Building sets for school theater productions has been a kind of metaphor for Hana Szabo, a senior at North Salem High School. 

Combining craftsmanship and creativity to build the sets is something she said she enjoys because it helps her classmates succeed on the stage. She points out that this interest lines up with her plans to go to medical school and become a doctor—a profession that appeals to her because it allows her to “care for people so that they can be successful in their lives.”

After participating in community theater during her younger years, Hana began thinking about the impact that good set design could have on a production and she became inspired to assemble more dynamic-looking sets when she attended a middle school performance. She then got to work, with her mother’s help and guidance, on building original designs. She has offered her help with theater performances for several years and has genuinely enjoyed working on both dramas and musicals.

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“I like that it is artistic but then it is also useful,” Hana said. “By creating this stuff, it really enhances the production—a lot of the people in the theater are my friends; it also enhances what they are able to do and it makes me feel like I am helping them.”

In addition to set design, the ambitious teen works behind-the-scenes as a member of the stage crew and has held the role of stage manager. She also works as a front-desk clerk at the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library.

“I think a good set has to be true to the themes, like the kind of vibe the script is giving you,” she said. “For a lot of the middle school plays, they are very playful, so you have to bring out more of a fun atmosphere; this year we did Alice in Wonderland and it’s supposed to be a little bit creepier, so I had to create very surreal sets.”

Lesley Hoagg, a seventh grade English teacher who is the director of the Middle School Drama Club, is grateful for Hana’s efforts.

“Hana’s drive and work ethic is so impressive,” Hoagg said. “She managed to work on these sets for our shows, while at the same time successfully completing all the work for the advanced courses she was enrolled in.”

Hana, an only child, grew up in North Salem and attended elementary, middle and high school in the district. Her parents have been a major influence on her own future plans.

“Both my parents are doctors and it is really inspiring to see them,” Hana said. “My dad is a neurologist and my mom is a psychiatrist. The way they are able to help people is really inspiring to me. When I think about what my future is going to look like in terms of a career, I couldn’t really see being anything else.”

Her quiet demeanor and steady determination helped her complete a science research program that was a central part of her high school experience. She admits however, that she had to make a conscious commitment to academic achievement a few years back.

“When I was in middle school, I wasn’t really a good student and then I kind of came to the realization that it is something that I really should be,” she said. “I had a lot of amazing teachers that helped me in the transition from being kind of mediocre at school to excelling at it.”

Although the middle school drama teacher, Hoagg, said that she will miss Hana’s support, creativity and enthusiasm next year, she is very excited to for her as she takes the next steps as a pre-med student at college in the fall.

“One might think that she would want to go into set design as a career path, but her choice of profession is actually in medicine and she wants to be a surgeon,” Hoagg said. “Hana is truly a Renaissance woman.”