Hannah scores acting gig

One for the memories: Hannah Learson to play Sophie. DETAILS: Hating Alison Ashley is directed by Jane Matts and will be held at the Casula Powerhouse on October 24 to 27. Picture: Chris Lane
One for the memories: Hannah Learson to play Sophie. DETAILS: Hating Alison Ashley is directed by Jane Matts and will be held at the Casula Powerhouse on October 24 to 27. Picture: Chris Lane

Hammondville resident Hannah Learson wants to inspire people – on and off the stage.

Her new role in the Liverpool Performing Arts Ensemble theatre production Hating Alison Ashley has helped her to cultivate aspirations and progress in a way that most streamline school subjects never could.

The year 12 student and her mother made a decision to prioritise the theatre production rather than the HSC because of the difference it’s made.

Her mother, Jackie Learson told us how it came about.

“It’s something she’s wanted to do for a while and I realised this production would be local so we’ve tried to make that happen for her,” she said.

“My daughter has special needs so I think it’s been good to have her involved in a production so that she could see how a play is put together. I would have been happy enough for her to help out backstage but they gave her a small part.

“As rehearsals went on they realised she was doing well so they added extra lines for her character. I think its fantastic they’ve been inclusive.”

She said it was lucky timing.

“I’d looked around for acting workshops and all of a sudden I thought about Casula Powerhouse so I called and they mentioned there were auditions for Hating Alison Ashley.”

At a young age Hannah was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, asperger syndrome and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder but she hasn’t let it hold her back.

“She taken to the role so well, after rehearsals she’s beaming. Hannah is usually not a very sociable person so it’s lovely to have her getting along with cast members.

“I’m so proud of her. Its going to be a fabulous family production!” Hannah labelled the experience as a game changer.

“It’s fun being someone else, I’ll completely commit to the role – I don’t care if I look silly. It’s encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone,” Hannah said.

“The character I play is Sophie. She is a writer and doesn’t want to take part in the shenanigans the other characters get up to.

“The other actors who are doing this are professionals with a lot of experience. It’s a lot of work, you have to be professional and acknowledge it’s a working environment.”

She said it’s been the highlight of the year.

“I’m proud of what everyone else in the play has achieved. I hope this does inspire other students who’ve had challenges. I’ve been inspired by other people and if you have a dream or a passion you should pursue it.”

Director of Hating Alison Ashley Jane Matts said when Hannah auditioned for the role, the producer and her were looking to make the production more diverse.

“[We] the potential to change the role of Oscar to Sophie. We cast Hannah and workshopped the character of Sophie, with Richard Tullochs' permission,” she said, referring to the playwright.

“He said it was the intention of the play to allow for diversity. He sanctioned the changes so now Sophie is in every school scene, chiming into the naughtiness of the classroom scenes and the playground!. Hannah is a skillful and capable actor.

“This is her first play with us and I'm impressed with her professionalism and detailed understanding of ways to build a character!”

Ms Matts said years ago she toured a theatre in education version of Hating Alison Ashley, which received a great response.

“There was never a performance with less that 200 school children. Everyone, from teachers to kids were laughing and clapping. It’s a kind of show where the audience is completely engaged. There’s never a dull moment!

“In Erica's (the lead character’s) words it is a play that explores the concept of knowing what its like to be a "tall flower in a field of weeds".

Story updated October 10, 2.42pm.