Exploring Musical Theatre with Anna Hayman

Like many people in Nashville, Anna Hayman is a creative powerhouse. A double-major in Theatre and in English here at Belmont, she sat down with me to tell me about some of her many projects and her creative process. 

 

1. You're a Theatre and English major at Belmont. Can you talk a bit about your double-major experience and how your fields have influenced each other?

Absolutely! I really think that in a lot of ways English and Theatre are two sides of the same coin. They’re looking at life and at people and at experiences. At how we can connect and understand. I feel like one of the most interesting ways my fields have influenced is each other is how acting has strengthened my ability to feel a story in my body, and English has strengthened my ability to get inside of a character’s head. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to get to experience both of these majors at Belmont, and of course, for all the many wonderful people I’ve met.  

 

2. You also sing (I love seeing your videos on Instagram, by the way). Do you sometimes feel pulled in three directions?  

Thank you! To answer your question: constantly, and never. When I was growing up, it was my goal to write and sing commercial music. But at the same time, I was writing stories and was very involved in choir and theatre in school. I think that I pushed a lot of my creative dreams to the side a little bit because I decided I was going to be this specific kind of artist, you know? And at some point I realized that, which is why now I think musical theatre is such a good fit for me. Because I love writing, and telling stories, and singing, so on and so forth. I find a lot of freedom in it.

 

3. Where do you find your inspiration for your work?

Just paying attention to things, mostly. But not really looking for a particular thing, if that makes any sense. At least, that's how it works for me.  I wrote a story recently based on a toilet paper dispenser that I have at home. It sticks up when you replace the roll, and I got to thinking a couple of things, like that I have been guilty of not changing the roll, and that it could be dangerous if someone left it upright, out of sheer forgetfulness. That was a weird one, but it came together to give me quite the interesting narrative.

I also just try to write down, like, everything that happens to me. I journal every day, even the most “mundane” things, a) because I want to be in tune with myself, and b) because I never know where the next spark for a story will come from.   

 

 

4. With so many things going on, it's easy to get burned out. What do you do to combat that?

Oh yeah, burning out is what I specialize in! I’m getting better, though. I take time to myself when I can, and I try my best to nurture my relationships. I know that the two kind of sound opposite, but I need both. It's important to me to have time to sit and breathe and rest, and it’s important to me to tell my friends and family that I love them and appreciate them.

 

5. I have to ask: what are your favorite plays?

My mind shot immediately to this musical: The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. The story is about Jamie and Cathy’s relationship over the course of five years (shocker!), and is told chronologically through Jamie’s eyes, and in reverse chronological order through Kathy’s eyes. Two characters, brilliant lyrics, beautiful music. Gorgeous.

 

6. What would you say is the class you've taken at Belmont that has had the biggest impact on your creative process or your own work?

I had a linked English/Theatre course in my sophomore year, actually, that spurred me to take the book I had been writing and try it as a musical (the one that I'm working on now). And I have been tearing down that crazy road ever since.

As far as the writing itself goes, I took a class called “The Music of Writing” last year, where I basically just got to play with with words to my heart’s content. I started to feel a lot more at home in my style that semester.

 

7. You write prose, but you also write songs. Do you feel like one is easier than the other, or flows more naturally?

I’ll put it this way: I think that I first realized I was a writer when I wrote my first song in the fourth grade. I think that songwriting was my “main mode” for a long time, and that everything I write now kind of stems from that. But also now, it’s more a matter of considering the story I want to tell and what mode is best for telling it. Sometimes a song is what comes out. Sometimes it’s a story. Sometimes it’s a script.  It really depends on the day as to what comes most naturally to me.  

 

 

8. Can you talk a bit about the projects you're working on now here at Belmont?

The theatre department here is super cool because you get a taste of what it means to work in all different areas of the the theatre industry. This semester I have worked on a wardrobe crew, and am currently stage managing on a production. Other than that, I’ve mostly been working on writing my show, as well as other short stories. I have a new musical idea that I’m dying to work on, but can’t until the one I’m working on is on its feet!

 

9. You're also writing a musical. What is it about, and how is that going?

This is such a hard question to answer without giving too much away! But, bare bones: Matt Chevlin, a young actor in his first big professional role, begins working on a show where the script eerily mirrors his troubled past–and he is determined to figure out why.

When it comes to writing it, it’s sort of an ebb and flow kind of deal. There are times when I have to be insanely patient and try to keep myself calm–I tell myself, “It will come. It will come. It will come.” And then it does sometimes. And then you have to be patient again. Ebb. Flow. I write everyday–something, anything–to make sure that I keep the juices flowing. Persistence is so important to me and my work.

 

10. Ideally speaking, where and how would you like this to be performed?

I’m having a staged reading of it this school year, right here at Belmont! So that will be the first time it’s performed, and basically it will be a great way for me to see the show and know what problems I need to fix. I would love to see my show professionally–Chicago, New York, maybe London. What can I say, I have big dreams! At this point, I think that this show is meant to be performed in a smaller theatre, where you can very well see the actors’ expressions and body language. As for how I would like it to be performed–I want a lot of honesty, a lot of openness, without sentimentality.

 

 

11. If you cast anyone – we're talking dream cast here, where celebs are not off-limits – who would you cast?

It’s weird, but when I’m writing, I kind of see my characters as colored pencil sketches! However, the one person I can think of off the top of my head would be for Matt Chevlin’s character, and the actor would be Aaron Tveit circa 2009. Is that still a cop-out? Other than that, I’m just really looking forward to seeing the artists who end up taking on these roles. I know they’ll be brilliant.

 

12. What would you say to anyone who thinks musicals are "lame" or that theatre is boring?

You haven’t seen the right show. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are shows that I’m not particularly fond of. Like any other art, theatre is subjective, and just because you’ve gone to one play or musical you despise doesn’t mean that you will despise them all. I’d say just give it another go, and to keep an open mind!

 

13. Any advice for those also wanting to write plays/musicals?

That theatre is collaborative. Mega collaborative. Yes, you have a vision, and your vision is so important, but it is also so important to realize that your production won’t look entirely like it did in your head while you were writing it. Things will change when your words hop off paper and into the mouths and bodies of actors. Things will change when other people start breathing their experiences and understanding of the world into your characters. To me, that is the most exciting thing about the process: that this story is not just my story, but his, hers, theirs, yours, ours. And that’s the mindset that will also keep you sane.

Other than that? Just start. I had no idea what I was doing until I was doing it. I still don’t. But I think that all that matters is that you were given a story and that, after you’ve been given this story, you handle it with the most love and respect that you can muster. 

 

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