Anyssa Hanna first fell in love with the theatre when she was only five years old. She began acting in first grade in Cleveland. Now, as a freshman social work student at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, she will be directing her first play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.
“The play is about seven African American women and each one of them has a struggle in their life,” Hanna explains. “It discusses how each one of the women got through their problems by talking and supporting one another.”
Hanna was responsible for casting each of the actors for the play which consists of four Ohio State Mansfield students as well as three community members. She says, “During the rehearsal process I used the phrase ‘Girl Talk’ a lot because the message I wanted to present is that women should be able to confide in other women without feeling like they are going to be judged. Everybody goes through something they may not want to talk about. I want people to leave the play understanding that they don’t have to go through anything alone.”
Her love for theatre helped guide her to this new challenge in her own life. While taking The Craft of Acting Dr. Joseph Fahey, associate professor of theatre, asked if she would be interested in being a student director. She was nervous at first but decided it was something she had to do. “I’ve thought about directing but have never taken the initiative to do it on my own,” she explains. “I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. But I really do.”
Dr. Fahey noticed Hanna’s talent while she was participating in another play. “Anyssa was performing in our fall production of The Importance of Being Ernest,” he said. “I worked with her to catch her up on some of the materials and was impressed by her abilities and her work ethic.”
One of the unique directing approaches Hanna uses are the principles of sign language. “In sign language, you are telling a story without words. You have to get into character also, not only using your hands but using facial expressions because some of the words have the same meaning. Your facial expression and your body language will help define what you are trying to say,” Hanna explains.
She was first introduced to sign language at a young age by her grandmother who worked with disabled children. Now she directs the actors in the play to use their body language as much as their words to communicate the storyline to the audience. “If they can express a story through their body before they can express it through their tone of voice then it will be amazing and the audience will feel it,” Hanna says.
“I didn’t think I would get this opportunity at Ohio State Mansfield. I have been in many theatre departments/productions, and I have never felt as comfortable as I have felt on the Mansfield campus,” Hanna smiles. “You can tell the faculty and staff here really care about what they are doing. This theatre program definitely has passion.”
The theatre department at Ohio State Mansfield performs several shows per semester. Auditions are open to all students and community members with positions available on stage or behind-the-scenes.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicided When the Rainbow is Enuf will be presented Tuesday, April 16-17 at 6:30 PM at Founders Auditorium. For tickets, please call 419-755-4045. The onsite box office opens 45 minutes before the show. There is a strong language warning for this production. The production also deals with domestic violence and considerations of suicide.
All proceeds from the play benefit The Domestic Violence Shelter, Inc. of Mansfield.
Hanna believes this is only the beginning of her directing career. She has already asked to direct another play next semester.
Source, Photo: The Ohio State University at Mansfield