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Something Worth Singing About

March 28, 2016 – by Ohio Wesleyan University

After winning the regional competition, Hannah Simpson ’16 (center) will compete in May in the National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) National Awards Competition for Musical Theatre. Simpson is shown here with Ohio Wesleyan faculty member Bonnie Milne Gardner ’77 (left) and her aunt, Ellen Simpson ’77. (Photo by Spenser Hickey ’15)

Ohio Wesleyan Senior Wins Regional Musical Theatre Contest, Prepares for National Competition 

Name: Hannah Simpson ’16
Majors: Theatre and English
Minors: Women’s and Gender Studies
Hometown: Lincroft, New Jersey
Experience: Student Individualized Project Grant, “National Society of Arts and Letters Musical Theatre Competition” 

Simpson earned a University-funded Student Individualized Project (SIP) Grant to attend this year’s regional National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) Musical Theatre Competition, held March 12 at the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She won first place in the competition, performing two contrasting songs and one monologue: “Somewhere” from West Side Story, “The Writing on the Wall” from The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and a monologue from Androcles and the Lion. For her first-place finish, Simpson has earned an all-expense paid trip to the National Awards Competition May 17-22 in Phoenix, Arizona, with a chance to take home a $10,000 prize.

Lessons Learned: “My performance that day was one of the best I have ever given, and I’m sure much of that has to do with the monologue and audition techniques I have been working on with (theatre professor) Ed Kahn in an independent study this semester. ... 

“Not only will I represent the Ohio River Valley Chapter at the National Awards Competition in May, but I will also be representing Ohio Wesleyan University, as this will be one of the first theatrical endeavors I will take on as a post-graduate. 

“At the event itself, I was able to do much more than just perform. It was a great networking event, and I even met an alumnus of OWU’s music department (Peter Sour ’84 accompanied the contestants on the piano as we sang our musical selections).

“Another added bonus from this weekend was the master class that all contestants participated in after the competition. We all chose one song to work on with one of the judges, and she gave us constructive criticism on how to improve our performance.

“Not only did I learn a lot from her advice to me, but it was also a great learning experience to see her work with the other contestants. Also, we had a brief Q&A session with the four judges at the conclusion of the master class. They discussed various ins and outs of the theatre business, and they also told us about their career paths.

“Two of the major takeaways from this Q&A were 1) know your musical pieces and monologues as well as you possibly can—as the performer, it is your responsibility to be in complete control of your audition and your work and 2) always say yes (within reason, of course)—theatre professionals want to hire people who are hard-working and willing to learn quickly, so it’s important to have a willingness to pick up a new skill or try something new.

“I also took this opportunity to ask the judges about the monologue I chose—since it was the prologue to a play for children’s theatre, I was a bit hesitant about choosing it. ... The judges said that odd choices work because they stand out in an audition room, and that the monologue fit very well with my two songs. I am excited to perform all three of my pieces at the National Competition after graduation, and I am very thankful that the SIP program was able to help me make this happen.”

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan's Department of Theatre & Dance and more about Student Individualized Projects, part of The OWU Connection.