Hannah Mootz lands her breakout role in a solo show—with seven characters.
Playing a teenager is an interesting challenge for an adult actor, but 26-year-old Hannah Mootz has a more difficult task than most. Mootz will soon star as the 13-year-old titular heroine in Bo-Nita, a world premiere play by Seattle-based playwright Elizabeth Heffron opening at Seattle Repertory Theatre in October. But Bo-Nita is a solo show, so Mootz will be playing all seven characters in this coming-of-age story. It’s a daunting task, especially for a young actor in her first major leading role. But Mootz, who graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in 2011, was compelled to rise to the challenge as soon as she read Heffron’s script.
“I fell in love with the character, and the various characters she plays,” Mootz says in the Rep’s green room. “It’s so funny how straightforward this 13-year-old can be, but then within half a page you’re crying over the intense turn the story has taken.”
Bo-Nita is a working class kid in St. Louis, and she’s telling the story of a time she considers a miracle in her life, in which her semi-ex-stepfather ends up dead on her bedroom floor. Going in and out of flashbacks, Bo-Nita recounts what happened in her own words, while conveying all the other people involved as they pop in and out of her tale.
“When I’m reading it, I’m seeing all the different characters,” Mootz says. “It almost seems impossible to be able to do this as one person.”
Lucky for Mootz, she’ll have home field advantage in the rehearsal room: Both Heffron and director Paul Baudraitis were her professors at Cornish.
“It’s great that I don’t have to go in super intimidated,” she says. “I love Elizabeth’s writing, and I really look up to Paul. He knows how to tell a beautiful story that has no pretension but is also incredibly smart.”
Mootz is itching to start rehearsals in mid-September, but in the meantime she’s reading the script every day and preparing to return to her teenage years—a task that’s proving surprisingly easy.
“There’s definitely a part of me that still feels 13!” she says. “That was a pivotal age for me, as it is for a lot of kids, so it’s easy for me to delve back into that place and feel what that feels like.”
Photo by Nate Watters