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Ensemble Member Hannah Toriumi
Ensemble Member

HANNAH TORIUMI is an actor and improviser living in Chicago. Most recently she played Sophie in The Gift Theatre’s Midwest premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s Kentucky. Other productions with The Gift include: the world premiere of fellow Ensemble Member David Rabe’s Cosmologies, Hamlet, Richard III, and three TEN Festivals. Other Chicago theatre credits include: The Jeff-Recommended world premiere of The Firebirds Take the Field (Rivendell Theatre), The Pavilion (Open Door Theatre), Liturgy of Laughs: A Spiritual Hour (The Second City), The Making of a Modern Folk Hero (TOTC), Hundred Flowers Project (Silk Road Rising), The Father (Rendition Theatre). Film and television credits include NBC’s Chicago P.D., the web series #WhoKilledHeather? and the short film Robot v. Verses.

She is part of the two-person improv team “Stranger” along with Ian Voltaire Deanes (who met while playing opposite each other in Kentucky); they were about to start headlining “The Experiment” at CIC Theater when Chicagoans were given stay-at-home orders. Hannah was also part of a team of Christian improvisers at her church in Chicago.

Hannah earned degrees in Theatre Performance and Psychology from North Central College in Naperville, IL. For her senior research thesis, Hannah studied the intrinsic correlation between acting training and increased emotional intelligence. Hannah has always been drawn to acting and calls it “a study in what it means to be human.” Her fascination with psychology, neuroscience, and the power of emotion continues to fuel her love for acting and improv. Hannah once wrote:

“There is something to be said for the actual physical effect that acting has on the body. I once heard that when scientists monitored the vitals of an actor stepping on stage and a firefighter running into a burning building the test results were virtually indistinguishable. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not claiming to be saving lives, but it cannot be denied that when we step on stage our brain is telling us ‘Something big is going down!’ Fight or flight is functioning on high. Our heart pounds, our palms sweat, our mouth goes dry. There is an actual physical reaction. I don’t know why this is true, but I can venture to guess it has something to do with our natural fear of exposing ourselves—mankind’s intense aversion to vulnerability. I believe this connection to blood, and heartbeat, and brain, this ‘viscerality,’ is one of the things that makes theatre so ridiculously alluring to audiences. It’s so intriguing to watch us get on stage and say ‘Here you go, complete strangers. Here is my heart. Do with it what you will.’ Because of this ingrained fear, every opening night is a blur of anxiety, thrill, and love. We are messy and blind and sometimes downright stupid, but we are beautiful creatures made in the image of a beautiful God and I feel so blessed to partake in this wild and indescribable line of work—to be a vessel of humanity.”

After graduating from North Central College, Hannah interned for Simon Casting where she learned about the casting side of the business, and also trained at both The Second City and iO Theatre. In 2015 she attended The School at Steppenwolf where she was trained by The Gift’s Artistic Director, Michael Patrick Thornton. As Thornton directed her and 5 other classmates in dramatic improvised scenes that they then devised into a 10-minute play, she knew she wanted to work with him again. Months later, she would have the opportunity to share the stage with Thornton as he became the first actor to ever don a robotic exoskeleton in live performance. The rest is history.