Hometown: Waterbury, Connecticut
Major: Musical Theatre
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre
INTERNSHIPS: Acted with Waterbury theatre company Shakesperience Productions, doing two shows and a tour with them during the summer.
Activities: Played Mrs. Splinters in the spring opera, "The Tender Land," and Meg in the fall musical, "Little Women;" helped with technical elements, usually costumes, for WCSU performances since 2012.
Honors and Awards: Dean’s List every semester, 3.82 GPA, graduating magna cum laude
Hannah Bellows spent her first year of college at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. She transferred to WCSU for her sophomore year, and has been at Western ever since. "I knew I wanted to leave the school I was at because their curriculum was underdeveloped, and for several other reasons, but I never considered WestConn as an option," she says. "After a host of strange overlapping situations, WestConn became my only choice, but now I know that it was the best choice for me, and that God was creating the perfect storm that led me here."
Bellows says she has always been artistically inclined, singing in choirs and doing special arts programs at school since the third grade. "I went to the Waterbury Arts Magnet School for middle and high school, and that was where I learned about the world of theatre and fell in love with it, feeling a calling to enter this field. I decided to major in musical theatre because I had learned to be a good singer and actor from WAMS, but I knew when I left high school that I was NOT ready for the professional world! I’m glad I didn’t try to go it alone at that point: the training I’ve received and the people I’ve worked with over my four years have been invaluable, and have opened my eyes to explore more of my talents."
Many of those talents were nurtured by her professors. "The theatre department faculty is very mentoring as a whole, with all of the professors very available to talk to and form lasting relationships with," she says. "Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Julio Agustin Matos, the Musical Theatre program coordinator, has been my closest mentor of my professors. Julio has always gone above and beyond his job description as a professor, choosing to be a constant giver, adviser and friend to me and all the students here."
Asked what she will remember most about her Western experience, Bellows says, "Every year, the theatre department participates in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). In this program, schools ask to have respondents come see their shows to nominate student performers and designers to then go to the Regional Festival. There are also categories that students can submit to for acceptance to Regionals, such as Playwriting and Directing. Regionals is an experience full of valuable workshops to learn from, fun categories like the Tech Olympics, and more serious times for students to display their work for feedback from professionals. From there, one or two students from each category are awarded by being sent to the National Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. There, they receive even more mentorship and feedback on their work, while soaking in the work of National-level students in other categories and experiencing the arts scene in D.C. At the end of the National Festival, summer residency opportunities, academic fellowships and other awards are given to outstanding students in each category. I am proud to say I went through Regionals to the National level for the Directing category, and was one of two directing students at Nationals to be awarded the SDC Directing Fellowship! As a result, I will spend this summer in residency at the esteemed Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, and I have been given Associate Membership in the SDC (the Stage Directors and Choreographers’ union), along with the other 10 talented finalists. The KCACTF experience has been wonderful for me, confirming so much that this is what I should do in life, putting lots of things into perspective, and opening doors for my future. It was also beautiful mostly because it didn’t really feel like a “contest” with a “prize;” in fact, the festival repeatedly emphasized that we should avoid looking at it this way, and they were right! All I did was be myself: working hard, sharing my heart with others, and willingly accepting and applying feedback, and I was honored out of all the participants in the nation! It helps me trust myself so much more, and that this is something that God has for my future. For the next three years, WestConn will be hosting the Regional level of the Festival; I hope others in the university community come see what it’s all about!"
After graduation, Bellows says, "KCACTF has opened doors for a summer residency for me at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, and that may lead somewhere else – who knows?" She's also in the process of fundraising for a two-year mission trip to the Netherlands to work with a nonprofit children’s theatre company called KIDZARK Productions, which was started by Judy Mensch and Brenda Lillie, two missionaries from her church district. "I am looking forward to spending those years using my theatre experience to serve God and others in a very practical way!"
Bellows’ advice to new students entering WCSU is: “Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you – go and get them for yourself! And if they don’t exist yet, create them; there are so many people who want to help and guide you if you ask! Also, don’t let people tell you no; you are in charge of your experience during college. You can find a way to do the things you want to do.”