Hannah grew up in Montevallo, and her father is the chair of the art department. She was the purple side leader during the 2016 College Night season and is graduating from the university with a degree in theater.

growing up In montevallo

"I grew up in a house right on Vine Street. My father teaches at the university and he has my whole life. He’s the chair of the art department and he teaches printmaking and photography. I grew with a lot of the art faculty as second parents. Growing up, all me and my sister did was hang out in the art building. In the summers, my dad would bring in a big TV and a VCR and we would just watch movies in the art galleries. Growing up in such a creative environment has shaped both me and my sister. We’ve always been very naturally open minded and willing to try things. We both have found our way into the arts in different ways than our parents. Both of our parents are visual artists; I’m pursuing theater and my sister is in the dance world. But just being raised by so many accepting people, not thinking people being gay is weird… it’s just simple stuff like that. At our church, half our congregation’s lesbians. I grew up in that environment. My childhood pastor helped define us a lot because he was this lovely little Irish man who would have short sermons on the days he wanted to catch golf games on TV. Having such strong parental influences from so many people and going to college at Montevallo really helped.

When I was applying to colleges, I tried to avoid [Montevallo]… but here I am. I think I always knew it would be inevitable. I’ve had really interesting experiences going to college where my dad is such a big part of the school. Especially the first couple of years, people would report things back to my dad, like ‘I saw Hannah talking to a boy today!’ When I started dating my boyfriend, he knew before I told him because people from campus told him. It kind of like I had no privacy, but I didn’t really mind. It was comforting knowing I had a lot of people looking out for me. A lot of people get my dad and Ted Metz confused, but Ted Metz is my godfather. So, you know, you’re not wrong. They’re both fatherly figures."

On diversity

"My dad says Montevallo is Alabama’s only public liberal arts gay Christian college, and I think that’s really appropriate. We have this reputation for being so open accepting and we are, and there’s so much diversity. But there’s also a faction of Montevallo that’s much more conservative in a traditional way. I was surprised when I came to Montevallo that there’s so many people who were not necessarily open, but I’ve seen in my friends how accepting they’ve become from being here, and how it’s changed them a lot. I was fortunate to grow up with really liberal-minded parents. Things that shocked some of my friends when I got here are not shocking to me. I find it weird when I leave Montevallo that the majority of the world isn’t gay. I talk to my friends who went to bigger universities and it blows my mind that most of the people they’re friends with aren’t gay! That’s just normal here."

Being college night leader

"Being purple leader was a dream come true because I have so much history with Montevallo. My mom and my aunt and my grandmother all went here. My grandmother was here during the time where no boys were allowed. She was a purple and a gold because that’s how you did it back then, then my aunt was a gold, and my mom was a purple. My mom has brought me to College Night every year since I could sit up in a chair. I haven’t missed one in 19 years. Before I even know what it meant, I knew I wanted to be the purple leader. I was like, ‘I want to be that girl in the pretty dress!’ That was a big part of why I ended up in Montevallo. It was a lifelong dream being realized, and for us to be able to win College Night on top of it was mindblowing.

In addition, I did write the musical, and the show that I wrote was everything that I wanted for a College Night show. I’m shocked and amazed sometimes by how much we were able to achieve. It was a lot harder than I expected to be. I’m only 21, but I think being leader is one of the hardest things you can ever do. Working with your peers is difficult when you’re in a position of power but not really. You have to work with adults who are sometimes frustrating. You have to do an incredible amount of stuff in so little time with so little resources. But because it was so difficult, I think it was so much more rewarding, and I’m really humbled by it. "

College night in retrospect

"I’m sad it’s over. It’s like a huge chapter of my life has ended and it’s taken me a long time to process that, but I know it will stay a part of my life and now I can move on to the next faction of being a purple- being a vintage purple, forcing my kids to come back. A really cool experience for me was seeing a woman named Elin, who is one of the vintage purples that I kind of idolized, and seeing her daughter come back. All this year she was wearing a purple cheerleader outfit. I know what she was experiencing and how much she loves College Night was exactly how I felt when I was her tiny little age. I’m looking forward to having children of my own that I can bring back and share it with and see where it goes. I’m excited to see the babies from my leader year be in charge.

Our show was feminist in nature, and one of our vintages brought her 8 year old daughter back to see the show. At the end she asked her which play she liked better. She said, ‘I liked the purple show’, and the mom was like, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Because it taught a lesson.’ ‘Okay, well, what did you learn?’ ‘That I can do anything I want.’ I tear up every time I talk about it. To me, everything else set aside… we accomplished something. It’s the coolest thing ever.

I also think it’s comforting to know that I was able to do something that I had wanted to do my whole life, and I’ll carry that with me, to know that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I had a lot of haters, and a lot of people doubted me. I was talking to some vintage purples, and they were like, ‘when you got elected, we were like, we did not believe in you. We thought you couldn’t do it. But you blew us out of the water.’ I think me and James and our entire cabinet and whole side… we were able to capture something special this year that the side and College Night as a game needed and hadn’t felt in a long time."

On tradition

"Montevallo is such a conundrum because it’s really progressive in some ways and really backwards in others. We just switched over to electronic ticketing [for College Night] this year and people lost their minds. We love our traditions and we hold onto them so much, sometimes too much. College Night is built on tradition- that’s what keeps it flourishing, and I think without that vein of tradition running through Montevallo and this campus, nothing like that could happen.

