Hannah has been with the Conservatory since she was a junior in high school. She is now a sophomore in the theatre program at Marymount Manhattan College in NYC. Hannah has come full circle, from being in Conservatory shows (The Wedding Singer, Anything Goes, Rent, and Xanadu) to being a counselor during our Summer Conservatory program. We can’t wait to see what new and exciting things Hannah does in New York!
Q: You were in Conservatory shows while in high school and then transitioned over to counselor for Hillbarn Conservatory. What are the differences?
A: It’s different in a lot of ways because as a counselor you are in a leadership position. You get to sit more on the director’s side of the table. Even though you don’t have a big say as to what the casting will be, you still work with the director and you get to be a little more connected to the creative side. As a cast member you aren’t instructing others, you are working more as a team with your cast and crew. Both build teamwork because the main goal is to work well with others.
Q: You go to Marymount Manhattan College. Are things you learned at Hillbarn, helping you at school?
A: Yes, and I’ll tell you why. I think a lot of things I learned at Hillbarn, like what I was saying about teamwork and working with others. But I guess it’s something you learn with any kind of theatre group. It’s been a very important thing at school, to be able to work with a variety of people. Each summer at Hillbarn you’re going to have a different group of people that you’re going to be working with. That’s a similar thing with school. Each semester you will be working with a different group of people and being able to adapt.
Another thing that has been great about Hillbarn is that it’s not like you always have the same five people in every lead role. Hillbarn is very good about casting each of their shows based on the performers that fit the roles the best. I don’t think you get quite as much when you are dealing with most high school or middle school shows; they often just cast the best singer. Hillbarn really showed me that everyone has these different characteristics and we’re not all going to be considered for the same roles. That has been a huge thing in college. We have a range of very talented people. During auditions you may have the best singer, but they may not be called back for any of the roles because of types they fit.
Q:Tell me about your first New York Professional audition.
A: It was a really good experience and I had the opportunity to hear and see a lot of stereotypical things. Like conversations between two people who’ve known each other before and are catching up and will say something like, “Oh, yes, lately I’ve been doing this workshop show.” They’re doing this humble brag back and forth. You can’t let that intimidate you. I just brought my homework and I read and I was there for maybe four hours. It’s a lot of sitting and waiting to be brought in. Once I went in, it was good, they were all super friendly, and I sang for them. It was a no pressure sort of thing and I didn’t go in really expecting anything, I just wanted to get a feel for what it’s like to audition out in the real world. And, it was a lot less scary than I thought it would be.
Q: When did you know you wanted to do theatre as a career?
A: Probably by the end of 8th grade. I had a pretty good sense that I definitely wanted to do theatre in high school with the goal that I would go on to do it in college. It was good for me to know this during high school. It’s so competitive and I feel like I was always in a show in high school. I just wanted to take every chance I got to practice and get better. 8th grade was also a time where I started to get some bigger parts and I was like, ” Oh, I’m actually kind of good at this. This is something that I could do more of.”
Q: When and how did you become interested in theatre?
A: I grew up interested in theatre, but I didn’t start really performing until 4th grade. It was a hobby and I would do a show a year, and it was a little fun thing on the side that I would do. Then in middle school, I started spending my summers doing shows and it was a lot of fun. I played sports throughout middle school, but I was never really amazing at any of the sports I played. So it was fun for me to do theatre, especially acting because it made sense to me and it clicked with me.
Q: How was it different working on a show behind the scenes compared to being on stage?
A: You have a lot less freedom when you are working backstage because everything has to have a specific place. When you’re on stage, obviously you have to do the right steps and right movements, but you have more freedom as to how your character is going to appear on stage. When you’re working behind the scenes each move is so specific to the show that it can either make or break how the performance runs. I’ve learned that the hard way being kind of thrown into a backstage position filling in for someone where I had some mishaps. Working backstage gave me such an appreciation for the people who do it full time because it is so crucial to the success of the show.
Q: What is your favorite musical and why?
A: I would have to say it changes all the time, but a musical that I always love is Into the Woods. The musical is very clever and funny which is what I love in a show. And even though it does have some darker themes, with a sad ending – well a little bit bitter sweet – it’s not a depressing show like Les Mis where it’s depressing all around with some great songs. Into the Woods has a great balance between the lighter and the more deep and meaningful themes.
Q: How did you feel when you first performed in front of a live audience?
A: My first memory was in the fourth grade in my class musical. I remember it being really exciting. I had a lot of lines for the time and that was really exciting for me. I remember being especially excited by getting a lot of laughs. It really helped build my confidence especially when it came to humor. When having a regular conversation, you can’t always know if people are genuinely laughing or just being polite. Being on stage you get the most genuine reaction.
Q: What made you decide you wanted to work as a Counselor at Hillbarn Conservatory?
A: The first thing was I definitely wanted to return to Hillbarn because I had two great summers there, plus throughout my senior year of high school, I worked backstage a couple times and I really enjoyed that. I knew I wanted to make some money before I started my first year of college. It just seemed like a natural fit to work at Hillbarn since I was going to a theatre school. I could have done the high school show, West Side Story, but I knew it wasn’t a show that fit me exactly, so I figured it might be better to work there. I was so happy I did because I loved all the kids. It gives you so much joy to provide the same experience that you had, to others.
