As we count down to the final performance of Intelligence at Arena Stage, I thought it would be nice to get to know our lovely cast a little better. I had a chance to speak with them about their passion for theatre, the relevance of this play, their relationship with their characters, and where we can see them next onstage. First up, we have Aakhu TuahNera Freeman, who plays Elaine Matthews, the CIA Deputy Chief of Counterproliferations. Please enjoy!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
AAKHU TUAHNERA FREEMAN: I don't recall actually making a decision to go into theatre. Nor do I recall any particular inspiration. I do know that I never wanted to be anything other than an actor. Never ever.
JL: Set in 2003, INTELLIGENCE is a historical fiction that examines the lies that led to the war in Ira, the impact of the war on the Iraqi people, and what happened when the Bush Administration retaliated against two U.S. citizens when the truth of those lies were revealed. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
ATF: The play is relevant today because we're currently being bombarded by lies. Not only lies, but lies with impunity, lies being referred to as 'alternative facts'. I think the play reminds us of the damage done to the citizenry when people in government are allowed to lie and act on those lies.
JL: Who are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions, or belief system?
ATF: I play Elaine Matthews. The character is passionate about what she does. I'm passionate about what I do. However, that's where our similarities end. Our belief systems, politics, values, etc. are totally opposite.
JL: What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing this play?
ATF: I hope people will leave thinking about what truths they can speak to resist what is currently happening in the U.S. government.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
ATF: My next project is "Proof" (Claire) at Olney Theatre, opening in May, and "Death of a Salesman" (Jenny), opening in October at Ford's Theatre.
AAKHU TUAHNERA FREEMAN (Elaine) is happy to return to Arena Stage where she previously appeared as Clara in The Great White Hope, Sue in All My Sons and Della in The Royal Family. Other credits include Rose in Fences and Mrs. Coleman in The Soul Collector (Everyman Theatre); Mrs. Breedlove in The Bluest Eye and Gerthe in Insurrection: Holding History (Theater Alliance); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and four national tours (the Kennedy Center); Much Ado About Nothing and Richard III (Folger Theatre); Our Lady of 121st Street (Woolly Mammoth); Something You Did (Theater J); and Amen Corner (African Continuum Theatre). Her most recent performance was in Fresh Brewed: Tales from the Coffee Shop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!