Ann-Carol Pence is the woman behind much of the music heard at the Aurora Theatre. The Duluth resident, and the theater's associate producer, was most recently seen playing with the band on stage during this year's Christmas Canteen before stepping away from the keys to lend her voice to a solo. Her favorite music to listen to really is showtunes.
On her background in piano: My mother enrolled me in a Yamaha Music School when I was 3 but I went into formal lessons when I was 5 and have used my music all through my life. (My mother) always just had a great love of music. She was from a very simple family, and they didn't have the money for music lessons and I think she always thought it would help to create a well-rounded child so she wanted to expose me to that. I think that had I not been interested we would have moved on and done something else. It's really been a godsend. I had my first church job when I was 12 for a small, little country church, and then when I came to Atlanta, ironically enough, one of the churches that I played for was Lawrenceville United Methodist Church.
On the path that led her to the Aurora Theatre: I majored in elementary education and finished student teaching and went, "Wow, I'm not a grown up, and I need to do some other projects and see where it leads me." I think even in '87 when I graduated it seemed like the focus of education was really getting away from the child and more into testing and quantitative measures, and that wasn't my interest level. My interest was taking somebody who needed direction and helping them find direction. So I wanted to find something that ended up fulfilling the greater purpose we all feel like we have. I came to Atlanta in '87 to play piano and kind of hang out and see what I wanted to be when I grew up and I was really fortunate to have some great experiences that lead me (to the Aurora Theatre). In '96 a friend of mine was writing the very first Christmas Canteen and he needed somebody to write all the arrangements so I came up and wrote all the arrangements and it started from there.
On her acting abilities: I'm the worst actor in Georgia, I'm going for the worst actor in the Southeast and hopefully one day I'll be the worst actor in America. No, I've done a couple of things. Right when I came to Atlanta I did the Center for Puppetry Arts tour of "Winnie the Pooh," did a couple of smaller theaters in town shows, did a couple things in college, small roles. But I think everybody should figure out what they're really good at and encourage the areas where they're not good at, encourage someone else who is going to be really good in those areas. For me, my dream role would be Mama Rose in "Gypsy," but I don't think an audience paying $30 is going to want to see me live out my dreams.
On her hobbies: Eeek! (laughing) I don't know that you have many hobbies when you work full time in music. Certainly in the summer I'm going to read a trashy novel at any opportunity. I'm not going to read a play, not going to listen to a soundtrack from a musical. I love to just keep a Nintendo DS from time to time in my purse and play any kind of computer game. If I have any game at work it would encompass my life but for a little bit of relaxation I love being able to play a game of some sort. What am I playing now? I'm playing (Professor Layton and the) Curious Village.
On her strangest quirk: I'm a hoarder. So when anybody is trying to decide what to get rid of and what to keep, I seriously, I feel better if I don't know and I got that from my mother. When we need to get rid of stuff (at the Aurora), I feel like we need to keep everything, every costume we've ever used, every prop we've ever used, and somebody should know where it is. Not me, because I don't know where anything is. You'll notice with my music. I don't mind loaning somebody a piece of music but I am probably never going to let a music book leave my home or (the Aurora) because of my fear, well, what if I need that in the one day it's gone? Thank gosh Tony is the opposite of a hoarder because he'll get rid of everything. There's a point where our basement is crying out to have us down-size a bit.
On working closely with her significant other, Aurora's Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez, every day: There's lots of yelling. We've calmed down a lot, I think, having two separate offices. When we were in Duluth we were in one office together, his desk here, my desk here, looking at each other. We both came from loud families. He is Cuban, so the loudest person wins. I'm an only child from the mountains of Virginia, the loudest person wins. So you come from two loud families, that's just a dynamic that's here. So we really do try to say, as people are thinking of coming on full time, "Hey, how do you handle yelling?" That's our style of communication.
On the unique names of her pet cats: Mr. Chickenhouse, he was named after a show we did many years ago, "As It Is in Heaven." He was rescued behind the theater in Duluth. We have another rescued kitty, Gypsum, which means drywall, and she was a rescue kitty that was found inside some drywall.