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Meet our Olivia, Hannah Yelland

Hannah Yelland is back for her fourth show at STC. You may remember her from The Winter’s Tale (mainstage and 2014 Free For All), as well as Brief Encounter. In Twelfth Night, Yelland is taking on the role of Olivia. Click below to read the full interview, where she talks to us about being back at STC, her excitement about working with Ethan McSweeny again and the upcoming holiday season.

This is your fourth production here at STC. What have you most enjoyed about being back?
I really feel like STC is my theatre home here in D.C., as I did my first production, The Winter’s Tale, here back in 2013. It is wonderful to encounter so many familiar faces in and around the rehearsal rooms and theatre. From administration, backstage to front of house, there is a real sense of community here. This is also my first Shakespeare production that is just with STC.  The Winter’s Tale was a co-production with McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.

Tell us about your take on Olivia.
Olivia is prideful and composed. She is an ice queen who gradually thaws throughout the play, after she falls in love with Cesario and starts to let warmth and love and life back into her heart. At the top of the play, she is also mourning the death of her brother. I used that as the crucial jumping off point for my take on the character. She is really depressed and joyless at the start and something is awakened in her by falling in love, which enables her to once again open her heart to possibility and happiness. She is actually a character with a great sense of loyalty, particularly to her family, or those she perceives as family. It’s not an obvious trait, but I think it is also a part of her unique complexity.

Would you compare Olivia to any modern individuals?
I can’t think of anyone specific, but I do think her journey is a familiar one. We can recognize the feeling of despair and a belief that the world will not be joyful again. I think most of us will have experienced a connection with a person who brings back the joy and hope into one’s life.

What’s it like working with Ethan McSweeny?
This is the second time I’ve worked with Ethan, though the first time on one of Shakespeare’s plays. After seeing his beautiful production of The Tempest at STC, I made it a career mission to work on a Shakespeare play with him. I really was so thrilled when he asked me to play Olivia. I was pretty persistent in convincing him that I was right for the role! His productions are always so imaginative and visually stunning, but the heart of the play and the language is never compromised, as I feel so often happens with Shakespeare. It has been a joy to work with him and I hope it won’t be the last time.

How are you enjoying D.C.? Have you been here during the holiday season before?
I actually live here in D.C. and I love this time of year. You can keep the summers! The summers are way too hot for me. The falls and winters, however, are wonderful. The holiday season is so atmospheric and exciting. I am so looking forward to playing Twelfth Night during this time.

Twelfth Night runs now through December 20 at Sidney Harman Hall. For more information and tickets click here.

(Photo of Maggie Thompson as Ensemble, Hannah Yelland as Olivia and Emily Townley as Maria in Twelfth Night by Scott Suchman.)

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