We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.
1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.
Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting
2. What do the arts mean to you?
There has been no time when I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures.
I was in my first play at seven, playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college. This includes Barnum, which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals. Yes, I still make them.
Thinking back on the trajectory, I never thought of the arts as a career path until college, but the arts were always everywhere and inevitable in my life (maybe I owe something to my extreme lack of athletic ability).
The arts contextualized me in a lot of ways. I can reach back to arts experiences to make sense of where I was at that specific point in my life.
I think a prevailing assumption is that acting helps you explore yourself through becoming someone else, and I think that’s true, but I used to walk alone into the dark theatre and sit on stage looking at the empty seats and it felt just as deeply personal—the arts were a safe space for me, but they were also a sacred space. Sitting on the dark stage was different in an elemental way than any other place.
It wasn’t just the performances, it was the essence of the space and allowing myself to live in that place, even if for just a moment. The arts have always provided an access point for me, guiding me to accept and appreciate the moment and the state in which I find myself—good, bad, or anything in between, the arts have always helped me to see the vibrancy of the world and gain a true sense of being present.
3. If you could have any career you wanted (talent, education not required), what would it be and why?
I would own a bakery. 100%. I realize in the age of food blogging that suddenly this is hugely en vogue, and I have read MULTIPLE times that bakers say that it’s no fun, but I am going to pretend I don’t know that and stick with the fact that I love baking. That’s what I would do.
4. How many places have you lived? Where?
Six. I was born in Santa Monica, CA and moved to Los Angeles at two. We then moved to Ann Arbor, MI, but not before my brother and I ran around the dining room for hours screaming. I asked if I could bring Chinatown, the ocean, and our lemon tree with us. I moved to New Haven, CT for college, spent most summers at home in Michigan with the exception of one in D.C., and a semester abroad in London before returning to live in D.C.
5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
My a cappella group was singing at Mory’s, a Yale dinner club, and after finishing my solo (“You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt), one patron said, “When they were giving out personalities, they gave you two!” I took that to mean I had a lot of personality (and I’m sticking with that interpretation!). He also said I had “come one to a box.” His compliments were delightfully odd and shockingly insightful.
6. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to sit down to dinner.
I’m going to have to have two dinner parties.
For a philosophical, somber wine and cheese gathering I would like to speak with Roland Barthes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Viktor Frankl. Barthes’ Camera Lucida is one of the most influential books I read during college in terms of my academic interests and the way I learned to think about and interpret visual art. Hurston’s autobiography is a spectacularly exuberant study of a life lived in full color. Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is staggeringly beautiful, universally meaningful, and beyond all else, powerfully human…and it has not left me since I first picked it up at age 16.
For a fun, outdoor picnic (preferably hosted by F.Scott Fitzgerald, but I’m flexible), I would love to spend time with Claude Monet (I have loved him since the age of three, when I encountered him in Linnea in Monet’s Garden), Ruth Reichl (her memoirs are fantastic), and Ben Franklin (I’m a colonial history dork and 1776 is my favorite movie). If I can include fictional characters, I would invite Eloise in a heartbeat. My idol.
7. Would others say that you can dance? Explain.
People call my dancing style “the Hannah” (Editor’s Note: Based on what I saw in person while conducting the interview, I would describe as a little Peanuts’ Sally Brown meets Hair). I was also known as Boppity Short Girl in my a cappella group…see me on the front left in this video.
8. What is the earliest memory you have of being an audience member for a live arts event?
I think my first memory was at two or three-years-old at a Sharon, Lois, & Bram concert. I can remember twirling in the aisles incessantly. The most meaningful performance I can remember was Kiss Me Kate on Broadway. The show inspired me beyond measure. It made me see what’s possible as a performer and how engaging a live performance can be.
9. What would the title of your autobiography be?
“Always Looking Up: Life from the Five Foot (and a Quarter Inch) Line”
10. Finally, if you could paint a picture or take more photos of a place you have been in your life what would you paint or photograph?
First of all, I wish I could paint! This is a tough question because, like Tim, I take a lot of pictures, so it’s rare that I need MORE pictures—in fact, it would probably be more helpful if I were a little better at editing.
That said, I wish I had taken more pictures of places—my dorms and that part of my life—during college in addition to pictures of other people, each other, etc. When I travel I feel that I capture most of the experience, but those times when I was just hanging out—I tried to appreciate them, but I’m not sure I could have known how really special those were at the time.
So I wish I had more pictures of “Flower Couch” (see photo, as we were leaving it behind at school, tears!) that we got from a hotel liquidation sale my first week of freshman year…and the other accoutrements of collegiate life!
That’s it for Hannah. Stay tuned for more “Ten Questions with…” soon!