She Came, She Sawed, She Conquered: An Interview with Master Carpenter Hannah Miller


Hannah smiles at the camera while envisioning sharp saws cutting planks of wood into two. The photographer is getting annoying. Suddenly it is not wood that is being envisioned.

Hannah Miller, a current senior at Bates College, was hired a carpenter with the Bates Department of Theater and Dance since the spring of 2012, and has being nailing her job ever since. Hannah started as a carpenter during the fall of her freshman year and has worked there ever since. “Almost two years later I was promoted thanks to my hard work and dedication. I heard about this job through the department and I never expected to be promoted so early on,” says Miller, “but my bosses clearly saw something in me.” Hannah also works as the dance stage manager for the department, helping to organize and run the dance productions every semester.

Theater is one of Hannah’s biggest passions, which heavily influenced her decision to apply for the job. “In fact, it was one of the reasons I chose to come to Bates. I was excited by the potential to make money doing what I love best, theater!” she remembers. The application process was simple. Hannah interviewed with Michael Reidy, conversing about her previous experience level, and from there she was hired. It depends on the week but often times Hannah works about six hours a week. When a show needs more attention or its opening is getting near, Hannah often spends as much time as she can spare in the shop.

She came, she sawed, she created a set for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.For Hannah, the great part about working in the scene shop is that every day is different. “On Monday you could be constructing a piece of the set, painting it on Wednesday and lighting it on Friday. The department produces up to ten productions a year so there is always work to be done.” explains Miller. Hannah is primarily responsible for two tasks: 1) helping with the completion of a particular project, which involves either building or painting and 2) instructing and guiding her peers in their execution of these projects. “It is an honor to be a master carpenter because it shows how much they trust both your skills and your ability to pass them on to others,” comments Hannah.

Hannah believes that a lot of the fun of her job is the community it creates, and has developed friendships with people she never thought she would meet thanks to her work in the theater department. When asked if she had any funny or interesting stories about her job, Hannah responded that “One of our silliest traditions is hiding a spoon on the set, somewhere that the audience cannot see of course. Then on the last night, when we are striking the set it becomes a race to see who can find it first. It always promises to be a fun challenge for all who are interested”.

Oh man, Hannah wood be an exceptional carpenter, eh?Hannah hopes to work for a theater or dance company someday, so the skills she has learned here will be immensely beneficial. “I can stage manage, build sets, hang lights and fill a lot of other practical roles within a company. I am excited to be graduating with these experiences, now knowing how much I love this job and how much talent I have for it” says Miller. On the job Hannah has learned many things over the years. Some of it is more practical; for example, Hannah has a knack for measuring and cutting wood accurately. “But this job has also pushed me to be brave, take chances and not give up in the face of fear,” Hannah admits, “ I am not a fan of heights, but when a job needs completing, I am willing to at least make an attempt.” Her accuracy and attention to detail, skills she was only marginally aware of before her job, have also come in handy at work. “It is fun tackling more difficult projects knowing they trust my ability to get the job done,” Hannah realizes.

The skills Hannah has gained leading, mentoring and decision-making will follow her down whatever path she chooses. She can work with a team, lead them when asked, as well as work on her own. “I have fortified my ability to organize and take control of a project. More than anything, the discovery of my ability to dedicate myself and work hard will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do,” states Miller.

Every Master Carpenter has a sage teacher. Over the past four years, Hannah has also learned a lot about the theater department, its internal dynamic, and in what ways it compares to the inner workings of a small theater company. It has been especially fun for Hannah to learn about the work her professors do in collaboration with other departments, particularly music. “I also love watching people from the community come out to support us. It shows how much we of a presence we hold both within Lewiston/Auburn and on this campus,” says Hannah. “I love this job more than almost anything at Bates,” she continues, “It provides a place where I can forget about homework, meetings and other obligations. This job is very hands on and I highly appreciate each afternoon I get to exercise that part of my brain.”

Although she admits that it can be stressful at times, Hannah says it never stresses her out in the same way as tests or essays. “More than anything I feel the pressure to produce a successful production, as does everyone else in the theater world. But at the end of the day, I feel both pride and pleasure when watching other people enjoy something I have helped create. It is a highly satisfying job in the end.”