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Kelly Hanson ’98

Designing Woman

By Donna Parker

As art director for the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon television show, Kelly Hanson, who received a bachelor’s degree in drama from Trinity in 1998, holds not only an impressive title, but boasts a work address in prime Manhattan real estate – 30 Rock, the home of NBC television.  Kelly’s days are filled with production meetings with the show’s producers and writers; scenic preparation for that day’s show and coordinating the design of special sets or props for additional show sketches, all to prepare for the show taping every day at 5:30 p.m.  And, yes she sees the likes of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin in the halls, but says she doesn’t have time to get too star-struck.

After all, Kelly was just recently nominated for an Emmy Award 2009 for Outstanding Art Direction for Variety, Music or Nonfiction Programming for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All – Comedy Central.”

“Working for Jimmy Fallon is great!  There’s always a lot to do, but I love my job.  I’ve been with the show since January of this year after freelancing in the city since 2001,” says Kelly, who bravely moved to New York just days after the tragic events of 9-11.

“I was obsessed with living in New York and was so determined to come here, although admittedly, it was very tough for me that first year.”

Soon, the freelance jobs came in and Kelly landed a job assisting Tony Walton, the legendary theatre designer.  She also picked up other work doing costumes for choreographer Monica Bill Barnes, some television and industrial work.  Her love for the theater led her to found a non-profit theater company, (www.humancompany.org) with a strong Trinity connection. 

“Emily Park Smith ’98, who was one of my Trinity roommates, has collaborated with me as a dramaturge and a production manager. Her husband, Joshua Redfearn ’99 is our technical supervisor. Connor Kalista ’94 created one of the pieces in our last production, which was a festival of one-woman shows. And, most importantly, I met my husband and Co-Artistic Director Royd Climenhaga while I was teaching as a guest artist at Trinity in 2004.

Kelly also is a great mentor for current Trinity students, having recently returned to work as a guest artist designing scenery for a campus musical and to co-teach a class with Heather Gilbert ’92, department of speech and drama. Kelly finds it easy to give back after having learned so much while still a student herself.

“Professor Steve Gilliam played a huge role in my career choice. I took his Intro to Design class my freshman year, and was instantly inspired by his charisma and passion. We are still close; in fact last winter when he was on sabbatical, I found him a sublet in my neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“I was always ambitious and knew I wanted to live in New York. The first few years were tough, but I’m thrilled that I stuck with it. Between my incredibly supportive artistic community, my husband (and dogs!), and my growing television career, I’m building a wonderful life here.”

You may email Kelly through her Web site at www.hansonkelly.com.