This is a story about 2 young women from Westport. Both are pursuing their passions for Hollywood.
Both are named Hannah B.
It’s a small world. And — as both know — it’s also a very entertaining one.
Hannah Berg spent her first 2 years at Staples as a varsity cheerleader. She’d danced all her life, so it was a good fit. But then — enchanted by Staples Players — Hannah joined that award-winning group. She performed in “Grease,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Wiz” and “Les Miserables.” She also served as president of the Teen Awareness Group.
On a college visit, Hannah fell in love with Elon University’s very professional TV studio. She majored there in multi-media journalism — with a focus on online reporting — and minored in theater.
Two weeks after graduation she moved to Los Angeles. She knew no one, and had no job. She enrolled in TV hosting school, taught by Marki Costello, and learned how to ad lib, improvise and engage an audience. It was a “terrifying” experience — everyone else in the class had much more experience — and it made Hannah realize she did not want to be a talking head.
One day, to her amazement, she walked into a salon — and people knew her name.
She contacted Lian Teicher — who graduated from Staples in 2005, 3 years before Hannah — at YoungHollywood.com. Three months after starting as an intern, Hannah had a full-time position at the celebrity blog.
Her first on-camera interview was with Nick Wechsler. “He was so sweet,” she says. “He knew I wasn’t a seasoned host. I think it went well. But I realize I have room to grow.”
The next day Hannah produced her 1st on-site visit, for the ABC show “Splash.”
“This is so challenging,” Hannah says. “I never know what to expect — what project I’ll work on, or which celebrity walks through the door.”
Though she loves writing the most, she appreciates having a “front-row seat” to so many aspects of Hollywood.
“A year ago I watched the Oscars on my couch,” she marvels. “This year I was live-tweeting it, for our 2.3 million followers.”
The other Hannah — Barrett — is still just 16. She too has been enamored of theater all her life.
At Bedford Middle School — performing in “Bye Bye Birdie” and “The Pirates of Penzance” — Hannah realized she could make theater her career.
Last summer, at the Broadway Artists Alliance camp in New York, Hannah learned skills like monologues and song interpretation from professional actors.
She loved “Book of Mormon.” Gazing at the cast list, she came up with an idea. She’d contact actors, ask them how they got to Broadway, then post their stories on a blog, inspiring other young people who shared her passion.
The result: BroadwayMasterChat.com.
At first, she reached out via actors’ personal websites. The first to respond was Nikki Bohne of “Bring It On: The Musical.”
As Hannah did more interviews — she’s posted 20, with 9 more in the can — she gained credibility. She now works through publicists and managers.
Her interviewing technique comes from watching “Inside the Actors Studio” and TV talk shows. She asks how actors caught the theater bug; the craft and process of their work; their current production, and what advice they have for aspiring professionals.
Hannah’s first interview was by email — but still she was nervous. “My heart beat so fast!” she says. Phone interviews continue to be nerve-racking, but you’d never know it from the finished product. She gets great insights from the likes of Savannah Wise (“Smash”) and David Hyde Pierce.
As she expands her website, Hannah hopes to add interviews with other theater types, like agents and casting directors. She may also add similar sites for TV and film.
Until then — like the other Westport Hannah — she’ll keep dreaming of stars. And keep dreaming up questions for them.