Outstanding Students of the Year

Tiana K. Hanson!

Tiana K. Hanson

University of Alaska 2012 Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year

Outstanding Theatre Major of the Year, 2011-2012:  Tiana Hanson!

Born, raised, and homeschooled in Fairbanks, Alaska - Tiana Hanson has been working on her Theatre degree while staying active in community theatre (Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre and Fairbanks Drama Association) and maintaining a 3.5 GPA .  Most recently she was an extra in the movie “Big Miracle”, productions by the Student Drama Association (Winter Shorts), “All in the Timing” and was Assistant Director for “The Messenger”.  We wish her the best as she continues her journey!

Hadassah R. Nelson!

Hadassah R. Nelson

University of Alaska 2011 Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year

Hadassah R. Nelson is a graduating senior originally from Talkeetna where she grew up with her mother, father and two brothers.

Talkeetna is a small but artistic community, where homeschooled Hadassah was able to make new friends through extra-curricular activities like band, sports and theatre. She landed her first role before she was even able to read; as an orphan in the musical Annie! In the 9th grade at Su-Valley school, she was the student-director for a production of You Can't Take it With You – a classic comedy. When one of the actors dropped out a week before opening, Hadassah's father cut her hair and she stepped in to the character for the show.

A percussionist, accomplished singer and volleyball player, the stage kept calling Ms. Nelson to return. She played the Narrator in Our Town, and then (as a High School student) she was part of an evening of short plays completely written, directed and produced by students. At 16 she returned to Fairbanks to be part of the Summer Fine Arts Camp theatre track where she "fell in love with the Salisbury <Theatre>". That's when she decided to study at UAF.

While part of the choir in High School, she realized that students who were self-conscious while performing felt awkward; but those that were really into it and enjoying themselves looked great; she noted this, and applied it to being in the choir and still applies it today… "<it> gave me the confidence to really try things…and go all out, in my drama class and choir…and everything else" says Nelson.

During her time at UAF, Nelson was very active. Starting with a Winter Shorts (UAF student drama club produced event) she was part of Ground Squirrel Improvisations and a butoh (dance style) piece Cacaphony. Next semester she was the female lead in another Winter Short Danny in the Deep Blue Sea followed by Midsummer Night's Dream, Split, Huis Clos (another butoh) while also playing roles in Picnic, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Laramie Project, Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (for which she played "Rosenkrantz" – one of the two title roles traditionally played by males), How I Learned to Drive, and most recently she played Val in last semester's Bay of Nice which was a Thesis role for Nelson.

Throughout all of these productions, she's been able to maintain a high GPA. When asked how she's managed that she answered "go to class, sit in the front row and volunteer to go first. Always….sitting in front forces you to absorb info because you can't slack off with the teacher looking right at you…even if you are doing 3 shows." "Also," she continues, "don't be afraid to withdraw from something if you find that you took on too much or if you just hate the class. I like to sign up for an extra class with the knowledge that I have the option of letting go of one before the full refund date is passed."

When asked about sharing her advice to new students, or those tempted to get started, Ms. Nelson offered this: "Get involved as much as possible, but not so much that you can't do what you said you could. If you are just starting...don't know anybody...too shy to audition (as I was my first semester here) volunteer to help in whatever way you can/are inclined to. Then you make friends, and the people that you helped out want to help you/work with you and then it is just a cycle of awesome."

Katherine "Katie" Sousa!

Katie Sousa

University of Alaska 2010 Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year

Katie grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and has known she wanted to act since before she graduated from West Valley High School.

Primarily interested in performing in musicals, she’s been in Fairbanks Light Opera Theatre’s productions of Fame, The Boyfriend, and had the title role in Cinderella and the Prince. Bitten by the acting bug when she played an orphan in Oliver during 5th grade, she’s also grown appreciative of all of the other parts of theatre while serving as Managing Director for the Student Drama Association (SDA) here at UAF. She’s helped produced Split, Foreplay, Act Without Words, Author’s Voice, Zoo Story and others - and recently directed Back to Normal for the 2010 “Winter Shorts” - all of which she feels has helped her grow as a person and artist.

At UAF, in addition to being part of Vinegar Tom, she’s acted in Picnic, The Laramie Project, Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona and Midsummer Nights Dream. She was also the lead in the critically acclaimed How I Learned to Drive in Fall, 2009. She has also been part of other FLOT and Barney McClure productions as well as a featured professional performer in the Palace Theatre Saloon’s Golden Heart Revue.

