Roger Hanna has been designing sets for theater, dance, and opera since 1990.
Work of note includes Tommy Tune’s new Studio 54 musical, FIFTY*FOUR*FOREVER, the New York City premieres of both Il Postino and Flight for Mannes Opera, The Adventures of Hershele Ostropolyer in New York City and Tel Aviv, Ballet of Light and Ghosts for Timelapse Dance, and seven shows at the Mint Theater Company, most recently Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories. Roger has worked with directors and choreographers including Laura Alley, Jack Allison, Jonathan Bank, Tracey Bersley, Trazana Beverly, Martha Collins, Nilo Cruz, Dorothy Danner, Thomas Gruenewald, Robin Guarino, Barry Harman, Lou Jacobs, Rick Joyce, Walt Jones, Gus Kaikkonen, Ralph Lee, Susan Marshall, Elisa Monte, Charles Morey, Michael Parva, Eleanor Reissa, Merián Soto, Tommy Tune, Maria Vail, and Steven Williford.
Donogoo, Gus Kaikkonen’s translation of Jules Romains’ 1930 comedy at the Mint Theater Company earned unprecedented raves for it’s set and projection design (to fit a travelogue spanning 23 sets and 66 characters in a 100-seat house, his solution included adding a 24th set). Roger was nominated for both the 2015 Drama Desk nomination for Best Projections Design and 2015 Henry Hewes Award for Notable Effects. Hewon neither award…however, an off-season, off-Broadway loss to A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and Hamilton seems win-adjacent.
Roger’s other work for the Mint Theater Company was recognized by Henry Hewes Design Award nominations for What The Public Wants and A Little Journey. A Little Journey also received a 2012 Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Set Design, and earned praise in the press: “A joy” (Upon the Sacred Stage), “clever” (NY Times), “remarkably ingenious” (TheatreScene), “unrivaled” (WS Journal); “spectacular” (Show Business Weekly) “imaginative” (AP), “ingeniously devised” (Lighting & Sound America), “an inventive gem” (nytheatre.com), “some sort of miracle” (Talk Entertainment), and “brilliant.” (Best of Off-Broadway).
Roger received the 2009 Lucille Lortel Award and his first Henry Hewes Design Award nomination for The Glass Cage at the Mint, which David Barbour, in Lighting and Sound America, described as an “unusual and provocative design concept. Roger Hanna's design places an arrangement of Victorian furniture pieces—including a chaise longue and a prie-dieu—against a vast, complex arrangement of copper pipes, among which can be found dozens of lamps. It's an apt visual metaphor for an era defined by old-fashioned values under siege by modern developments. The design's transparency allows us to see see characters making their entrances and exits, a prime virtue in a story about a house where secrets are known but almost never spoken.”
Roger received his first Drama Desk Nomination in 2006 for Outstanding Set Design of a Play for Walking Down Broadway at the Mint Theater Company. Ron Lasko wrote at Broadway.com that “the real star of the show is an amazing set by Roger Hanna…walls pivot, doors unhinge, new walls emerge and all of the furniture is changed. It is quite impressive. In fact, the change-over from set to set is almost as entertaining as the show.”
Roger designed scenery and projections for the New York premiere of Dario Fo’s Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, as well as scenery and lighting for the North American premiere of Fo’s The Peasant’s Bible at 7 Stages in Atlanta. Both productions were directed by Fo translator Ron Jenkins. From 2000 through 2004, as resident designer for Playwrights Theater of New York, Roger designed all full productions of the chronological mounting of Eugene O’Neill’s 49 plays at the Provincetown Playhouse. His set for Before Breakfast, described in the New York Times as “Roger Hanna's claustrophobically shabby habitat of despair,” is featured in textbooks by Pearson/Prentice Hall. His work for The Personal Equation was praised by CurtainUp as “a remarkable agile, complex and evocative set.”
The New York Times, describing Crocodiles in the Potomac—one of Roger’s collaborations with director Suzanne Bennett for Women’s Project--said that Roger “evokes Washington more effectively and with less cliche’ than any seen in the theater in many years.” Of his most recent collaboration with director Ralph Buckley, Keith Reddin’s Black Snow, Clive Barnes raved in the New York Post that “Buckley’s inventive staging [is] much helped by the ingenuity of…Roger Hanna’s cartoonish setting.” Roger’s ten designs for Gilgamesh Theatre Group include the premiere of The Ice-fishing Play, Jeffery Hatcher's Two, Nikita, and the Carnegie Hall Reading Room reading of Clifford J. Tasner’s Odysseus.
