Today’s Top Five comes to us from Hannah Spina, a wonderful actress who has acted on many stages over the years, inlcuding TCR, Old Creamery and Giving Tree.
This really was hard. Partly, because it is tough to narrow it down to just five, but also, because once I got going, I realized I could write a book about each of these. I tried really hard not to do that. But it is hard to adequately express how important each of these shows has proven to be for me as a performer, and a person. Each one, and many others not on this list, have nourished my soul in ways I think I may just be realizing. This was a terrific exercise in gratefulness and a lovely trip down memory lane. So in the order in which they happened in my life, here are my top five…
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. The Classics at Brucemore, 2010. Directed by Jason Alberty.
This show was an honest to goodness dream come true for me. I grew up attending the Classics at Brucemore, and I always hoped I would get to be in one someday. When I heard they were holding auditions for certain parts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I had to give it a shot. The process was one of the best experiences of my entire life. The cast was made up of truly incredible people who are all so good at what they do. I could not have asked for a better first Classics production to be a part of. It was only my second time doing Shakespeare, and my first comedy, and I learned so much. And, I laughed more than a person probably has a right to during a show. Truly, all I did on stage at the end of the play during the dumb show was laugh my head off. Those Mechanicals were unreal! I loved every second. And the fight between the lovers is still probably my favorite scene in any show I have ever done. I cherish everything about that summer, that show, and every single person involved.
Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, Theatre Cedar Rapids, 2011. Directed by Leslie Charipar.
The script for Eurydice is just beautiful. It is a gorgeous and yet, heartbreaking story. The role of Eurydice was really my first lead role in a show at TCR. I felt so grateful for the opportunity to spread my wings a bit at a theatre for which I have tremendous respect and admiration. The cast was amazing, and Leslie, our director, was incredible. It was just such a supportive and loving show to be a part of. It felt like everything came together perfectly in a way they rarely do; the set, the music, the intricate soundscape, the people, the costumes, it was wonderful.
I learned so much through that process and definitely grew as an actor and a person. It is a show that I look back on and feel nothing but joy.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Theatre Cedar Rapids, 2012. Directed by Leslie Charipar.
This was the type of production an actor feels truly blessed to be a part of. It was an all-star cast comprised of actors I admire, trust, and love through and through. We had more fun than should probably be legal. And it was such a pleasure to bring to life a classic piece of theatre. The works of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries are not done around here very often and I loved having the opportunity to embody such a ridiculous character in a brilliant, classic, comedy. Plus, the set and costumes were beautiful. My experience in The Importance of Being Earnest made me feel like a real actor and that was a very special feeling, for which I am tremendously grateful.
Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells by Allison Gregory, based on the book by Barbara Park. The Old Creamery Theatre, 2014. Directed by Sean McCall.
It is not often that one gets the chance to bring a beloved childhood literary hero to life. And I have been incredibly fortunate to do so – twice. When I was a kid, I would read the Junie B. Jones series religiously, and I would often read them aloud to my mom. That is a special memory she and I share. I loved Junie’s fearlessness and spunk. When the Old Creamery offered me the chance to play her on stage in Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells, I pinched myself. To bring Junie to life on stage was something I never could have imagined I would have the chance to do. That show was such a blast. The cast and crew were utterly delightful and so talented. But I do remember some rehearsals being tough, because we laughed so hard at some of the insane lines that would come out of these characters’ mouths. And I must say, that I absolutely love and adore everything about children’s theatre. Children make for fantastic audiences because they allow themselves to believe that you really are the character you are playing. It sort of feels like being a rock star. As a kid going to shows, I remember being in awe of actors who I believed were the real characters come to life. It feels unbelievably rewarding to now be the actor who gets to help create that theatre magic for our youngest theatregoers. When I was asked to play Junie a second time last Christmas it was like the whip cream and the cherry on top of an already perfect ice cream sundae.
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Giving Tree Theater, 2015. Directed by Heather Akers
I was so excited for Heather and Richie Akers when I found out they were starting their own theatre in Marion. Then, when they announced that their first show was going to be The Glass Menagerie, I did a happy dance. The role of Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie was a dream role of mine since I saw a beautiful production of it at a professional theatre in Wisconsin. I was so nervous at auditions. I remember working on a monologue at callbacks in what was eventually going to be a stunning, cozy theatre, but at the time was full of sawdust and fluorescent lighting. Playing a dream role was incredible, but there was something about that experience that honestly, I can only describe as magic. Watching the theatre being built up around us was thrilling and deeply moving. Plus, there was a connection amongst the small cast and our director, Heather, that was unbelievably special. I will be forever grateful for that experience. And I am also grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the very first show of a truly lovely new theatre.
Hannah Spina has been performing around the Corridor for 17 years. A native of Cedar Rapids, she started performing in local theatres when she was 13. But her love for theatre started at age 8 when she was enrolled in her very first theatre camp. Hannah has had the good fortune to work with Theatre Cedar Rapids, Giving Tree, Old Creamery, Riverside, Fourth Room, Urban Theatre Company, SPT, and Brucemore, in both the Classics and the Children’s Theatre. She is a graduate of Loras College and holds degrees in Communication and Theatre. Even when not in a show, Hannah spends much of her time at the theatre as she is the Outreach Coordinator at Theatre Cedar Rapids, and also teaches in their youth theatre education program. Hannah shares her love of theatre with fellow performer and boyfriend, Aaron Brewer. And yes, they met in a show. She and Aaron live in Cedar Rapids with their awesome dog, Bogie.