Q: What was the first musical you’ve ever seen on stage? What did you think of it?
A: I don’t remember the first musical, but I do remember my first Broadway show was Beauty and the Beast, even though I don’t really remember it. But I do remember when I saw Wicked. I remember thinking that was the show that made me really want to do theatre. The whole production of it was just so exciting to me. I was singing the songs for the next month. That was actually the first time I noticed all aspects of the show. I fell in love with the costumes, the sets, and the props. It wasn’t just about the songs, but the actors, the sets, the whole production really.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being in a show?
A: The community that you form with your fellow actors. There is something really special about that because you’re working very closely with one another anywhere between a month to three months. Even though you don’t see each other outside the world of the show, there’s something special because you had that connection with each other. Also, when you are in a show with different people, you can learn a lot from those around you.
Q: What has been your favorite show you’ve been in?
A: Probably tied between Anything Goes and Once Upon a Mattress, which were actually within a few months from each other. Those were the two most exciting roles I have ever played. Winnifred, the part I played in Once Upon a Mattress, I hope I get to play again because this character is most similar to me and made me feel the most comfortable. Playing that part just came naturally, and I understood all of Winnifred’s quirks and it just made sense to me. Then in Anything Goes, I played Reno Sweeney. And she is a little different than me, she has a lot more confidence than I do, she’s a little more of a go-getter. But that was a really great role to take on because felt so different and she was this kind of character that I looked up to. I had done Anything Goes once before when I was a freshman in high school, and I was in the ensemble. I remember thinking Reno would be such a fun role to play so getting the chance to actually do that was amazing. Plus I had a really good experience with the Hillbarn cast of Anything Goes where I became really close to the people in the cast and on the crew. Had I not done that show, I might not have been as inclined to return to Hillbarn, but I had such a great experience that whole summer.
Q: What’s your dream role and why?
A: The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. I think it’s a similar thing where I understand that character. I remember the first time I watched Into the Woods, I was like, “Yeah, I want to play this character.” She has a great sarcastic, funny sense of humor and she also has in my opinion the best songs in the show. “Moment in the Woods” has some great rhymes that make you think about life. That’s an amazing thing to have a song that has a deeper meaning, but can also make people laugh.
Q: Which Broadway performer do you feel is your spirit animal and why?
A: If I was more of a diva, it would be Barbra Streisand. So…let’s go with Jessie Mueller. I want to play Carole King, so we have that bond already and apparently we look alike. I met Jessie Mueller at the Beautiful stage door, and my mom was like, “You guys look like you could be twins!” And I was like “yeah…” I mean Jessie Mueller agreed that we look like we could be sisters, so we already have a special bond.
Q: What do you remember about your first Hillbarn Conservatory show?
A: I remember a lot. The show was Wedding Singer. I remember the callbacks for the grandmother and it’s a common thing with high school girls to want to play the “pretty” roles. In high school you’re not quite comfortable with yourself and being called back for the “ugly role” is very nerve-wracking. So when I was called back for the grandma, I was like, “You know what, I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to be weird, have fun with it, and go full-on grandma and not worry about the fact that I will not be pretty on stage.”I think because I just went for it, I got a great response from the directors and the audience. That was also a time where I just became comfortable with myself and who I was. Sometimes you have to play the ugly roles to feel the most confident.
Q: Why should people your age do Hillbarn Conservatory?
A: I think it’s what I said earlier. With Hillbarn it’s not like other theatre companies where you’ll see the same few people playing the same lead roles every time. They really like to look at everyone and like to get a chance to feature everyone. I’ve always noticed that about Hillbarn, how the production teams always find a way to make everyone be seen and feature the something special that they to use their talents best. Like if you have a really strong dancer just starting with acting classes, they might get a dance solo, but they also might get a line to challenge another skill they might need to work on.
Q: Do you still get nervous after doing all the shows you’ve done?
A: I usually won’t get nervous until right before I go on, but I think that’s good. I think nerves build up your energy and make you perform better. I’m definitely more nervous when I’m underprepared. So let it be a lesson to all: The more prepared, the less nervous you’ll be!
Q: What person would you love to be on stage with? This person can be from any time dead or alive.
A: Kristen Chenoweth because I think she has had a great career on Broadway, she is just a generally nice person too based on interviews I’ve watched of her. And also, she’s a hard worker. I think I would love to learn from her.
Q: What is the one song you sing when you are all alone belting your face off?
A: I think that’s pretty much every musical theatre song I just belt my face off to. I usually sing “History of Wrong Guys” as my primary audition song. It’s one of my favorite songs to sing and I’m always in the mood to belt my face off to that song.
Q: What’s the next thing you are going to audition for?
A: I don’t know. The next thing I know for sure is auditioning for the productions the directing majors at my school put on. They direct a one act and they hold auditions for all theatre majors to audition for. So I think that will probably be my next audition at school.
Q: When not doing theatre, what do you enjoy doing?
A: Even though I’ve been living in New York for about a year and a half, I still love to go out and explore the city. On the weekends, I don’t want to stay inside because it’s just so exciting to be living in New York, going out, finding new neighborhoods, and finding restaurants…And knitting, which I was just doing before this interview. If it’s too cold out or I’m too tired, I’ll stay in, watch Netflix and knit. Just embracing my spinster lifestyle.