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by Strange Duck Media

Susanna Hamnett arrived at her acting career sideways – “rather like a crab” as director Christopher Morahan once observed, scrutinizing her resumé. Too shy at 18 to try out for drama school, she threw herself into Russian Studies at Cambridge University as well as in Russia and France. It was in Paris that a Russian actor and his wife persuaded her to follow her dream, and she won scholarships to study acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, under the tutelage of renowned Shakespeare and Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg .

She has worked professionally in England and Europe with Red Shift, Orchard Theatre, Theater Alibi (in association with Theater Gardiniesze), Anatoly Vassliev (National Theatre Studio), Target Theatre (ICA, London), Yoshi Oida, and Emma Rice and Mike Shepherd of Kneehigh Theatre among others, as well as a period at the Moscow Arts Theatre School.

Moving to Toronto, she trained and collaborated extensively with master clowns John Turner and Michael Kennard (of “Mump and Smoot”), and worked with Theatre Smith-Gilmour and Theatre Columbus as she began to deepen her exploration of the application of clown in theatre, as well as directing several clown shows herself.

Through performance and teaching she has continuously sought to develop a unique theatrical voice that could bring together various and disparate passions and disciplines: Shakespeare, clown, storytelling, vaudeville, the serious and the mischievous.

Nearly Lear is Susanna’s first full-length solo performance and was co-created with Edith Tankus, who also directed the piece.

Nearly Lear received its first public performance at the Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto, and has since toured to critical and audience acclaim throughout Canada, the United States and the UK, as well as a run on Broadway – at the New Victory Theater, and at the Sydney Opera House, Australia. In 2012 it received the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) Victor Award for Outstanding Production.

Susanna is also a committed artist-educator who for several years has been a recipient of the Ontario Arts Council’s Artist in Education grants and has taught with Soulpepper Theatre Company and the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young Audiences as well as initiating a program of teaching Shakespeare to Grade 1- 3 students in an inner-city school.

She is currently developing a new solo performance from a script commissioned by the Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences department in Washington, DC, and was recently honoured to be awarded the inaugural Colleen Porter Residency Award (IPAY) to observe the work of three preeminent theatre companies in Adelaide and Hobart, Australia.