Sousa spent this past summer with an internship at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau. She saw an ad for it on the Theatre UAF bulletin board and e-mailed them right away - then wound up having a wonderful experience developing skills and contacts that helped her grow as a person and to be more confident as she helped produce 3 shows in 5 weeks with 40 ten to eighteen year-olds.

Graduated in December, but walking in commencement this May with Magna cum Laude, Sousa’s a stellar student as well as performer. When asked how she does it.... “I think work ethic and drive is something I learned in High School being involved in so many activities” (she was on the varsity swim team, part of choir, and played violin in the orchestra). “The most important and basic advice I can give is ‘don’t skip class’. Yes, even if it is a boring Communications 100x class...as college students we have to pay for classes; why skip them, fail, and let your money go to waste?”

When asked how she balances class work and the huge time commitment of productions; she credits her ability to keep an organized calendar and practice diligent time management. “I keep a weekly planner with me,” says Sousa, “and I always try to write down what needs to be done and when. Without a calendar and to-do lists, I might not have made it through college with the good grades that I did.”

Other paths to success: “Be positive, helpful and fun. The more pleasant you are, the more people will want to work with you” Sousa continues “so maybe you didn’t get cast in a show; speak up and ask if they need a stage manager, light board op., dresser, house manager, anything. If you show drive and desire, the faculty and future employers will see that and I believe that attitude will and does get rewarded. And sunny disposition and good attitude go right along with that advice”.

This summer Sousa will be teaching and inspiring a new generation of performers working with Flot Jr. . . .we wish her well!

Jasmine “Jey” Johnson

Jasmine Jey Johnson

University of Alaska Fairbanks 2009 Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year

Johnson has been involved in over a dozen productions over the past four years in Fairbanks including leading ladies (“Picnic” directed by Lee H. Salisbury), movement artist numerous times where she’s often also choreographer; including “No Exit’s” accompanying Butoh piece and one-half of a “movement chorus” for “Oleanna” in which she, and fellow student Adam Gillete “attempted to show the eternal, archetypal journey of Man and Woman.  It is one of the top few theatrical works of which I am most proud”.  She also played Esmerelda in Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre’s “Camino Real”.

She co-founded the campus group Righteous Ladies Rebelling with (past Student of the Year) Anna Gagne-Hawes to provide a forum for women’s art.  Their first production was “To Reign in Hell” by Juneau playwright Dave Hunsaker.  Though written as a one-woman show, Johnson and Gagne-Hawes transformed it into a 2 voiced exploration of narrative through movement.  “Through the harmony and balance which we were able to find between abstract and illustrative movement with voiced verbal narrative, ritual with performance, and the trust developed through a total collaboration between two people, I discovered the beauty and power of physical storytelling and created a life-long friendship.”

She also played Julia in UAF’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”  Shakespeare is one of Johnson’s main passions.  “Ever since first reading “Twelfth Night” in 8th grade, I have dreamed of playing one of Shakespeare’s cross-dressing heroines.  Though I still hope someday to play Imogen or Viola, I have acted my first and greatest theatrical dream.  It was an amazing experience.”

When asked to share advice to other students, Johnson had this to say: “To be a true artist you have to understand your medium.  Any painter or sculptor will tell you this.  To be a theatre artist you must understand all aspects of your medium.  I certainly recommend that all serious theatre artists (that’s all you theatre majors!) should absolutely try out all areas of production.  You’d be surprised how much you learn about being an actor, and about acting, from pressing ‘go’ on a light board every night for 3 weeks; seriously.”  Johnson was light-board operator for UAF’s “Three Days of Rain”.

Johnson’s current goal is to get a graduate degree in English, focusing on either renaissance or medieval literature – and eventually hopes to teach High School in Alaska – including the bush for a few years.  In the short term, however, she’s finalizing her summer wedding plans; as she’s recently engaged!

