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Professor and Student Together on Hack Stage This Week

For now, for this month, the two women are colleagues at Hackmatack Playhouse, bound together as actors in a story of motherhood, life, friendship and death. Next month they will again be professor and student.

Raina Ames, chair of the theater and dance department at University of New Hampshire, and Rachel Noland, a rising senior at UNH, are two of the six women whose lives are tightly intertwined in "Steel Magnolias," an intimate tale of small-town Louisiana on the stage through Aug. 12 at the Berwick theater.

"I think it would have been weirder if I had ever had her as a professor," said Noland, who has been in two previous shows at Hackmatack. "I'm kind of glad I never had her for a class."

"She hopes to take one of my classes one day, but Rachel has been in the musical theater track and I teach theater education," notEd Ames, who is making her Hackmatack debut as the late mayor's wife in "Steel Magnolias."

The intermingling of teachers and students at Hackmatack is not unusual. With many of the summer stock's finest actors coming from UNH, and sometimes from local high schools, Hackmatack each summer brings actors of all ages together into one big theater family.

This summer about nine current and former UNH students appear in the four Hackmatack shows, though Ames is the only faculty member. At times, students and staff from Marshwood High School in South Berwick also appear on Hack's stage.

"I sometimes worked with my high school theater director, Tanya West, and it could be weird, but when we were on the stage at Hackmatack we were all just actors," said Lane Klossner, Marshwood graduate of 2015.

For Ames, sharing a stage with Noland was no big deal compared to being back on stage at all, after a long break from performing.

"I haven't done anything in New England since I moved here in 2003," she said. "I decided this year I could give camp over to one of my faculty members."

Ames decided to audition when she heard "Steel Magnolias" was being produced. She was first drawn to the script, which reflects on women experiencing death and grief, in 2001 after her own mother died."

"The mother in 'Steel Magnolias' talks about how the guys couldn't stay in the room" for the death of a character, Ames said. "But the mother couldn't leave the room and that is where the connection was for me. Men are supposed to be strong and it's actually the women who are there through it all."

Noland also found the show resonating with her own life story at times, at times seeing similarities between her mother in the show, played by Kelli Connors of Kittery, and her real-life mother.

"She and my mom both do this little thing where they snort. And if you are being sassy to them and they want you to feel bad, they look up with these little puppy dog eyes," she said."

Both women predict that the friendship will continue in the fall, if with a few adjustments.

"I'm sure it's going to be a much closer relationship when we return," said Ames She noted, though, that relationships between students and teachers in the theater and dance department are less formal than in other departments.

"You are in rehearsal for shows you cast and you know your students so well," she said. "The relationship is closer than you would expect from most college departments."

Even so, Noland foresees some balancing acts ahead.

"The balance might be strange," Noland said, "but I can't wait to learn from her, about all this crazy cool stuff she knows how to do."

The UNH student also knows their summer friendship could lead her to cross a few lines. "But I predict she won't put up with me. She'll give me a little smack on the head."

"Steel Magnolias" will run Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8 pm and 2 pm Thursdays through Aug. 12. Tickets are available by calling 207-698-1807 or on line at hackmatack.org.



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