Hanah Toyoda Designs a Theater Career
In her hometown of Hayward, California, Hanah Toyoda was content to spend her high school days drawing and doodling away the hours. But Toyoda soon realized she had to make a change. Her shyness was isolating, preventing her from socializing and getting in the way of professional and creative goals.
“I was super shy and quiet,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t live in a bubble forever.”
The normally reserved Toyoda forced herself out of her shell by auditioning for a play. On stage, she went big and loud and surprised everyone with her voice. Until then, Toyoda was the silent one.
But with this one daring act, her self-imposed bubble was broken. She soon made friends with other creative types.
“It was so much fun having a community, finally,” she said.
At Humboldt State University, Toyoda almost slipped back into the secluded artist role, “but then I couldn’t handle it and I auditioned again,” she said.
Merging Art and Theater
Toyoda made another life-changing discovery at Humboldt – there is an actual career track for artists within the theatre. “I found a way to merge my two passions of art and theatre,” Toyoda said.
As soon as she received her undergraduate degree in art with a minor in theater, she packed her paintbrushes and traded Hayward for Moscow and the University of Idaho. Three years later, in May 2019, Toyoda earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre.
As a scenic designer, Toyoda uses her research, imagination and artistic skills to create the visual world of a production. She works closely with the director and other designers to build an overall visual concept, designing sets and scenery and large-scale paintings for the stage that support the artistic goals of the production.
An Abundance of Opportunity
While at U of I, Toyoda received an abundance of hands-on experience. She was scenic designer for major productions, including “The Three Keys of Captain Hellfire,” “The Open Hand,” “The Children’s Hour,” and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” She also served as the scenic charge artist for “Present Laughter,” “A Midwinter Night’s Dream,” “The Open Hand,” “True West,” “Roof,” Wendy and Peter: Into Neverland” and “Titus Andronicus.” The scenic charge leads and oversees the painting of the stage and scenery.
The quality of Toyoda’s work caught the attention of the judges at the 2018 regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). The festival is part of a national theatre program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities across the country and has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. U of I competes in Region 7, which includes Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Alaska, Northern Nevada and Northern California.
Toyoda earned the Barbizon National Award for Excellence in Scenic Design for her research and creative activity on “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” The award came with an expenses-paid invitation to attend the KCACTF event in Washington, D.C., where she attended specialty workshops and networked with industry professionals.
In January 2019, she was recruited by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks to help with the scenic design for “Noises Off” in Bozeman, Montana. She also was part of the design team at Redwood Curtain Theatre in Eureka, California and Kingsman Shakespare Company in Thousand Oaks, California during summer breaks at U of I.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Toyoda has been developing her ability to represent herself and her work with confidence.
“Self-advocacy – that’s the most important thing,” Toyoda said. “That’s how you make connections and obtain jobs. I’ve learned how to negotiate tough situations.”
Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published July 2019