17 Questions For 17-Year-Old Rising Star, Actress Hannah Smith

I have been following the acting career of Kingston, Ontario based rising star, Hannah Smith, for a couple of years and have been thoroughly impressed by her remarkable performances in Miss Julie, Ghost Of The Tree, Sweeney Todd, and A Tribute To Patsy Cline to name a few. She has also appeared in Sense and Sensibility, Sleeping Beauty, Til The Boys Come Home, and her latest play, Educating Rita, directed by Valerie Robertson for Theatre 5 has just completed a very successful run at the Baiden Street Theatre.

Hannah was an absolute revelation in Educating Rita, which was the best play I’ve seen in Kingston in ages! She and G. Robert Bowes were perfectly matched and gave fantastic performances!

The lovely Hannah, who is a 17-year-old student at Kingston Collegiate

Hannah Smith and Justin Robertson in Miss Julie
& Vocational Institute, has been acting in local theatre for almost ten years already and what I’m most struck by is her ability to perfect different accents and to convince her audience that she is many years older than she really is. She’s a superb young actress with an undoubtedly successful career in acting ahead of her.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Hannah about her experiences in acting and what she hopes will be in store for her in the future.

1. Hannah, how old were you when you appeared in your first play?

I was eight years old. The play was “A Little Princess”, an adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett story.

2. Have your parents encouraged you to pursue acting?

My parents certainly are not adverse to the idea. They have been very supportive, driving me to rehearsals for the last nine years.

3. Who is your acting coach and what can you tell me about him/her?

Charles Robertson has taught me theatre and acting for nine years. He’s very supportive and provides all sorts of opportunities for young people in theatre that they may not get with other people. Charles and Bottle Tree Productions are certainly a great part of the reason that I enjoy theatre so much.

4. You’re a wonderful singer. Have you taken singing lessons?

Thank you! Until late this fall, no. I’ve never had any formal vocal training, I just love to sing and do it all the time.

5. How many plays, in which tickets were sold, have you appeared in so far?

Oh wow. Let me count…33 in total, with one more in rehearsal right now.

6. Have you been featured in any movies? If so, what can you tell me about the differences between performing for the stage and screen?

I’ve completed filming for one low-budget film. There are many differences between film and theatre acting. When you’re acting on film, you can afford to be much more subtle. With theatre, smaller movements are lost, while in film every shift of the eye is seen. You also have to be much more conscious of being still and only moving when absolutely necessary. They’re very different, but both a lot of fun.

7. Will you share your most memorable acting experience to date and what made it so memorable?

One of the most memorable experiences I have had acting was during opening night of Sense and Sensibility. I played Marianne, and during a particularly emotional scene I ran offstage, in the process twisting my ankle and falling offstage. I had to continue the show and the rest of the run with a limp and a tenser bandage.

8. Is acting a career that you want to pursue as an adult?

I would love to pursue acting as an adult. It’s one of the only fields that I can see myself working in and enjoying myself.

Hannah in Til The Boys Come Home
9. What is it about acting that incites your passion?

I’m not sure what it is about acting and theatre that I like so much. I love having the opportunity to, for an hour or two, become a completely different person. There’s nothing quite like having the lights blinding you while you can feel the audience around you. If an actor ever tells you that they don’t like to be looked at, they’re lying. I think it’s just the combination of all the different aspects of theatre that I’m so passionate about.

10. What are some of your favourite plays that you haven’t yet had a chance to perform in?

I love Tennessee Williams, so The Glass Menagerie or Streetcar Named Desire would be up there on the list.

11. Who are some of your favourite actors and actresses?

I really admire classic film stars like Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The poise and class that they brought to film is hard to come by nowadays. Kate Winslet is another actress that I like to watch.

12. What traits do you respect the most in an actor?

Versatility and subtlety. I admire actors who are able to play many different roles and bring subtlety to each. It’s the small things that really bring characters to life.

13. What do you have coming up in the near future?

I’ve been cast as Rizzo in K.C.V.I.’s school musical this year, Grease. The show opens early in May. Before that I’m planning on producing and directing a show for the Sears Drama Festival, something I’m very involved with through school.

14. Do you have an agent? Are you looking for one?

At the moment, no, I don’t have an agent. But as I am now becoming more interested in pursuing acting as a career I am aware that finding representation is the next step.

