Monday, March 4, 2013

BACT Blogger Genevieve Interviews Benjamin Hanna

Here she is again! Genevieve is back, this time with an interview with Ivy + Bean, The Musical director Benjamin Hanna. Genevieve is ten years old and in fourth grade at Kensington Hilltop Elementary. She attended her first live theater performance at three years old. Genevieve also enjoys acting, particularly in musicals, playing the piano, writing, reading, traveling, and playing sports with her friends. She lives in Kensington with her parents and two younger siblings.
If you are age 9 and up and want to write a blog about your experience with BACT, email


My Interview of Benjamin Hanna
By Genevieve, Age 10

I have always enjoyed the Ivy and Bean books and wished that I could watch it live, as a movie or play. Well, my wish recently came true, because the current Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) production is Ivy and Bean…The Musical! This play was one-of-a-kind and silly.

BACT worked with the Ivy and Bean series author, Annie Barrows, to develop a musical that stayed close to the original books and its characters. They added in some theatrical pieces, like throwing confetti, which I enjoyed. When people had two parts and they had to go change into their other outfits, they did it in highly incredible ways. You wouldn’t even notice that they had left; there was so much creativity in it. It had practically the exact same art in the scenery as was in the books, which showed they put time and thought into ways to remind the audience of the book series. The actors were just like all the kids I know--getting in trouble, dressing up, annoying siblings…all just on one Saturday morning. It was super realistic, and if you go to see it, you’ll agree with me—it was a wonderful play.

This time I interviewed Benjamin Hanna, the director of the play. He was interesting and talkative and fun to interview. Ben also acts. When he was a child, he thought he wanted to be an actor, which he did enjoy doing, but in college he also took directing and decided that that was his real heart’s desire. He still finds time for acting as well. He worked with BACT for nine months to make this play wonderful.

What exactly does a director do? I’ve always wondered this, and that’s one of the reasons I was excited to interview Ben. Ben believes that the director’s main job is to tell the story in an accurate and fun way. A director brings together a group of artists, such as the actors and the technicians, and discusses their thoughts about the production. Led by the director, the group works together to create the places actors go, the things people wear, the sounds you hear, the dances actors do, and the things people use onstage in a super realistic way. The director helps actors put meaning into their words to make everything real to you. “I love directing because I get to work with the most interesting and creative people and I learn something new every day!” Ben smiles, “Directors do a lot of things!”

While directing the production, Ben thinks back to when he was young to make the show as kid-friendly as possible. He also has a seven-year-old cousin whom he read the books to. Ben has younger siblings, as well. He thinks he is most like Nancy, because he was the oldest and would always baby-sit his sisters and brothers. But he acted more like Ivy on a Saturday morning, sitting on the front porch reading.  He got some of his ideas for directing the play from fun, exciting experiences in his own childhood and he tried to make the musical as fun as it could be. He wanted the play to be realistic to children so they could really relate to their own neighborhood experiences.  I definitely think he achieved his goal!

Ivy + Bean, the Musical director Benjamin Hanna.
Ben is new to the Bay Area. He came here from Minnesota, so he has never directed for BACT before. Two of the very many plays that he has directed include The Hobbit and Go, Dog, Go.  Now that Ben has directed one play for BACT, he totally thinks he would do another. “If they asked me if I would do another play for them,” Ben mused, “I would say ‘Great! So, what’ll it be about?’ and settle down to prepare on the spot.” 

As I was finishing our interview, I had the opportunity to meet the actress who played Ivy, Megan Putnam. She started acting when she was eight years old and this was her first BACT production. Megan says she didn’t know any of the other people making the play when she started, but by the end they were all like family. She read all of the Ivy and Bean books and definitely agrees that Ivy was the part for her. “I don’t know what I would be if I didn’t get the part of Ivy! She’s perfect for me,” Megan says. She told me that her dream play to be part of is Wicked; she would love to play Glenda.

I am really impressed by this great play, and I would love to thank everyone who put time and thought into it. It turned out wonderful. Go, Ivy and Bean!!!

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