Annie Kunjappy was born in Malaysia and spent most of her childhood there, excepting a two-year period at her ancestral home in India. Her interest in creating theater began early, with her first play written and directed at age nine called Unta-Unta (which translates as Camels, and can be loosely categorized as a living room farce involving an invisible camel). Her education through secondary school at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus gave her a good dose of English literature, while the increasing influx of western music and film into Malaysian culture shaped her imagination and gave her the impetus to venture out to the Far West, landing her in the San Francisco Bay Area for her university education.
After an excursion into the study of mathematics through graduate school, she resumed her pursuit of theater at the Actors’ Studio, and then through the physical and compositional training of Tadashi Suzuki and Anne Bogart. She worked with various theater companies around the Bay Area and was eventually an ensemble member of the experimental theater company Ego Po where she met Temple Crocker and Rowena Richie. Together they founded Strangefruit Theatre Ensemble in 1995.
Strangefruit became for Annie the crucible for deeply intimate experiments in collaborative ensemble-devised theater. This was an expansive period of risk-taking, work staged in unconventional venues and involved a network of fellow artists and friends, especially Will Waghorn, Tom Ontiveros, John Polak, Sean Hayes, Leigh Evans, Jim Cave and Sydney Carson. Strangefruit created six original performances including Heat Death of the Universe, based on a short story by Pamela Zoline, and Sewing Lessons, inspired by the life and work of Surrealists Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. Sewing Lessons was honored by the Theatre Critics’ Circle with nominations for Best Direction, Costume Design and Sound Design in 2001. This led to work as costume designer with companies such as A Jewish Theatre, Nightletter Theatre and Campo Santo. The costume design for Campo Santo’s production of Funnyhouse of a Negro won the Dean Goodman Award for 2002.
Alongside her work with Strangefruit, Annie trained in Motion Theatre with Nina Wise and Corey Fischer. This work dovetailed with her explorations into Buddhism and ideas of presence and emptiness. After a period of teaching apprenticeship in this physical impulse-based improvisational theater form, Annie performed and co-taught workshops with Nina and Corey in California and New York City. During a visit to NYC in this capacity, Annie decided to move to the East Coast.
Subsequently, the ensemble she had co-founded embarked on a new evolutionary phase that left behind the intimate development process of regular, leisurely and explorative rehearsals that extended over long periods. Creating work now required phone calls and emails, bus, train and car trips between NYC and Baltimore where Annie’s primary collaborator and friend Temple was attending graduate school. Work was created during short periods of intense rehearsals and at summer residencies at the Ko Festival in Amherst . The ensemble was renamed Woofnova, acquired a new core member Daniel Nelson, and later Morgan Pecelli.
Meanwhile, Annie became a mother and moved to the Hudson Valley. Harkening back to her early inculcation into theatre, her current work hopes to be inspiring to an inter generational audience. In this age of cyber communication, theatre remains a “hot” medium where young audiences can be present in a live exchange of physical and psychic energy, which could quicken a consciousness of the quests of the human spirit and engender an active appreciation of the articulated mind and body.