Whether portraying a frazzled acting teacher in La Jolla Playhouse’s “What Happens Next”, a troubled waitress in Ion Theatre’s “Bug” or a fame-hungry spinster in Diversionary’s “The Moors,” Hannah Logan has long showcased her flair for the unpredictable, the frequently funny and the always fearless.
The native of Spartanburg, S.C., who trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music (“now called The Boston Conservatory at Berklee — pretty sure that means I have two degrees now, right?,” as Logan notes), began popping up on San Diego stages about six years ago.
She quickly won a Craig Noel Award from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle for her turn in that 2014 production of “Bug,” as well as a nomination that year for her performance in New Village Arts Theatre’s “The Clean House.”
Her next acting project is InnerMission Productions’ “Melancholy Play” (starting Nov. 9), but Logan has a whole lot else going on, including presenting the ongoing “Theatre: Undone” series for the San Diego Public Library with her partner, set designer Ron Logan; directing and casting multiple pieces for the recent San Diego Memoir Showcase; and launching her own coaching business at thetruthfulactor.com.
We caught up with Logan long enough to toss a few questions her way for this first installment in our “Stage Doers” profile series:
I first knew I was destined to be in the theater when ... at 6 or 7 I was making myself cry by doing made-up monologues in the mirror about running away from home and our dog dying. The thing that sealed the deal, though, was when I was in a two-woman play in high school called “Graceland.” My drama club took it to a competition. I remember hearing sniffles from stage as I tearfully spoke of my passionate love of Elvis and how it gave me something to live for. Something in me clicked. I knew what I was doing meant something. I won a best-actress award, and I thought, “Maybe, I could really learn to do this professionally.”
If I weren’t doing theater, I would be ... a neuroscientist? It’s another way to excavate human behavior … like acting, but on a cellular level. That, or a minister in some sort of nondenominational spiritual center. Basically what makes humans HUMAN, the soul of us, and the exploration of what is greater than ourselves. That’s my jam.
The most difficult/frustrating/annoying thing about this work is ... people who don’t take the craft seriously. It IS work. I believe in training and always honing one’s skills, whether beginner or veteran. It is frustrating when I hear a layperson say, “I’m going to be an actor now,” then they just start auditioning without taking a class or at least doing some kind of investigation into the craft. No one would ever say, “I’m going to be a lawyer!” and storm into a courtroom with a briefcase expecting to try a case. That said, I LOVE a beginner’s mind enthusiasm, and of course, I encourage people with a passion for the craft to seek appropriate training, ask questions, do readings, find mentors and grow.
I know I’ve done my best work as an artist when ... people come up to me after the show and DON’T say “You were amazing,” but rather something like, “That broke my heart. I never thought of (meaningful subject) that way.” Or, “I will never forget (character). That’s my story.” When I play my part so well my performance disappears and the audience forgets me and is transported by the story, I feel I have REALLY done my job as an artist. The play is the thing.
When the going gets tough, I always tell myself ... that there is someone somewhere having a tougher time. This does NOT discount one’s own tough time, of course, but being of service to someone suffering can do wonders in tough times. If it’s the kind of tough time when I think, “No seriously, I’m not gonna make it,” I do what a friend taught me. I put my hand on my heart and say, “I love you sweetheart, and I care about your suffering, and you’re gonna get through this.” I’ve survived quite a bit, so odds are I will get through it.
People might be surprised (even alarmed) to know how much I like ... peanut butter. I cannot have it in the house, nor be left alone with it. I eat things containing peanut butter, but must do so with a chaperone. If there are things containing peanut butter in the green room, I may request a lockbox. If someone is not allergic, but does not like peanut butter, I have a hard time trusting them.
If there were one onstage experience I’d least want to relive, it would be ... when I found myself living in Biloxi, Miss. — a very poor choice for me — and I was in a community-theater production of “The Women,” severely depressed (Ophelia-style), my concentration horribly challenged. It was to this day the only time I have completely gone up on a line. It was a cue line for a little girl who waited offstage for me to say whatever it was to cue her to come on. It seemed like an eternity as I stared at her thinking, “Sorry kid, I got nothin’.” I’d had years of improv experience and professional stage time, but my brain was a complete blank. Someone finally shoved the poor girl onstage. It was mortifying.
The one thing I vow to do before my theater career concludes is ... bring as much meaningful, transformative theater to the stage as I can, whether that be as an actor, director, writer or producer, or by coaching actors in a way that elevates what they do beyond “performance,” to a level of truth and authenticity that is meaningful and transformative to audiences. Now more than ever, we as theater artists must know that what we do has power and we must wield it wisely. It is our JOB to challenge the status quo.