Johnson is an outstanding student with a solid GPA, so I had to ask: how do you manage that while being a double-major (Theatre and English), waitressing to support yourself, and working on productions?  “The short answer:  coffee.  My current stand-by is a three shot Americano with cream. The long answer:  Most important is having faith in yourself that you WILL get everything done: the less you stress about it, the more energy you have to put towards actually doing your work.  I am blessed in that I have such a strong, supportive group of friends who have helped me through the most stressful periods: moral support, laughter, late night ice cream, and the occasional load of laundry…Find balance within yourself: doing yoga, weaving, eating chocolate, enjoying red wine,  and taking walks in the woods with our dogs keeps me sane.”

Paula Daabach

Paula Daabach

University of Alaska 2008 Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year

Paula Daabach was born and raised in the middle of Scandinavia, in the middle of Sweden, in the middle of the county of Härjedalen, in the middle of Hede village on a small farm in the middle of nowhere. Even more desolate than Fairbanks… (About 500 people in my village, I would guess…and a couple of cows).

She came to UAF because of a skiing scholarship, and decided to be a theatre major and liked it so much that she chose it over skiing.

She developed the burning interest for Costume Design after High School. When her brother got married in 2002 she started to design dresses for the wedding and found what she wanted to do in life. Today she owns three sewing machines which all are in Sweden, which she misses just as much as her family, rifle, cat, car and bow.

She basically never set my foot on a theatre stage before coming to UAF, where she quickly found that there were many things to learn about sound and lighting in addition to costumes and makeup. She loved sound design from the very beginning… “It is easy to listen to a sound and imagine what it will sound like on stage but hard to pick colors for a light plot and know what it will look like on stage. I love all the aspects of the design because there are so many small details and thoughts behind all those details that meet in a magical world on stage. In costume, lighting and makeup design I love how colors, details, shadows and shapes can create different feelings and completely change things from one thing to something completely different.  I find sound design really interesting because the timing of the sound is very critical, and in films a certain sound effect or music can change the mood immensely. Just watch a scary movie without sound and it isn’t that scary any more. I would love to take a set design class too, just to have some knowledge in all the design aspects of theatre, and I have really enjoyed the scenic painting I’ve been doing so far…”

While at UAF she’s been involved in Oleanna, Three Days of Rain, co-costume and makeup-designed Power Lunch and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (2007) with Fiona Zachel. Was the hairdresser, makeup helper and one of the sound engineers for Picnic (2007), designed and built the costumes for No Exit and the butoh performance Huis Clos (2007), was co-stage manager with Fiona Zachel for The Two Gentlemen of Verona and helped building some of the costumes.  Designed the costumes for Foreplay and Split (2008), wrote Waiting for Gondolas which was included in the Famous for Fifteen minutes playwright festival and created the costumes for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Outside of UAF, she’s worked on the Nutcracker (2006 and 2007), Alice in the Wonderland-the ballet (2007), served on the running crew for Moscow Circus (2008) and ushered for The Blue Man Group in New York (2008). 

She also wrote and directed “Mr. Feather Boa”; a stop-animation short which won the Fairbanks Film Festival in summer, 2008 which was produced by the “Let’s Make A Movie” class.

  • I asked Paula, who’s maintained an “A” average throughout her college career (while on the ski team, involved in theatre productions, etc) if she had any advice for fellow students – and this was the list of tips she follows and shared:
  • First of all BE ON TIME !! in everything; doesn’t matter if it is to turn in homework, come to meetings or rehearsals. We depend on others in the theatre and to waste other people’s time will only create irritations.
  • Second, save all your projects and homework. They will come in handy later on, since most subjects are so closely connected.
  • Don’t be afraid to try. To do mistakes in a school environment is safe, and you will learn from your mistakes.
  • Try different aspects of theatre, if you are a performer, take design and directing classes, if you are a director or a designer take performance classes.
  • Be on running crew as much as you can, there you’ll learn a lot.
  • Get involved in the Student Drama Association (SDA) and in as many productions around town as you can.
  • Keep and update your portfolio
  • Learn how to say no… (I’m still working on this part myself…)
  • Be creative and don’t let problems stop you, solve them or make a way to work around them if you can.
  • See a lot of other shows (It’s funny and you’ll always learn something new)
Paula has been the recipient of numerous scholarships at UAF, and plans to graduate early – in December, 2008!

