Stealing the spotlight without stepping on stage


Senior Hannah Donovan, a theatre major and art minor, began theatre as a way to socialize but found both talent in and a love for theatre as she dove into behind the scenes work at SAU.

"Productions are literally people saying they are going to make a world on stage and then saying let's make this world mean something," Donovan said. "When in the audience and sitting next to people there is no denying the experience is with someone else, and it's humanizing because it doesn't matter who the person is. You recognize they can experience the same things as you."

Donovan grew up in Japan and currently resides in Germany. She started theatre her sophomore year of high school to meet new people since from sixth to tenth grade she attended a new school every year. Her first production was Mama Mia, in which she was both a designer and crew manager. The next year, she helped with the school's production of Guys and Dolls and designed props for a local community theatre.

"I always liked using my hands," Donovan said. "My sister was into drawing. She had ‘art lessons' in her room once a week, and she'd teach us what she learned in art class."

However, Donovan wanted to go into a more stable field than freelance artistry, so she researched online and decided to pursue theatre in college. She jumped in right away here at SAU with a work study job in the scene shop making props and sets, and became involved in both main stage and studio plays. Since then, she has practically lived in the Galvin Fine Arts Center between her classes.

"I have tried to experience as many different facets of theater as I could," Donovan said. "The more complete understanding of theatre you have, the better you will be in any aspect of theatre."

Stage management is where Donovan found her niche. Stage managing duties focus on ensuring a smooth production process and maintaining clear communication between everyone involved. In her first year, she was the assistant stage manager under Shannon Rourke (who won the Regional KCACTF Stage Management Fellowship). Since then, Donovan has stage managed two studio shows and two main stage plays, including a tech-heavy production of The Tempest in 2016. She has also stage managed locally for the Prenzie Players, the QC Workshop, and the Mississippi Bend Players Summer Stock Theatre.

"My time in Japan instilled my organization," Donovan said. "I have learned a lot about people from stage management. I have learned to read people and how to communicate with them depending on what they need."

Hannah Donovan

Stage Management Maven

"A lot of my success is due to the overwhelming support of the department," Donovan said. "I feel like the department constantly creates opportunities for me. They always push me to try different things, and they don't accept anything but my best."

All this experience aided her in the stage management competition at the 2018 KCACTF Festival. After applying and being accepted into the competition, she prepared a prompt book of all the work and paperwork she did for SAU's fall production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. When in Des Moines, Donovan stage managed the one-act play competition and completed a group interview, which included constructive comments from professional stage managers. After this process, the judges chose Donovan to present her work to judges in April at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for a chance to win a $2,500 scholarship.

"I am confident in my stage management abilities, so winning the award was affirming that it's not just all in my head," Donovan said. "It is not usually a field where you get awards."

"I was thrilled but not surprised," said Dr. Corinne Johnson, theatre professor, advisor, director and employer to Donovan. "She came here with a crazy set of skills and a work ethic that makes me feel lazy, and I am not lazy."

Donovan also submitted a 6-by-6-foot "Willy Shakes" painting to the festival. The painting was in SAU's production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [revised] [abridged]. She has painted sets for numerous SAU productions in addition to taking many art classes. For KCACTF, she created a display for the design expo and answered questions from respondents. She then also received a week-long trip to Las Vegas from the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas with the opportunity to work with professionals.

"She thinks in paint colors," said Kris Eitrheim, technical director and Hannah's work study employer. "I was completely unsurprised with she got the award. Hannah is extremely talented in all ways, but she does have to work hard at it."

Lastly, Donovan completed her trio of success with the tech team competition. The tech team this year consisted of captains Donovan and senior Jackson Green and teammates junior Kendall McKasson and first year Anthony Duckett. They competed against six teams in two rounds of five events including a knot tie; prop set-up and take-down; costume-change; light hang; and curtain hang. They received the coveted golden wrench and a special prize which included a new gadget for the scene shop. Donovan has competed with the tech team all three years of college and was also on the team that won the golden wrench in 2016.

"A lot of my success is due to the overwhelming support of the department," Donovan said. "I feel like the department constantly creates opportunities for me. They always push me to try different things, and they don't accept anything but my best."

Donovan recently accepted a temporary position as stage manager for Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Illinois, thanks to Dr. Johnson and Circa '21 owner Dennis Hitchcock. Her end goal is to apply for various internships and jobs and eventually make a living in Chicago or New York.

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