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Northwestern alumna Hannah Wolff assistant directs Interrobang Theatre Project’s “For the Loyal”

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Sarah Gise plays Mia, the pregnant wife of a football coach in “For the Loyal.” The show is inspired by the 2011 sexual assault scandal at Pennsylvania State University.

Sarah Gise plays Mia, the pregnant wife of a football coach in “For the Loyal.” The show is inspired by the 2011 sexual assault scandal at Pennsylvania State University.

Photo by Emily Schwartz

Photo by Emily Schwartz

Sarah Gise plays Mia, the pregnant wife of a football coach in “For the Loyal.” The show is inspired by the 2011 sexual assault scandal at Pennsylvania State University.

Charlotte Walsh, Reporter

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When actress Sarah Gise was selected for the lead role of Mia in the play “For the Loyal,” she specifically requested a female assistant director. Gise felt that in a play with a male writer, director and majority male cast, Hannah Wolff (Communication ’13) was a necessary female presence.

“(It helps) having Hannah there to look in the eyes to be like ‘You get this, right? You get what I’m going through? You get why it’s hard to speak out against these men?’” Gise said.
Wolff is the assistant director for Interrobang Theatre Project’s production of “For the Loyal” which will run through Feb. 4 at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre.

Inspired by the 2011 sexual abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University, the play tells the story of Mia, the pregnant wife of a football coach at a university’s prestigious football program. When Mia’s husband reveals to her he may have been witness to a hushed-up sexual assault scandal, Mia is forced to reflect on her responsibilities as a bystander and where her loyalties lie, Wolff said.

Wolff has prior experience working with sensitive subjects like sexual assault and was involved with Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators while at NU.

Wolff discovered her passion for working with “strong female characters” as a sophomore at NU when she performed in a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” which delves into the nuances of the female experience. She said she fell in love with the play’s message of female empowerment and sexual liberation, and ended up directing it as a junior the following year.

“(That) was a really fun experience because I got to align my interest in social justice and feminism with my love of theater,” Wolff said. “It definitely affects my directing practice now.”

Wolff has fond memories of her time at NU, and described her close-knit group of sorority friends as intellectual and powerful women. She said her background of intimate female friendships inspired her to prioritize putting women centerstage in her career as a director.

Wolff became involved with “For the Loyal” when her high school acting teacher put her in touch with director James Yost. Yost said he doesn’t think the play would be the same without her.

“We work very well together,” Yost said. “She would interject when she felt the play was getting too misogynistic or if she felt like Mia was weak. She was a real advocate for the female character.”

Wolff said she felt a pressing need to empower the play’s female protagonist especially within the current political climate, from the Harvey Weinstein scandal to the ensuing #MeToo and TIME’S UP movements. She noted it’s important for theater projects to feature women at the forefront, and that their characters should be empowered individuals who aren’t victims of their circumstances.

“I wanted (Mia) to be leading us through this journey,” Wolff said. “She is not a victim of anything. She is the one orchestrating everything that happens on stage, and the audience lives in her mind and roots for her. She never gives up.”

Email: charlottewalsh2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @charwalsh_

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