15. Are you willing to relocate to Toronto or another big city in order to further your career?

In order to successfully work in entertainment, this sort of relocation is necessary and something that I would be willing to do when the time is right.

16. What are your career goals for the not too distant future?

Hannah as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd

Not too distant goals would probably include finding representation and surviving my final year of high school. Which I think could technically be considered a “career goal.”

17. Finally, what part is it that you feel that you were born to play?

That’s a tough question. Probably something along the lines of Lady Macbeth. I love how manipulative she is. And playing crazy is always fun.

Theatre 5 Presents “Educating Rita” Starring Hannah Smith & Robert Bowes

Photo by Désirée E. Turcotte

I’m a little late in posting about this play but I think that it deserves my attention because I am, after all, a fan of Kingston’s finest young actress, Hannah Smith. You can catch her this week in:


The Baiden Street Theatre (57 Baiden St.), home of Theatre 5 presents Educating Rita, a sparkling comedy directed by Valerie Robertson, starring Robert Bowes and Hannah Smith, where the physics of love are demonstrated when an irresistible woman meets an immovable man in the hallowed halls of learning.

Show runs Thursday to Saturday evenings from Nov. 25 – Dec. 11 at 8 p.m.

Tickets available at Peters Drugs or at the door.

FROM THE WHIG STANDARD – November 27, 2010

by Greg Burliuk

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The two characters in Educating Rita spend the whole play basically arguing that point.

And in Theatre 5’s production of the popular play, it’s a fascinating debate.

The play first premiered in 1980 in London and in 1983 was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. The latter however added characters are only referred to in the original two-person play.

The concept is one that is borrowed from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, about a young working class woman seeking to better herself through an educated tutor. Rita playwright Willy Russell makes things more interesting however, by making the two characters more equal. The young hairdresser who has decided to change her name to Rita is more feisty than Eliza Doolittle was in Pygmalion, and Frank her tutor is a bit of a drunken sot and not so prim and perfect as Professor Higgins.

Rita thinks knowledge and education will set her soul free, while Frank has found it’s stifled him, to the point that he has to turn to drink in self-disgust.

The seven scenes in each act become a journey of self-discovery for both characters, but chiefly for Rita.

The whole play takes place in Frank’s office, and Theatre 5’s intimate theatre makes you feel like you are sitting in a corner of it and a real part of the proceedings.

Lovers of literature will enjoy the little morsels of knowledge that Frank passes on, but most will prefer hearing Rita’s unique and comical take on her life, as she struggles to be more than a working-class wife whose husband wants nothing more from her than to be pregnant.

This is a play full of lots of words so it’s no mean feat for the two actors on stage to be able to handle a mountain full of lines. Plus it’s crucial that there be an intimacy between the two that has no element of sexuality between it, something that’s very hard to do.

And it’s a compliment to Theatre 5’s actors that they manage to both deal well with the lines and more importantly, the complex but tender relationship between the two.

The two represent a youthful and veteran side of Kingston’s theatre scene. Since he’s moving to Burnaby, British Columbia, this will be Robert Bowes’ last appearance on a Kingston stage after 30 years of doing so. It’s one of his best performances. He nicely captures the dissolute despair of Frank, who only sees sunlight when Rita brings her cheekiness and fresh ideas into the room. And there’s something to be said for an actor who can play drunkenness without having to stereotypically slur his syllables.

Hannah Smith is still in high school but has already had several starring roles, most notably in Bottle Tree Production shows. Her Rita is saucy but tormented by feelings of inadequacy. What I like most about her performance is the furious energy she brings to the role which parallels the turmoil that’s going on in Rita’s brain.

If there’s a weakness to the production, it’s dealing with the 14 different scenes. Since they take place over a period of time, Rita must be continually changing costumes, and having Frank walk back and forth through the audience at the end of each scene is a bit distracting. This is where Theatre 5’s intimate stage, which has no back stage, is a weakness.

Still this is a production that deserves to fill this tiny theatre every night.

– – –

Educating Rita

A play by by Willy Russell

Director: Valerie Robertson

Set design: Steve Furster

A Theatre 5 production playing until Dec. 11 at the Baiden Street Theatre, 57 Baiden St. With performances from Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m.


Rita White – Hannah Smith

Frank Bryant – G. Robert Bowes

Rating: * * * 1/2out of five