A Creator’s Debut // By Hannah Corneau
Actor Hannah Corneau reflects on a moment of full artistic expression.
“there may not be a line between a mistake and the free act of creation.” Rick Rubin
The ability to create is an immense gift.
Working with Transport Group gave that to me.
I was able to find my truest freedom as a creator through our production of Renascence, where I was given the immense responsibility to bring Edna St. Vincent Millay, the prolific poet, to life.
Five months after I left the electrifying vocal arrangements bellowing through the Abrons Arts Center behind, I was being painted green within the walls of The Gershwin Theatre.
Making my Broadway debut as Elphaba in Wicked.
The stark difference between these two experiences enabled me to open my eyes and investigate what the act of creation is.
And frankly, what type of creator I wish to be.
I will never forget the night we sang through the score of Renascence for the first time with our incredible orchestra. It was a warm October evening on the lower east side. One of those nights where the sky bleeds hot pink as the sun is setting.
I remember turning to my collaborators, the unparalleled Danny Kornfeld and Mikaela Bennett, and bursting with gratitude. We couldn’t believe we were in that room hearing those sounds, relishing in the fulfillment of the moment we found ourselves in. What we felt most privileged knowing was that we were the first to experience this sonic masterpiece.
One of the most cherished photographs (included below) I have of myself performing was a photo taken that evening while singing Carmel Dean’s incredible musical interpretation of Millay’s poem “The Bean-Stalk.” The joy radiating from my face is palpable.
I was free to take up space as a creator.
I often refer back to that photo as validation that I was exactly where I belonged.
Choosing to play Elphaba in Wicked brought me to epic lighting design, trap doors, intricate dresses, large staircases, and the magic of flight.
The stage was bigger, yet I felt smaller.
When people ask me, “What was your Broadway debut like?” there are a few thoughts that run through my head.
It was surreal, transformative, bold, and quite frankly, terrifying.
I often share that, “I really considered my ‘debut’ to be when I played Vincent in Renascence.
There was unbridled ownership, joy, confidence, and belief behind every moment. Feeling my bare feet on the Astroturf and basking under a blue sky created by paint and billowing fabric. Singing my absolute heart out.
All of the feelings and sensations that we hope our ‘debut’ brings to us.
Though I didn’t find all of that euphoric freedom initially with Elphaba, there was a formative and recurring moment I had during that epic journey. A moment that deepened my understanding of what creation is and how I could rise to the act of it.
Minutes before I would make my entrance on stage every night, my dressing room would clear out. “The Green Team” (hair/makeup/wardrobe experts) would leave the room to give me a moment to center myself. This moment was fueled by nerves—a call to focus and a stare down.
I would just stare at myself in my dressing room mirror. A mirror that so many iconic inspiring women had seared their gaze, thoughts, and hopes into.
Beautiful green skin. My school uniform perfectly pressed. Glasses neatly placed and boots laced up.
The boots that only I could step into.
With that realization and ownership of singularity (an empowerment I discovered during Renascence), I would break my gaze and start the climb.
After the show, as I stripped away the green paint, I would stare again.
And more often than not, a glimmer of pride would be staring back at me.
Through freedom and trust in myself, I was able to create.
I’ll leave you with this:
If we erase the line between right and wrong as we create, we can allow ourselves to (literally or metaphorically) run around Astroturf on the lower east side, stare at a painted blue sky and express ourselves most authentically.
That is the world of creation I wish to live and express myself within.
I sincerely hope you will join me there.
About the author:
Hannah Corneau made her Broadway debut as Elphaba in Wicked. She starred as Edna St. Vincent Millay in the critically-acclaimed Transport Group production of Renascence. Previously, she traveled around the country as Yitzhak in the first national tour of Hedwig and The Angry Inch. Her Off-Broadway and regional credits include Daddy Long Legs, Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, Harmony (Ovation nomination), Les Miserables (Joseph Jefferson Award), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and A Little Night Music. She is also a member of RANGE a cappella.