What advice would you give to someone who is lost?
AL: Deep breath and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
AS: Do you have a mantra or words to live by?
AL: I often do the “word of the year” thing and my word for this year is “Prioritize.” Also, there’s a book called The Tools and it provides a great mantra for when I’m feeling overwhelmed by something that I want to avoid or procrastinate on - “Bring it on! I love pain! Pain sets me free!” - there’s a visualization that goes with it but it is oddly helpful.
AS: What gives you meaning?
AL: The circle of humans who I have been able to affect in a positive way - my family, my friends, my students.
AS: What do you struggle with?
AL: Besides years of low grade depression? Letting go. Of things. Of projects. Of people. I was the kid who was in tears because Christmas was over and that particular Christmas would never come again.
AS: What is success to you?
AL: I would love to be recognized for the work that I have done that most satisfies me.
AS: What are you working on that you’re geeked out about?
AL: I designed a class called Improv for Caregivers that was delivered at The Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas (by the amazing Natalie and Derek Shipman). It really seemed to make a difference. And I have a contract to write a book about all the comedy theory that underlies Comedy Studies and the Comedy Writing and Performance BA.
AS: Anything else?
AL: I’ve been rereading Jane Austen and she is really really funny. I completely missed that when I first read her in high school
NOTE FROM ANDEL: Anne's incredible daughter is battling a new demon we'll call Jim(Cancer). If you're interested in keeping up they've created this site https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/eleanorleonard for information and support.