Annika Rudolph said she has always loved using her imagination and would craft theatrical skits in her mind from the time she was in kindergarten.
Rudolph, 18, learned how to express her emotions through the performing arts when she joined her first dance class and discovered the power of making an audience laugh when she performed as Foxy Loxy in a rendition of “Chicken Little” before entering second grade.
The Manchester Valley High School graduate dedicated most of her childhood and early academic experience to building a career in stage performance from that point forward.
“I just remember that moment and it was like something exploded from my heart. I just knew that I needed to get that euphoria back, even as young as 7 years old,” Rudolph said.
“I just fell in love with it.”
Rudolph landed her first professional debut in November as Young Adele in Bated Breath Theatre Company’s “Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec,” a coronavirus pandemic-friendly theatrical walking tour through the streets of Greenwich Village in New York City.
Eight masked audience members are guided through the dreams of iconic artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as he recalls his final absinthe-laced years living and working in Montmartre, according to Bated Breath’s website. Live accompaniment collides with the city’s soundscape, designed to transport viewers into the bohemian world of 1899 Paris.
Rudolph plays Toulouse-Lautrec’s mother as a teenager, and the scene portrays five years of Young Adele’s relationship with Toulouse-Lautrec’s father. Other stops on the tour show audience members how the artist’s parents’ struggles contributed to his addictions later in life.
“He basically defines modern print advertising and he did most of the artwork for the Moulin Rouge in Paris,” Rudolph said. “He was an incredible painter and really defined that time of art, but he had a lot of struggles. Each stop on the tour is a different vignette of his life.”
Rudolph’s parents moved to Hampstead when Rudolph was in fourth grade, and she enrolled in D&J’s Dynamite Dance Company in Manchester to express her artistic talents. She learned how to sing in the Children’s Chorus of Carroll County and continued voice lessons at the Peabody Preparatory School in Baltimore.
D&J’s Dynamite Dance Company owner Jessica Etzel said Rudolph was always enthusiastic about coming to the dance studio and loved being part of a group.
“She was always the kid who had the most energy in the room,” Etzel said. “She had a lot of star quality from Day One and has always been a confident kid. Obviously, she grew up to be a confident young woman, and I think she was just always ready to go, always ready to work hard.”
In 2019, before graduating from Manchester Valley early, Rudolph performed in the Mavericks’ chapter of the International Thespian Society and participated in local theater, including September Song’s “Anything Goes,” which was nominated for Broadway World Baltimore’s Best Ensemble of the Decade.
Rudolph moved to New York City shortly after graduation to enroll in a two-year conservatory program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. However, the pandemic resulted in the shutdown of in-person instruction during the third of her four-semester program and students were sent home to resume their studies online.
The New York campus did not reopen for the summer, but AMDA’s Los Angeles campus was and students were encouraged to consider transferring there instead. As coronavirus cases started to surge on the West Coast, those classes were eventually moved online as well.
Still, Rudolph persevered.
“I was in bed for like a week, I was so upset,” Rudolph said. “It took me a while to really become myself again. It was crazy because I was registered as an LA student but I was in Carroll County, so all of my classes ended up being Pacific Time. All the classes were at night for fourth semester, so I was taking classes until 2 or 3 in the morning most nights, singing and learning choreography.
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“It was crazy.”
Rudolph said she couldn’t imagine having any other career, and she booked her theatrical debut after submitting a video she created that included a French piece of music, a repetitive line, 10 seconds of stillness and an object that transforms throughout the piece.
She had just 24 hours to complete the assignment to be considered for the role.
“She has such a driven personality,” Etzel said. “If she wants it, she’s going to go after it with nothing less than 100%. She has this attitude of not being scared to put herself out there for anything. She is going to be super successful, not only because of her talent but the way she’s able to put the work in to get to where she wants to go.”
“Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec” opened Friday and concludes Jan. 10 with six performances per night. Rudolph said it rained the night of her debut, and she described it as the most “exhilarating” moment of her life.
“I can’t really explain it in words,” Rudolph said. “I’m just on Cloud Nine and I feel really grateful because, throughout my hard work and this whirlwind of a journey, I have my family and friends by my side and I am so thankful for them …”
“This is the fun part. For every late night, now I get to celebrate in this time and it’s so exciting.”