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Style · April 4, 2017

10 questions with young director, actor and teacher

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Hannah Butler responded to a Fauquier Community Theatre audition announcement in 2007 and has remained involved with the group.
Hannah Butler
• Age: 25

• Home: Haymarket.

• Work: Part-time private piano, voice and theatre, Allegro Community School of the Arts, Warrenton, 2015 to present; volunteer director, actor and technician, Fauquier Community Theatre, 2007 to present.

• Family: Husband, Austin; parents, Sandra and David Malinowski; brother, Owen.

• Education: George Mason University, studying theatre education, 2011 to present; Northern Virginia Community College, 2009-11; Battlefield High School, 2009.
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Staff Journalist
The young director has overseen five stage productions in a decade of involvement with the Fauquier Community Theatre.

Hannah Butler, 25, enjoys the volunteer position.

“It is pretty much a job because you’re having to manage people and time,” Ms. Butler said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The Haymarket resident has helped with about 30 plays as an actor, sound/lighting technician and director at the community theatre since 2007.

Ms. Butler most recently directed the tense drama, Twelve Angry Men, which concluded a three-weekend run at FCT last weekend. The play follows 12 jurors as they debate a criminal trial.

To prepare for the show, the all-male cast rehearsed two or three days a week for two months.

“There are so many lines and there’s a lot of monologue,” Ms. Butler said. “It was a little harder line-wise, then staging.”

She also works as a voice, piano and theatre instructor at Allegro Community School of the Arts in Warrenton and as assistant director for the upcoming production of Hairspray at Castaways Repertory Theatre near Woodbridge.

How did you get involved with the Fauquier Community Theatre?

I was 17 when I did my first production with them (in 2007). I wanted more experience, because I knew theatre was going to be a part of my life forever.

My mom happened to be looking through the newspaper and said, “You really need to go audition for this. It was Damn Yankees, which is funny because my whole family is from upstate New York. I said, “Mom, ‘I don’t think I can do this — seriously’.” She took me to the first audition and I got a role. I was shocked. I had a solo and everything. I had never imagined myself doing musicals.

How many plays have you directed?

The first one I did was A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2012. I’ve directed a few one-acts over the years as well. I think at least five. I’ve done everything from directing shows, acting in them, most recently writing them and competing with pieces I’ve written and directed.

Why did you want to direct Twelve Angry Men?

I originally never thought of directing it. I was trying to do a different show, Lysistrata. It’s an ancient Greek play primarily focusing on women and their roles in society. All the men are off at war, and the women want their men home and have to figure out how to get them to sign a peace treaty. All the women of neighboring towns come together and decide to abstain from their husbands when they come home.

A friend of mine said, “I don’t think that show will get picked because it would be pushing some boundaries.” He said, “I’ve really wanted to be in Twelve Angry Men. FCT’s never done it before. You really need to direct it. It would be a different dynamic for a woman directing a bunch of men.” So, I submitted a proposal for it in case my other one didn’t get chosen, which it didn’t. It kind of fell in my lap, more or less. I’m thrilled I did it. I have an obsession with law and that field.

Did directing an all-male cast pose challenges?

I had 13 male actors. Oddly enough, it was really not that much of a challenge. I expected it to be a challenge working with actors much older than myself. I thought some of these guys would say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about” and go off and do their own thing. If I said, “I like what you’re doing, but can we try this instead?” then they actually accepted it and it ended up becoming a partnership. It was surprisingly easy.

What do you find most demanding about directing?

Time management and being able to stand up and say, “I don’t like what you’re doing” without offending someone. Because I’m a very sensitive person, and I know others are, too. I try to find compromises instead of beating them down. Finding that balance of letting actors have some creative freedom and me being able to say, “This is my vision.”

What do you find most rewarding?

Being able to sit back and watch how hard people work and what comes out of it. Especially with this cast of Twelve Angry Men, I’ve barely felt like I had to do any directing because I’ll tell them what I’m thinking, but I want them to feel like they have the freedom to move and not be stuck in one place. It’s one stationary scene. That can get really boring if they aren’t getting up and moving.

What do you enjoy most about it?

Working with a bunch of different people and meeting new people in the process. Build relationships with people. I’m a very social person.

You also wrote and directed a play, right?

It’s called Seven Times Lucky. It’s about a guy who has multiple personality disorder. This guy has had the worst day of his life and he just lost his job because one of his personalities took over and started pranking everyone. He’s sitting in a park, dejected and a girl sees that he needs someone to talk to. Through the process, his personalities start coming out. Each personality is played by a different person. It’s fun and quirky.

Oddly enough, the inspiration for it was my friends. I took one trait and blew it out of proportion and that became characters. It was in the writing and editing process for about three years.

I put together a cast in 2015, and we went to Northern Virginia Theatre Alliance one-act festival. We got an award for best fight scene choreography. Then we went to a Virginia Theatre Association competition. It’s a big deal for community theatres. I took the crew down there and we were floored when we won first place because FCT had never won first place there before.

What play ranks as your all-time favorite?

Hands down, Legally Blonde — Tthe Musical. FCT recently did it, and I was Pilar (a sorority girl). I want to be cast as Elle (the lead role) someday.

What might audience members misunderstand about theatre?

One thing I’ve heard from people with Twelve Angry Men: A lot of times, people assume that if they’ve seen it on TV, that it’s going to be similar, and that’s not always the case.

A lot of people also make the assumption that acting is a lot easier than it is. But, in acting, you have to let yourself be vulnerable and open to your audience and cast mates. You have to trust your cast mates because if something goes wrong, they have to be there to help.
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Joel Saunders · April 4, 2017 at 11:45 am
Great insightful questions. I've known Hannah for the last three years, and this question session of her theater knowledge and skills, nails it! Juror #10 smile
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