PENINSULA PROFILE: She steps easily among work, home, stage roles

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

Sampling many lives

“SUMMER OF LOVE,” a musical by Roger Bean, is on the main stage at Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave., through next Sunday, Feb. 23.

In this story set in San Francisco in 1967, Mindy Gelder portrays Holly, a young bride-to-be who runs off to Golden Gate Park. She meets a tribe of hippies including River (Pat Owens), Mama (Penny Pemberton), Coyote (Danny Willis and Zach Campbell), Willow (Amy Meyer), Ching (Joel Yelland), Daisy (Nina Mendiburu) and Saige (Lola Hassan-Adams). Their story is told in songs such as “Get Together,” “One Tin Soldier,” “Everyday People,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and “Do You Believe in Magic?”

Curtain times are 2 p.m. today and next Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
Feb. 21-22. Tickets are $22 for adults and $10 for youth 16 and younger, while Olympic Theatre Arts members, active-duty military and their spouses receive a $2 discount. Information is online at and at the theater box office at 360-683-7326.

“Love, Loss and What I Wore,” a play by Nora and Delia Ephron based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, opens Friday, March 7, at Olympic Theatre Arts and runs through March 16. The reading, with monologues and ensemble pieces about women’s relationships at various stages of life, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The cast includes Lola Hassan-Adams, Sharon DelaBarre, Susan Dwyer, Nina Mendiburu and director Karen Hogan.

For details, phone the OTA office, open between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 360-683-7326.

Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — When Lola Hassan-Adams finishes her workweek, she likes to step into another life.

This week she’s Saige, a hippie in music-drenched San Francisco in 1967 — even if she just has to get to Sequim, where she’s in “Summer of Love,” the Olympic Theatre Arts musical, to get on that plane.

But Saige’s journey is no walk in Golden Gate Park. She’s struggling with the man in her life, and early in Act II of “Summer,” Hassan-Adams storms across the stage, unleashing the Janis Joplin song “Piece of My Heart.”

It’s a breakthrough in Saige’s life. She ultimately sets herself free of the man, even as she keeps her relationships with her Haight-Ashbury compatriots.

Hassan-Adams herself was born a good decade and a half after that Summer of Love. She’s a West Coast transplant, having come out here just about four years ago from Gainesville, Fla., where she was a secretary at the University of Florida’s office of Residential Judicial Affairs. Translation: She worked with the students who got in trouble in the dorms.

Like her latest role, however, Hassan-Adams has gone through some changes.

She quit her office job in 2010, joined AmeriCorps, packed up her car and drove 3,000 miles to Port Angeles. She became a mentor and tutor at Stevens Middle School, working with teenagers as they prepared for high school and beyond.

It wasn’t easy: “Numbers and I don’t get along,” said Hassan-Adams. So this tutor took the math classes — and the tests — right along with her students.

After two years of AmeriCorps service, Hassan-Adams opted to stay in Port Angeles, and landed a job she loves at the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.

At first, she didn’t think she’d fit into the Young Men’s Christian Association, but she discovered that the place on South Francis Street in Port Angeles is a place of community and acceptance, an organization she says is aligned with her own beliefs. Hassan-Adams especially values the Y’s outreach, with financial aid and kids’ programs, to people of modest means.

“I come from a background where we never had money, ever,” she said. “But my mom never made me feel like that was something to be ashamed of.”

She’d bring home bags of used clothing as if it was Christmas, saying, “Look at all this!”

As membership coordinator at the Y, Hassan-Adams looks after members’ needs and then some. Her workweek includes the ACT! — Actively Changing Together — after-school program for children age 6 to 12 who are at risk of becoming overweight.

In ACT!, Hassan-Adams has kids playing games and exercising in the Y studio, to “keep them pink-cheeked for an hour . . . and having fun,” she said, adding that since she’s not someone who particularly enjoys working out, she understands the need for ACT!’s creative approach.

Meantime, Hassan-Adams chooses her own highly creative, though not well-paying, pursuit: acting.

While “Summer of Love” is her first musical since arriving on the Olympic Peninsula, she’s kept busy with dramas and comedies: Last year, she appeared in four Port Angeles Community Playhouse productions:

She was Aline Solness in Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” in April, played Queen Maud of England in Jean Anouilh’s “Becket” in July and August and was part of the bereaved family in “Dearly Departed” in September and October. Up at Peninsula College, she joined the ensemble cast for the New Writers Festival in May and June.

In 2012, theatergoers saw Hassan-Adams, then a newcomer, play two highly contrasting parts at almost the same time. She was Miss Shields the schoolteacher in “A Christmas Story” from Nov. 23 through Dec. 9, and on the following weekend she played Ines Serrano, the manipulative lesbian in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit.”

John Manno, director of “Builder,” “Becket,” “No Exit” and “Departed,” fairly gushes about Hassan-Adams’ style.

