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Ready to enter stage left: Where community, business and arts overlap
Story and photo by Kathleen Wilker
Natalie Hanson, outgoing Executive Director of the Westboro BIA, has been an involved Kitchissippi resident since she moved to Hintonburg in 1999. “At first my focus was on building community, because that’s what needed to be done,” says Hanson whose professional background includes journalism, marketing, communications and photography.
After serving on the Board of Newswest and as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Hintonburg 5K, among numerous other volunteer positions, Hanson now feels that the neighbourhood is more or less established and she can pursue other, more niche, volunteer interests with a clear conscience.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved in the arts and volunteering as Chair of the Board for the Ottawa Theatre School was a great fit,” she says.
Now that her son is twelve, Hanson has time to pursue her passion for ukulele—she has three ukes and is in the process of searching for a teacher—as well as for assisting in promoting Kitchissippi’s very own professional acting conservatory.
“It’s exciting to have time to nurture the arts and support young theatre professionals,” says Hanson who also keeps track of budgets and other important administrative tasks in her capacity as Board Chair.
Nat Hanson and I are meeting in Artistic Director Bruce Bissonnette’s office as the studios, hall and library at 294 Picton Avenue are full of student actors rehearsing for their next play, The Farm Show. (on April 22-27)
Incidentally, Hanson’s photo of a red winter barn on the Experimental Farm is the stunning poster art for the play. “I’m available to do whatever needs to be done,” explains Hanson who will also work the box office during the play’s run.
Outside the door is the sound of singing. Rehearsal is definitely in progress. “On the weekend the halls are full of kids enrolled in the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama’s classes,” says Hanson.
Between answering emails for the Theatre School and answering questions from directors and stage managers, Bissonnette pipes up with praise for Hanson. “Passion spurs us on and Nat is passionate about the arts,” he says.
“Well, I am a writer first,” she responds.
“Well then we must get you enrolled in our playwriting class,” Bissonnette insists. Hanson’s raised eyebrows suggest there may not be time for that new venture in the immediate future, but it’s definitely on her agenda.
During her two and a half years as Executive Director of the Westboro BIA, Hanson had the opportunity to combine her love of grassroots community with learning about and connecting with Kitchissippi’s business community. “They’re an amazing group of people,” she says.
As is often the case with uber volunteers who prefer to shine the spotlight on others rather than have the spotlight shining on them, Hanson is shy about the photo we’re about to take.
Like the theatre professional he is, her colleague Bissonnette coaches Hanson through the photo: “Look at me, look at me, ignore the camera, ignore the camera. Now…turn.” The initial results are hilarious, too full of laughter and too much turning, but we eventually capture a photo everyone’s pleased with. And the show, as they say, goes on.
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