Roger has collaborated twice with McArthur Foundation “Genius” Susan Marshall, most recently on Cloudless, which premiered at Jacob’s Pillow prior to a stop at Dance Theatre Workshop and a national tour. He has also worked with Jody Sperling, of Timelapse Dance, on both Ghosts and Ballet of Light, which workshopped with an NEA Grant prior to opening at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Other notable collaborations with choreographers include Deborah Jackson’s The Sleeping Giant (Alvin Ailey Dance Theater), Merián Soto’s La Máquina Del Tiempo (developed at Temple University and premiering at Dance Theatre Workshop before a tour), and Tommy Tune and David Warren Gibson on FIFTY*FOUR*FOREVER at the Ring Theatre in Miami.
Roger’s opera designs have been seen at Sarasota Opera (“…the handsome, Cezanne-like pastoral scenery by Roger Hanna is delightful.” —Longmont Observer), in multiple productions at New York University, Manhattan School of Music, and most notably the Mannes Opera. His Mannes productions have received glowing praise from the New York Times ("Spare, imaginative sets, designed by Roger Hanna and often consisting of little more than a few cruciform pillars, reminded you how much can be accomplished with next to nothing"; "...handsome and effective sets"; “...a polished and entrancing production... baritone Dongkyu Oh matched the vividness of Roger Hanna's brightly colored, surreally shaped storybook sets, like Vermeer by way of Dr. Seuss."), Opera News ("Roger Hanna's chromium tunneled airport lounge managed to be both spacious and claustrophobic"; "Roger Hanna's set designs were both realistic and witty"; "Playful but never cheeky set designs by Roger Hanna featured a board-able, roll-on Brigantine...a model lakefront-view for the sisters' veranda and a suspended, spotlit gray ball for the moon…so accurate that we recognized the locale!" —Voce de Meche). For over 20 years, Roger designed a total of 29 opera productions conducted by Joseph Colaneri, most directed by Laura Alley, but also Vanessa directed by Jay Lesenger and Don Giovanni directed by Robin Guarino. Other work with Ms. Guarino include A Game of Chance (which illustrator Al Hirschfeld described as “magnificent”), Camilla, Riders to the Sea, and L’enfant et les Sortilegès.
Roger holds an MFA in Design from New York University, a BA in Theater from UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television, and is a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829. Teaching positions have included faculty designer for the NYU Program in Educational Theatre, 1991—2001, and Rutgers Newark, Spring 1993—Spring 1994, for which he taught a combined total of forty classes and designed nearly 100 productions. In academic year 2011—2012, Roger spent a year as Visiting Professor for the University of Miami. He has also designed productions for Mannes School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New School for Drama, NYU Dramatic Writing, Point Park University, SUNY Ulster, and Yale Dramatic Association. In 2013 he accepted a position at Colorado State University.
As a tenured professor, Roger founded and leads the Set Design Concentration in Colorado State University's School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. His former students can be found in theaters around the world. One of Roger’s innovations during this time was to move the program from primarily faculty-designed sets and costumes to mostly-undergraduate student-designed productions. To facilitate this he successfully advocated for more staff positions, modernized production equipment such as CNC routing and design tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers, and expanded student design work in Northern Colorado. CSU design students typically place or win KCACTF regional competitions, and work for companies such as the North America tour and London production of Hamilton, Cirque du Soleil, the Juilliard School, the Denver Center, and the Santa Fe Opera. Since moving to Fort Collins, Colorado, for this position, Roger has designed in the region both for the Opera Saratoga and for Bas Bleu Theatre. One of those Bas Bleu designs of sets and lights for Elephant’s Graveyard earned Roger a 2017 True West Award from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
During the early pandemic, as theater departments shuttered or shrank—or at best put on Zoom Plays—Roger and director Saffron Henke motivated the Theatre Program to produce a feature film under the strictest COVID Protocols in the country, through innovative location work and composite video techniques, despite the Theatre Program’s near-complete lack of experience in professional film. This approach continued in the spring of 2021, with The HOPE Project, which featured green-screen virtual performances by students for which Roger served as Director of Photography and Editor to composite student performances with student production, lighting, and costume design into a series of shorts. This devotion to “the show must go on” has paid off, as during the pandemic CSU Theatre student numbers grew where many other programs shrank. Finding ways to make art with students during the pandemic continued when, as a Global Teaching Scholar for Semester at Sea, on its first journey since the pandemic, Roger produces a shadow puppetry piece of Theatre for Social Change with his students that both met COVID Protocols and was the best-attended final by non-participants in the distinguished history of Semester at Sea. Dedicated to having theatre students learn about more than the typical Western cannon, Roger introduced a Global Theatre course at CSU, and founded a CSU Study Abroad Program that features the Prague Quadrennial and introduces students to global approaches to Design, Performance, and Management in both the Czech Republic and Germany.
Click on the Image above to read Donogoo reviews, listen to Roger Hanna on the Lenonard Lopate Show, and to watch a three-minute video of the play.
2010 - present
2010 - present