JESSICA HANNA // artist profile
Photo by Peter Konerko

All Photos by Peter Konerko for @ This Stage Magazine

What energizes you as an artist?

Making art and the artists who make it. I’m lucky that we have a lot of art and artists coming through Bootleg Theater, so I get to dive into the pool of creativity everyday. I also try to see as much theater and live performance outside of Bootleg as my schedule will allow, and then engage with audience and artists to discuss the work. I love to dance and move my body through space with my eyes open to take in the world.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

The conversation about Other in our country. Other being anyone who is not a straight white man. I have a personal interest in women’s issues and rights, but there are so many Others that have been marginalized in American society. I am hopeful that the conversation — particularly among artists — is getting more inclusive, which will lead to actions and art that will ripple out into society and make change. These are not easy or quick conversations.

I have been obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack since it came out, and the way that Lin-Manuel Miranda has gifted a huge portion of our country access and ownership to American history that had been exclusively for white men. I mean, think of what could be created in ten years by the high school students who are listening to and seeing Hamilton right now — who are being told they have a voice in our society and that they should express it. I cannot wait to see the art and change that will be created.

“If I wasn’t an artist…”

I’d be dead. No, seriously, I’ve done a lot of different jobs but I’ve always considered myself an artist. When I was working in a cubicle at Warner Bros., I was making theater at night and doing Suzuki & Viewpoints training on the weekends. I think I’ll always find ways to make art and theater, whether it’s where I make my living or not.

“As a child, I was…”

A voracious reader, a devoted big sister, a latch key kid, a theater nerd who listened to rap and folk music, and an aspiring Wonder Woman.

Who are your artist allies?

I want to name all of the artists I’ve ever worked with but I don’t think there’s room, and I’d be afraid to leave someone off the list. I am deeply grateful to be rich with artist allies. I have more every project that I work on. I believe in collaboration and I am deeply in awe of artists and love to watch, support, and do the art of live creation. I will say that Kirk Wilson and his aesthetic, energy, and passion is what has made so much of the art I support at Bootleg possible.

Photo by Peter KonerkoWho are your artistic heroes?

Gary Race, Robert Moss, Patrick Murphy, Tina Kronis & Richard Alger, Julia Neary, all the members of the SITI Co., Jami Brandli, the Broadway cast of Serafina (1988), John Malkovich, Bernadette Peters, Gregory Hines, Richard Serra, Seth Compton, The Kilroys, Pina Bausch, Ashley Blumstein Phalen, Frances McDormand, Roger Guenveur Smith, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton, Jen Kays, Paul Dillon, Ann Closs-Farley, Gwen Verdon, Brandon Baruch, Lisa Peterson, Alexandra Billings, Mary Zimmerman, the Rude Mechs. The cast and production team of the show I’m currently working on, Inland Empress. I’m gonna stop there or I’ll be up all night and this will be pages long.

What’s your favorite (or go-to) LA “spot?”

Comfort LA — a late-night weekend pop-up DTLA that serves the best chicken wings in town. The collard greens are out of sight, too! They just got their own permanent space at 1110 E. 7th St. (West of Central, half a block down from Inner City Arts.) It’s so good, and now they’re doing lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. So my spot is relocating, and you will probably find me there at least once a week.

Okay. Define art. Go!

A reflection that illuminates the world, causing revelation and discovery in the viewer and participant.

What are you currently working on?

I’m directing the world premiere of Tom Cavanaugh’s Inland Empress, produced by Mutant Collective at The Lounge Theatre. We open January 23 and run through February 28. I’m very excited about the play and the production. It’s about a family of women a couple of hours outside of LA in Apple Valley doing what they have to do to survive. I love working on new plays, and this experience has been exceptional. Next up, I get to go back into the rehearsal room with Lisa Dring to expand and deepen the solo show we created for her last summer, Death Play. Circle X is producing a full production run opening March 19.

What’s your creative goal for the next year?

To direct more new work, participate as a performer (on my feet in the room) in the development of new work, and get the ball rolling on a couple projects I’ve been talking about making for years.