The Miracle Worker

Q & A Series : Hannah Appell

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There have been nearly a thousand actors, designers, directors, and staff employed by the Rep over our 50 years. We can’t think of a better way to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MRT than to hear from those who’ve made it all possible. This Q & A series helps illuminate the vast range of experiences the Rep offers.

Hannah has been an integral part of the Rep family these last several years. Having been out on two Education Outreach Tours and a National Tour to boot, she has a unique vantage on the Rep experience. In this Q & A, Hannah’s excitement and gratitude is practically tangible. Thank you, and enjoy!


 

  1. What was special about the Montana Repertory Theatre experience you had?

The Montana Repertory Theatre gave me my first big role. I grew up in a small town where I did speech and drama and school plays, but they were never big productions. When I went to the University of Montana I auditioned for shows but there was never a role that fit. Then the Rep did The Miracle Worker. It was the first time I felt like I had a real chance to be cast. And I did. I have never been so excited.

  1. Where did your work with Montana Rep come in your career? Student? Equity? What effect did it have on your trajectory?

I was hired for the Rep’s 2014 National Tour of The Miracle Worker when I was a junior at the University of Montana. It was because of that tour that I became part of the Rep family. It allowed me to be able to do their Educational Outreach Tour when I graduated college and always feel like I was a part of an amazing theatre family.

  1. The Rep has long since had a tradition of producing American Canonical texts. What is your favorite classic? And why?

Do I have to pick a favorite? I feel like it changes constantly. But I have always had a soft spot for The Glass Menagerie. I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I really love the character of Laura and her struggle through her physical and mental illnesses. Her character is quiet and shy and yet I have always felt she was the one to jump out of the script and stick in your memory.

  1. If you could tell a student actor hoping to work for The Rep one thing – what would it be?

Always be willing to help when the Rep is putting on an event, or needing a crew to load in, or needs posters put up around town. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! No one will know you unless you come out and show your face. Plus volunteering shows that you want to be involved and willing to help in any way you can. Everyone loves that.

  1. Looking back on your work with Montana Repertory Theatre, which singular memory stands out the most?

I have so many great memories with the Montana Repertory Theatre. It is hard to choose just one. A really sweet and recent memory I like to think of is during the 2016 Educational Outreach Tour when we were in the town of Poplar, MT. It was one of the best shows we had that entire tour. The students laughed and were completely engaged the entire performance. When we finished we came out from backstage and we had a line of students that wanted to shake our hands and thank us for coming. It was so heartwarming to see how thankful and excited those students were to have this performance come to their school. It made me so proud of what the Montana Repertory Theatre stands for and what they do for the incredible state of Montana.

(Hannah, left as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker)

Q & A Series: Hugh Bickley

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1. What was special about the Montana Repertory Theatre experience you had?
I was lucky enough to double as a proud Montana Repertory Theatre Actor and Projection Designer for both the 2014 National Tour of the Miracle Worker and 2015 National Tour of the Great Gatsby. Thus, I had the rare advantage of working both on and behind the scenes. This perspective afforded me a breathtaking glimpse into the staggering attention to detail that is poured into every facet of an MRT production: The thread count of the sheets on a bed onstage that is never even unmade; the fitting and heartbreaking origin story of a piece of music tucked away into a transition; the authenticity of a period-specific pocket watch. The Montana Repertory Theatre is a well-oiled machine; a group of passionate professionals that thrive on substance, not illusion.

2. Where did your work with Montana Rep come in your career? Student? Equity? What effect did it have on your trajectory?
Since I was lucky enough to embark on three national tours with the Montana Repertory Theatre, I had amassed forty-seven equity points by the time I moved to the big city––thirty of them before I even graduated. This positioned me to be able to network freely and volunteer my time, while having the option of joining the Union when I see fit.
MRT is to the University experience what AP or IB classes are to high schools. The latter provide young students with college-level experience and actual credit. MRT provides college students with real-world experience and actual Equity points. I hear a lot of alumni from other schools lament that their education failed to ready them for the harsh reality of the real world. Thanks to the Montana Repertory Theatre, I got real-world experience before I even graduated.

3. The Rep has long since had a tradition of producing American Canonical texts. What is your favorite classic? And why?
The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s requiem for the American Dream is proving more and more prophetic by the year. With its rich tapestry of characters and timeless metaphors, bringing Gatsby to the stage seemed like pinning wings on the Titanic. But under Greg Johnson’s adept direction and knack for theatrical momentum, this classic stormed across the country like a portent of coming strife amidst our nation’s escalating financial tensions and class stratification. The Rep never fails to commemorate the legacy of classic storytellers like Fitzgerald. Now, more than ever, we need the voices of our literary giants. Now, more than ever, we need artists like the Rep to champion them.

4. If you could tell a student actor hoping to work for The Rep one thing – what would it be?
Pay attention. Don’t think of this as a chance to use your voice. Think of it as a chance to listen. The country is now your classroom. Study it, soak it up, revel in its awe––and listen as intently as you expect them to hear you.

5. Looking back on your work with Montana Repertory Theatre, which singular memory stands out the most?
Toward the end of our tour with the Miracle Worker, we had the privilege of playing for the Helen Keller School for the Deaf & Blind in Talladega, Alabama. The deaf students in particular were a uniquely terrific audience because they showed little vocal restraint when the play resonated with them emotionally. Their laughter was uninhibited, their gasps were audible, their etiquette was of another paradigm.
For those unfamiliar, the Miracle Worker tells the story of Anne Sullivan teaching a young Helen Keller about language itself––that things have words, that words have meaning. The moment that Helen understands her first word is the ‘miracle’ that the title refers to. It happens toward the end of the play, and every night we could measure our audience’s adulation in sniffles, gasps, and finally unbridled applause come time for the curtain call.
The students at the Helen Keller school showed no such restraint. The miracle happened and there was an uproar. Wailing and declarations of love (“Thank you!” and “I love you, Helen!”), clapping, cheering, howling and astonishment––a clamor that hit those of us on and backstage like an avalanche.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever again witness the power of live theatre to such a raw, tangible and measurable degree. That audience understood the story we were telling on a level that we could never claim to. But somehow, we validated their story. And in turn, they validated mine.

(Bickley in Biloxi Blues – seen being restrained left)