When Morgonn Ewen left music and turned to comedy, she never knew she’d be able to blend the two art forms in Annabelle, the lusty, life-loving con we meet in Annabelle’s Tails From Jail.
Convicted of attempted murder, she’s in for an eight-year term and explains to the audience, through song and laughs, her philosophy and how she got where she is.
“We might think Annabelle’s at her lowest, but she sees her current state as a situation that will help get her to the other side,” says Ewen, a fine singer as well as a comic. “She’s fixated on a guy called the Biter, and her biggest struggle is reconciling her wants with what actually happens to her.
“Her strength is making the best of a bad situation, but her weakness is not being able to hear the word no. She’s good at taking the nos in her life and wiggling them until she turns them into yeses.”
Annabelle, southern drawn and all, grew out of comedy classwork Ewen did with Impatient Theatre; she then took her onstage at various improv evenings. One night an audience member called out “Grand Ole Opry” when asked for a sketch location, and Annabelle became a C&W singer.
“Unlike my jazz songs, which were cerebral and had to be perfectly delivered, Annabelle’s music and her character can both have mistakes,” says the writer/performer, slipping into a Deep South accent.
“That was so liberating for me, like being given free candy. It’s great to play a character who doesn’t care what happens. That’s what improv is about, after all. You agree that a train wreck is possible and keep going if it happens, seeing where it takes you.”
Working at the Fringe rather than a bar or club allows Ewen to explore the darker, more dramatic side of Annabelle. That’s true also of the songs, all of which she wrote.
“I’ve been influenced by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Roy Orbison and Ray Charles. The songs start off light but end up being about stalking and revenge. What I’m trying to do is allow the music to help the story arc – not repeat the same ideas, but explore them further.” From July 6 at the Tarragon Extra Space.
Morgonn Ewen does time in Annabelle’s Tails From Jail.