The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Hannah Phelps ‘04 takes theatre degree to Chicago

Who would’ve thought that a theater major would wind up working at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)? But then again, that’s only Hannah Phelps ’04’s day job. By night, she acts in local productions and in some independent films. Both day and night, Phelps finds herself surrounded by Grinnellians, online and in reality.

Photograph contributed.

“Some of my best friends from college are in Chicago as well, and one of them … actually lives just one block away from me, so I see her and her husband all the time,” Phelps said. “We kind of joke it’s like the grown-up version of dorm living. … I see Grinnellians all the time, sometimes just randomly on the streets. Last week, I saw someone wearing one of those ‘Where the Hell is Grinnell?’ shirts.”

Unlike most alumni, Phelps has a ready excuse available whenever she wants to come back to campus—it’s her home! Phelps was born in Grinnell in 1982 and attended school here until graduating from the College in 2004. While moving to Chicago after commencement was a big change for her, it was cushioned by many friends who lived in the city.

“Chicago is a lot like Grinnell, in that there are a lot of communities and neighborhoods that you can interact with,” Phelps said. “You see the same people every day when you bike to work, or … if you’re performing.”

Phelps is very involved in the drama and acting circles in Chicago, just as she was at the College. Like Phelps, many actors in Chicago have separate day jobs. For this reason, rehearsals and auditions are usually scheduled for lunch breaks or after work.

“This week, I have five auditions … and I have rehearsal for only eight hours this week, but there have been times where I was working 40 hours a week,” Phelps said. “It’s like doing a full time job and a part time job.”

Even within acting, Phelps has been involved in a variety of roles, including commercials, friends’ independent films and more. She enjoys both stage and film acting, without a clear preference for either.

“There’s something to be said for both. I really enjoy acting in film, because I really appreciate … a more naturalistic approach to a character,” Phelps said. “At Grinnell, even, I was never one for the big showmanistic performances. I find that I’m a little bit better suited for film, because it’s the very small things that make a film really interesting, … but there’s something about an audience. That’s also really rewarding.”

Phelps’s experience with the Theatre Department at Grinnell was overwhelmingly positive, and anyone interested in pursuing theater will be happy to know that most of Phelps’ professors have stayed on, though her adviser, Pip Gordon, left Grinnell a few years ago.

“I had a very good time working with everyone in the department,” Phelps said. “Every time I’m back in Grinnell, I see Lesley Delmenico [Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance]. She’s a wonderful director, and … I had the pleasure of getting to know her much better.”

Like many alums, Phelps enjoys keeping up-to-date with Grinnellians and the campus at large through online social networking website GrinnellPlans.

“If there’s something like a clan war, it trickles down sometimes to us alumni,” said Phelps. “And then we say, ‘wow, what is going on over there!’ … It’s a great way to keep a pulse on campus.”

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