Something happened that made my face hot. It made the blood rush to my head.
Anger. Frustration. Irritation. Emotions I do not feel often. So when they happen, you better believe it's serious.
One comment. One little comment from someone I don’t even know well.
“What is Hannah? What is she? I don't know how to place her".
Well, I’m a person, for starters. Granted, a busy person. I spend a lot of time doing different things, which might result in me being tricky to ‘place’. #SorryNotSorry
The individual who made this comment has seen me in many forms. They have seen me working behind a bar, performing on stage, producing shows .... I’m sure it must be getting quite difficult for them to put me in one of their boxes. #SorryNotSorry
This comment was made in the context of marketing ourselves. The importance of marketing oneself and knowing what we are. I was used as an example of what not to be. An example of a confused creative who is trying to do too many things, and therefore no one knows where to place me.
Well, now I just feel bad confusing everyone like that.
I am an actress, right? And like every actor, I occasionally feel frustrated that I don't do more acting. I'll pay to get new head shots, invest in showreels, go to every press night, audition, class and theatre event in town. I understand that is part of the profession and you need to get out there. But, what this comment implies is that it is my fault people do not see me as an actress, because I do too many things that are not acting, despite these efforts.
I am represented by one of the top agencies in the North West. I recently performed in a professional production and received rave reviews. I have an actors profile on every major casting site in the UK. It seems none of this is enough clarity.
Why? Because I dare to be more than just one thing. I dare to extend my passion for the arts and love of theatre into other areas beyond performing. I dare to help CREATE work and facilitate it by producing. I dare to care about my friends making work. I dare to want to be involved! I would rather be involved in some regard than not involved at all, right? So yes, Il’l come and help paint the set, I’ll email press on your behalf, I’ll organise a community where we can all read scripts together twice a month, I'll find somewhere we can all rehearse together.
Because I love it.
Are each of these tasks and moments taking me away from being seen as an actress? Are people really that small minded? Is our world so depressing that if someone dares step outside their box, they will be punished?
I don’t believe it. I can't and I don't. Because I love my life too much. Every day is different and every day is varied. And when I look up my “mountain”, my life ahead, my dreams, my “ladder” I do feel that I am climbing upward. Getting further towards the woman I want to be. The life I want. Not everyone can say that, so I’m proud to be able to.
Can I pay my rent creatively? No, I cannot. I still pull pints three days a week to make ends meet, and I don’t even mind. When you have a lot going on, pulling pints actually feels quite nice. It's like a relaxing place to go and chat with friends, drink free coffee and walk away with a fistful of tips to cover travel for the next week. It's ace. And, when juggling so much, paying rent and earning income tends to be lower down on the priorities list. You end up in a job that enables flexibility. You need to be able to drop it at any second. You need to be able to put your art first. This is why so many actors work in hospitality. (I can’t believe I still have to spell that out for people, but it seems I do.) If you see me working behind a bar, how, in what universe, does that confuse you as to “who I am” or “what I am”? I don’t want to pull pints! I want to perform. I want to be on stage. I am paying my rent. And if you cannot understand that, or you never had to do a stint of working a flexible job to make ends meet on the path to your dream, then I am truly astounded and envious.
So, who am I?
I’m an actor. From the age of five everyone who met me knew I was destined for stage. I’m loud, ambitious, emotional, committed, can learn lines like a motherfucker and recite Titanic having seen it three times. I’m a fucking actress mate, do not deny it. I studied acting two afternoons a week my entire childhood, went on to study at university at one of the most prestigious courses in Australia. I performed consistently in my home country before setting sail for the UK to take on projects that I felt suited me more. I wanted adventure, I wanted to take over the world. I wanted to start fresh and see what happened.
There is something very empowering about going where no one knows you. A fresh slate. And that’s the only way I can think to describe the last four years of my life. I came somewhere where no one knew me. I could be anything I wanted, do anything I wanted. So I started from scratch – theatre. I need to get into theatre. I need to know people, meet people, make connections, find the creative spots. So that is what I did. I acted, yes, in fact I performed at the Royal Exchange only six months after arriving in Manchester, which is something I would currently kill to achieve. My first ever job was in a play that went on to win a Manchester Theatre Award for Best Play. It wasn't a bad start. Believe me, I arrived here as an actor and pursued acting effectively. But, I suppose I just have a thirst that could not be satisfied with the occasional play when I happened to get lucky. I wanted more. And I saw gaps in this beautiful Manchester scene. Gaps that desperately needed filling. More opportunities, more venues, more spaces, more wages, more grants…. There are too many talented people here and not enough opportunities. So, instead of clogging up the casting calls with another young brunette female, why not write them? Create opportunities, and while I’m at it, give myself a job too?
I currently run a theatre company with my best friends, as well as a thriving creative organisation, which is now a collective of over 1000 artists from the North West. I also love food and writing a blog (obviously), I love socialising and going out for dinner, I love fitness and health, I also love walking and outdoors. I wouldn’t mind writing a play and producing some of my own work. And hey, I still have to pull pints, so I guess that makes me a barmaid too? There are SO many things I want to do that I have not done yet. And maybe that will mean I ‘make it’ as an actress never, or slower, than the rest. Maybe. But I think I’m just the kind of person who wants to make opportunities, rather than waiting for them. I want to make theatre, be involved in great things. If that means my path to performing dream roles is a little longer and slower, I guess that’s the sacrifice I have to make. Because I tell you what, the highest high I have experienced, was not performing, it was calling one of my best friends and telling him that I wanted to employ him, in a dream role and give him the kind of opportunity I would die for.
Enabling someone else’s dream actually does feel better than getting it. I don’t know what that says about me, but there it is. Make your judgements. I love enabling and that’s clearly what makes me a good producer. But it is also no reason to ignore the 5-year old girl who danced around in leotards and forced her parents to watch every Friday night. She’s a performer. She wants to perform and entertain. And she’s not bad at it. She’s kind of good at it. She has enough positive re-enforcement and jobs and validation to know.
So, why bother sitting around waiting for the phone to ring? Just so those in the biz can “label” me, and know “what I am”.
Yeah, I said it. Fuck them. I’m me and I’ll do whatever I want. And you just better not discriminate against me if I’m right for something and you don’t give it to be because I pull pints. That would just say far more about you than it says about me.
I’m doing my best. And my best is to not be just one thing....
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