“She attacked every part,” he said, “with enthusiasm, spirit, intelligence, and verve. . . . It’s a joy to work with her.”

A look back to Florida, pre-AmeriCorps, reveals another chapter in the actor’s tale: portrayals of Ernestina Money in “Hello, Dolly!,” Calpurnia in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Fastrada in “Pippin” and Dorothy in “The Wiz.”

She’s not wild about that last part, though. Her dream role, were she to return to the Land of Oz, would be the Wicked Witch of the West.

“I’ve practiced that laugh since I was a little girl,” she said.

Yet Hassan-Adams has a degree in humanities, not theater. She got into the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Central Florida but decided against acting as her career.

As much as she loves the stage, Hassan-Adams didn’t want it to consume her life. She’s a woman who seeks balance — while refusing to give up her passions.

She credits her mother, Kerrann Adams, and her childhood acting coach, Sybil St. Claire, for demonstrating how it’s done.

Kerrann, looking for child care for her 9-year-old daughter, found out about a performing arts summer camp that was less costly than a regular baby-sitter. It was at that camp, with St. Claire, the young Hassan-Adams discovered the magic of live theater.

She remembers the moments before her first solo song in a comic production of “Cinderella.” She was backstage, paralyzed with fear.

“You scared?” St. Claire asked.

“Good.” That means you care.

“Now get out there.”

Hassan-Adams has been out there since, practicing her art.

As Saige in “Summer of Love,” she’s reveling in the music, which spills from the late 1960s into the early ’70s. Throughout her childhood, her mom filled their home with that sound. When the “Summer” character Mama (Penny Pemberton), sings “Get Together,” the anthem the Youngbloods immortalized in 1967, Hassan-Adams still feels her eyes tear up.

Saige’s own songs include “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” the Mamas and the Papas’ 1968 hit, along with “Piece of My Heart” from ’67.

Hassan-Adams has more than a vibrational connection to Joplin. A close family friend, Trisha White, traveled with the singer, who rose to fame in the late ’60s with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Singing “Piece of My Heart” is not about sounding like Joplin, of course.

“I had to make it Saige’s,” Hassan-Adams said. “I knew I was going to have to rely on my acting
. . . I would have to sell it.”

She did.

“Her interpretation is brilliant,” said “Summer of Love” director Jaie Livingstone. “She builds it gradually from the sadness and rejection of her character, to the crescendo. . . . Everyone can relate to the heartbreak expressed in the song.”

Karen Hogan, director of Olympic Theatre Arts’ next show, also was wowed.

“She just nails it,” said Hogan, who has asked Hassan-Adams to be in “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” a play by Nora and Delia Ephron. Its opening night is Friday, March 7, two weeks after “Summer of Love” closes. The interval will contain rehearsals for “Love, Loss,” as well as another event in Hassan-Adams’ life.

She’s engaged to Jason Bond, a U.S. Coast Guard man from Virginia. More than a year ago, after he was stationed in Port Angeles, he went to the YMCA to work out, where Hassan-Adams noticed him.

The couple has only been dating since November, so yes, it’s been a whirlwind romance.

But Bond is 30 and Hassan-Adams 31, and “when you know, you know,” she said. “And we both knew.”

When Hassan-Adams phoned her mother with the news, Kerrann’s response was: “Well, I can’t expect my unconventional daughter to be conventional, now, can I?”

Plans are progressing and simple: a short ceremony with Pat Owens, Hassan-Adams’ costar in “Summer of Love,” who’s an ordained minister in real life, officiating. Her friend and YMCA colleague Jennifer Veneklasen will be her witness.

Afterward, the newlyweds will have dinner with friends at a Port Angeles Mexican restaurant.

They chose a Tuesday in late February for their nuptials partly because of Bond’s rotation schedule and partly because every weekend for the next several, Hassan-Adams is rehearsing or performing in a show.

“Love, Loss and What I Wore,” her next play, is a collection of everywoman stories based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. Hogan chose Hassan-Adams — soon to be Lola Bond — for monologues and ensemble pieces about mothers, sisters, prom dresses and wedding dresses.

And while Hassan-Adams said it may be a little much to take on, what with her wedding and her full-time work, she couldn’t say no to her love of good theater — especially when the Ephrons are the playwrights.

This actor’s heroines are women who knew how to juggle, with supreme grace and humor: Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. Ball “paved the way for the unconventional actor,” Hassan-Adams said. And both knew how to surround themselves with talented people.

“They knew how to share the stage and to give the light away.”

For her part, Hassan-Adams is basking in the shared light of “Summer of Love.” Her favorite moment comes at the end when the cast, while singing the 1970 Guess Who song “Share the Land,” comes to the edge of the stage.

The audience begins to clap and sing along, and Hassan-Adams’ love of the theater is renewed.

Last modified: February 15. 2014 6:03PM
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