Closing weekend is here. What an extraordinary ride. I can't thank you all enough for your support, enthusiasm, and encouragement. This has been a dream come true in every sense of the word. And thank you for celebrating the cast with me. It gives me such great joy to celebrate the artists who collaborated with me. We end our series with Hannah Yelland, who plays Valerie Plame Wilson, CIA Covert Operations Officer in the Department of Counterproliferations. When I said yes to radical changes that took the production from two acts to one, excised the exposition, and focused the narrative, Hannah bore it bravely. With her grace and courage, we all knew we'd be in good hands. In this interview, she speaks about her upbringing in the theatre, the relevance of this play, her relationship with her character, and what she hopes the audience considers when leaving the play. Please enjoy!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
HANNAH YELLAND: My father is an actor back in England and I was brought into a very theatrical and artistic home. I guess the theatre world was just a very normal thing for me and when I was old enough to understand it- something that became an obvious choice for me.
JL: Set in 2003, INTELLIGENCE is a historical fiction that examines the lies that led to the war in Ira, the impact of the war on the Iraqi people, and what happened when the Bush Administration retaliated against two U.S. citizens when the truth of those lies were revealed. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences? .
HY: I think it's just what you say, Jacqueline- two citizens were victimized really by an administration who wanted to cover up their lies. Unfortunately, we see it happening every day at the moment. People seem compromised wherever we look. It's a very human story- people caught between the duty they feel to their job, and their personal attitudes and beliefs. And any human story is a relevant one.
JL: Who are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions, or belief system?
HY: I'm playing Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA Officer who lost her job after being exposed by the administration. I think I share many of her characteristics. She's very dutiful, very committed to both her job and her family. I have a 2 year old and have recently discovered the joy/exhaustion that entails as well as starting to work again after having her which is very different than before. I'm also an idealist and I think that Valerie, at least how I'm playing her- is one too, at heart.
JL: What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing this play?
HY: As I shared in a recent interview, we all thought we would be doing this play in a very different political landscape and it would feel more like looking back in retrospect at a period in time which was obviously incredibly hard where government was trying to cover up what they were doing. Now we’re in a political situation where we have a government at the moment that just tell untruths and try to present them as the truth so it’s interesting in that respect. So, I hope audiences are moved and inspired by the story and feel invested and connected to a part of their history which is not that far in the past.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
HY: I'm not sure yet. It's anyone's guess. But you can follow my work on my website: www.hannahyelland.com
HANNAH YELLAND (Valerie Plame) makes her Arena Stage debut. Recent D.C. credits include Moment (Studio Theatre), Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare Theatre Company) and Laura Jesson in Brief Encounter (Shakespeare Theatre Company; visiting production by Kneehigh Theatre Company, Helen Hayes Award). Hannah originated the role of Laura in Brief Encounter on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play. She toured this production to A.C.T., St Ann’s Warehouse, The Guthrie and Wallis Annenberg Center. Other theater credits include Rachel in My Cousin Rachel (Gate Theatre, Dublin and Spoletto Festival); Nora in A Doll’s House (Abbey Theatre, Dublin); Kate in Nicholas Nickleby (West End and Chichester Festival, Toronto); and Vivie in Mrs. Warren’s Profession directed by Sir Peter Hall. TV/film credits include AKA, The Secret, Dalziel & Pascoe, Dinotopia and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!