We have some weird theater traditions too. I am not really a ghost person, except there's something about Montevallo… I’m a theater major, so we have two ghosts in our theater building, and I believe it. One’s name is Charles and you have to be nice to Charles if you don’t want him to mess up your light cues. I’ve watched people come in not believing and then something weird will happen to them, and they’ll be like, ‘Alright! You got me! I believe!’ Palmer is a little haunted. There are tons of stories from Palmer. At one College Night rehearsal, I was at the back of the house and I felt someone tugging on my ponytail. I turned around and the whole thing was empty. My mom has a lot of ghost stories from when she was here and living in apartments. When I was looking at houses, I made sure it was not one that was haunted. We with checked people!

Then there’s the superstition that the battons will swing towards the winning side during College Night. This year, one of our flies broke and swung into another, and it was so scary. Me and my friend were out in the audience watching it and the battons started swinging towards our side, but it swung it into another set piece and got stuck. That was terrifying. I had never seen the battons swing- I thought it was a myth- but they were swinging. There was no reason for it, but they were swinging towards purple side."

Only In Montevallo

"We live in a house, and there’s this really sweet man named Donnelly who walks by and brings out the trash cans of every single person who lives on our block every week. He puts them back up after they take out the trash. That’s something I think can only happen in Montevallo. One week he was out of town and and we had trash piled up because, you know, we’re all useless. He came up and said, ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t move your trash this week!’ I said, ‘it’s okay, Donnelly, you don’t have to move our trash for us.’ That’s really cool and Montevallo-y."

The college experience

"I’ve really been able to grow. I had a moment earlier this year when I was thinking about what I wanted from my college experience, and that I had somehow managed to achieve all of it. I don’t think that’s something I would have been able to get anywhere else. I was able to set a lot of goals for myself and meet pretty much all of them, which is ridiculous. I’ve really been able to make a mark here, which is something very unique to this school, and I would not have had the opportunity to do at a bigger school. I don’t think I would have found my passions anywhere else. I came in thinking, ‘I can't pursue theater, that’s a hobby. I have to do something more productive or lucrative or all that jazz’. I was a social work major for two and a half weeks. But the theater department saw it in me- I couldn’t see it in myself. Without that push and help and that particular department, I don’t think I would have come to really find what I’m passionate about. I’ve had to fight really hard in the theater department. Things haven’t just been handed to me, and I’m glad but it’s made me have a strong work ethic. It showed me how hard you have to work, and you might not get anything out of it, but you could.

The leadership opportunities I’ve had here have changed my life. I was thrown into a huge position in my sorority as a freshman, I’m in charge of the theater student organization… the leadership opportunities have made me into a really aware person and have shaped my base personality. I’m nice, I like to help people, but I think they’ve shaped those qualities into being able to be productive with them. I used to be kind of a doormat and I wouldn’t stand up for myself or things I believed in. Because of my four years here, I’ve been able to be nice and be a strong person. I feel like sometimes people feel like you have to choose one or the other."

The best and worst of Montevallo

"Eclipse is a really good best version of Montevallo. I can go to the same restaurant four times a day and nobody judges me because we all hang out at Eclipse. I see people there at the same time, we get the exact same order, I’m friends with all the employees, sometimes they’ll make me special drinks or give me an extra shot of espresso if I’m having a bad day. That’s Montevallo’s best. It’s a creative place where everybody knows each other and there isn’t any pressure. It’s artsy without trying too hard. I think now with this hipster craze, some people try a little too hard, but I think it’s authentic. People feel free to be themselves on every level. It’s the same with El Agave, the one Mexican restaurant in Montevallo. I know everyone and everybody knows my order. That’s going to be something I really miss about Montevallo when I leave… just being a part of the town. Sometimes people feel suffocated by that, and sometimes I do, but most of the time it’s really nice.

On the college level, I think the amount that we can support each other is really really cool. I have friends in so many different departments. We are able to cross over different areas and interact, and that’s really cool. But at the university, there are some things we need to do that are hard to accomplish. I’m not super involved in the politics of the university, but it’s crazy that we can’t have handicap accessibility. My good friend Andrew is a theater major, and our theater is not accessible. They built him his own lift that he can’t operate himself, so he has to rely on other people, which is absurd because he’s an independent person. It breaks every other day, and he’s been in shows and hasn’t been able to get to call time. It’s so silly and it’s like jumping through hoops getting that taken care of. Sometimes I go to other colleges and see their facilities and think, ‘wow, Montevallo is kind of roughing it.’ It’s great that Montevallo is so affordable, but some of the buildings are decrepit and some of the things we need, we don’t have."

Lasting impact

"I see myself returning to visit. It’s not really in my plans or goals to live here again, just because there’s not very many opportunities for what I want to do. But I know Montevallo will not leave my life. College night’s a big part of that. My family still is a part of this church, and I think we will continue to be. I’ve thought about getting married in Montevallo, and the theater department is something I’ll come back to. I don’t know where my life is going to go, but I know that Montevallo is always going to have a big place in my heart. It really has been the biggest factor in turning me into who I am today. That’s true for everybody who comes here and encounters it… there’s something really special here. It’s cliche, but it’s such a family, and there’s such a strong connection. When go into the real world, and you find someone who’s also a part of Montevallo, it’s the coolest thing ever! It’s created a tight knit group of people, even when they’re far away from each other."