Anna Gagne-Hawes

Anna Gagne-Hawes

Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year 2007

Anna Gagne-Hawes is the UAF Theatre Departments’ outstanding student of the year. This undergraduate junior, who is a double-major (Theatre and History) came to UAF after being born and raised in Douglas, Alaska after finding she didn’t quite fit in at UAS – and after taking a year to study in France. The Theatre Department (and most others’ I suspect) typically bestows this honor to a graduating student; but Anna’s tremendous level of involvement & high GPA gave her a unanimous victory for the award.

You may recognize her from every grouping of Winter Shorts (student-directed one acts) produced over the last two years, was the female lead (Carol) in Oleanna, and will be performing tonight as Rosemary Sidney in Picnic.

She began her activist and theatrical career in High School where she wrote for the school paper, was part of the Drama Debate and Forensics team, co-founded the Gay/Straight Alliance and was part of the National Honor Society. While taking a Drama class, her teacher encouraged her; which is when she fell in love with the art and work of the theatre. Anna felt acting in high school was the first time she could see art as a tangible form. “You worked on your skill, you rehearsed it and then you performed and it was always alive and changing, and even through performances this energy was still growing and after the show closed you could reflect on it. You were never really done with the experience. It changed my perspective on learning…” and teaching. Gagne-Hawes teaches a class on base every Saturday to about 6 kids – and she’s been a counselor at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp three years running.

Gagne-Hawes also credits The Vagina Monologues as changing her life. After reading the play at 17 and discussing it with friends, she was “made aware for the first time that this was not just words on the page, this was active change being created by telling stories and by opening a dialog.” After producing the play at UAS in 2005, she co-produced a production here this year, where she (and over 20 volunteers) raised over $2000 for the Interior Center for Non-Violent Living. Gagne-Hawes feels “...theatre is a tool to open peoples minds, to put stories out there that maybe not everyone is ready to hear and to relish the everyday. Art is why I get up everyday, but the ability of that art to create positive change, and to craft your own art with that pro-active change is mind, is why I actually leave my house.”

When asked how she came to be a Theatre / History double-major; she replies, “I think of it this way. History is the story of all our lives, and theatre is how we tell that story”. When asked how she manages it all; lots-and-lots of coffee.

Robert "Chip" Brookes III

Chip Brookes III

Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year 2005

Photomontage: Chip Brookes in: Miss Julie, Water Stealers, Winter Shorts, Oedipus Rex, Twelfth Night, Three Sisters, Lysistrata and Don Juan

Robert C. "Chip" Brookes III, Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year 2004-5. Chip was born in Jacksonville, Florida on February 18, 1982, to Robert C. Brookes II and Betty A. Brookes, both of Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and Chip moved regularly, growing up in Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Great Britain, and California. He graduated from high school in Texas in 1999 and returned to Alaska that fall to attend UAF as a theatre major.

While a student at UAF, Chip has been involved with 15 theatrical productions, as an actor, director, sound designer and sound crewperson. He has been recognized by his classmates three times with acting awards at annual end-of-school-year banquets. He has also worked professionally with Fairbanks Drama Association, the Palace Saloon & Theatre, and twice with Perseverance Theatre in Juneau. Chip has worked in University and community theatre in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, while on a nine-month exchange program.

In September 2005 Chip will begin an MFA acting training program through the University of San Diego and the Old Globe Theatre. He graduates from UAF cum laude, earning a B.A. in Theatre, this May.

Margaret Bonnell

Margaret Bonnell

Outstanding Theatre Student of the Year 2004

Born in Anchorage, Margaret grew up in Fairbanks and graduated from Lathrop High School. She began taking theatre classes at UAF before she left Lathrop, and has been an aspiring entertainer all of her life. An honors student (and Alaskan Scholar), Margaret has been very active in and outside of the University. She took one semester off while touring on the national "Up With People" musical troupe, and another semester as an intern at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau. She has also served as Master Electrician and Assistant Lighting Designer for numerous North Star Ballet productions, including The Nutcracker.

Performance credits include Singin' in the Rain, Lysistrata, Palace Theatre Late-Night Cabaret, Aaron and the Magic Bubble and more. Design credits include Panic in the Time of An Insecure God, Cop Out, Captive Audience, Scenes from Mother Courage and The Bear. She's also the female lead in "Water Stealers".

After graduating this May, Margaret plans on living in a warmer environment where she can audition with the hopes of performing on a cruise ship to exotic lands! A "quadruple threat" (she sings, dances, acts and designs) we're confident Margaret has only started her exciting career of entertaining others!