Location: Bowdoin / Theater and Dance / activity / 2012 / Profiles / Dana Hopkins '14

Theater and Dance

Interview with Dana Hopkins '14, recipient of the Watterson Fellowship for Summer 2012

Story posted February 28, 2012

Dana Hopkins '14

Zarate Jr. I never really know how to begin an interview. So I’ll ask you your name, although I already know it.

Hopkins My name is Dana Hopkins.

Zarate Jr. Ok, this is a good start. What class year?

Hopkins I’m 2014.

Zarate Jr. And you are from?

Hopkins Georgia. Social Circle, Georgia.

Zarate Jr. Is that really the name of your town? Social Circle?

Hopkins That is very much the name of my town.

Zarate Jr. Ok…

Hopkins It’s also, coincidentally, what Professor Bisbee calls me.

Zarate Jr. Speaking of which, I saw your exhibit down at Fort Andross – the tape structure from Sculpture 1. It seems you’re a rather artistic person shall we say. Today I’m interviewing you because you have been awarded the Watterson Fellowship for this upcoming summer. What can you tell us about your project?

Hopkins In my proposal, I asked to go the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. I want to go to a craft school because I am interested in working with metal and wood, as well as many other things, like pottery, fiber arts, and etcetera. I thought metal and wood would be especially beneficial for both myself and Bowdoin, seeing as how we don’t offer any classes in metal or wood. I thought that if I took some classes I’d be able to help the theater more, help myself more. It seemed like an all around good thing. The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts has two-week workshops throughout the summer, and an array of things like elementary forge metal working, wood working, fiber arts, bookmaking, ceramics, possibly a cooking thing, I don’t really know. They have a range of people every summer from ages eighteen and older.

Zarate Jr. But not under eighteen?

Hopkins No, it’s a…because some of the danger with some of the classes, such as glass-blowing, there are liability issues. The people range from novice level to professional. It’s a really good mix of skill levels and people from all across the country. My project though will have me attending two two-week workshops the first month of the summer. It’s a residential school, so I’ll be staying there and go to my workshop every day. They’ll also have visiting artists come and talk about what they’re doing.

Zarate Jr. So you said you chose the metal workshop, and the wood workshop…is there any reason you’re limiting yourself to two?

Hopkins Well, financially, the Watterson Fellowship provides up to 3000 dollars, and that’s how many I could budget in. Given unlimited resources, I would stay the entire summer.

Zarate Jr. So what do you plan to do with the rest of your summer?

Hopkins Hopefully I could work at Bowdoin, or work somewhere in Maine. And do other crafts on the side. I’ve also though of applying to the Kent Island summer program as an artist in residence there and cook. That would be amazing because they’d just pay me to do art all summer – which is, you know, what I want to do.

Zarate Jr. And I assume you would want to work here at the Theater/Dance Department?

Hopkins Yes, or for the Arts department, but I don’t really think the Visual Arts department has many summer people.

Zarate Jr. Now, you said ‘somewhere in Maine’ – do you mean somewhere local to Bowdoin, or do you mean just working anywhere in Maine?

Hopkins I just want to be in Maine for the summer.

Zarate Jr. As opposed to Georgia. You want to do a Maine summer, more than anything. Ok.

Hopkins Yeah, I hear it’s gorgeous, so I have to experience it for myself.

Zarate Jr. It really is. Are there any other art projects that you see yourself completing over the summer? Particularly, you said you were thinking of doing the Kent Isle summer program as an artist in residence. Is there anything in particular, say a project, that you are thinking of doing at Kent? Obviously it’s a bit much to ask, to have your summer figured our as we are heading into Winter Break, but have you given it any thoughts?

Hopkins Before Bowdoin I’d only done an year or two of high school art. The art program at my high school was really not intensive…at all. It was like throwing people together into a room and saying “Hey, here’s some art supplies. You can do what you want.” So Bowdoin is really the first place I’ve actually done art. Outside of the, you know, “Oooh, I’m making a snowflake” type art. Last year I took Drawing 1, and this year I took Sculpture 1. Next semester, I’m taking Art & Time which is a studio based art course. You start out with drawings, then go to video, and then kinetic sculpture, and it’s all based around the concept of time. I’m exploring different things that I like for the most part since I’ve had so little exposure to different mediums. As far as what I want to do this summer, I’ll see what develops. I really liked my sculpture course. I really liked my sculpture course. I really like building things with my hands, and construction. I’m really interested in the process of things, sometimes more than the actual result. So no, I don’t have a specific project in mind for the summer. Besides, I kind of want to start a craft business just because I really like doing crafts. And I really like money too [laughs].

Zarate Jr. One does have to live.

Hopkins Yeah. So, the really roundabout answer to your question is no. I don’t have a specific project in mind.

Zarate Jr. Who was your professor for Drawing 1?

Hopkins Professor Wethli.

Zarate Jr. Wonderful, wonderful man.

Hopkins I’m extraordinarily luck.

Zarate Jr. Yes, I have to say so. I’ve attempted to enroll into a Visual Arts course with both Wethli and Bisbee many, many times and never succeeded. So I feel a bit jealous to be honest. Who will be your professor for Art & Time?

Hopkins Professor Eggert.

Zarate Jr. You mentioned something very – well, first off, I completely forgot to ask you this earlier, so it may seem random now. How did you hear about the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts?

Hopkins A talk with Professor Wethli. I was interested in craft schools, and I was talking to his about different artists and resident schools, and he suggested Haystack.

Zarate Jr. So this has been a long time in the making.

Hopkins No, this was about a month and a half ago.

Zarate Jr. [Laughs]

Hopkins I’d heard about the Watterson last year, and I was very interested in it. However, I forgot about the deadline over summer break, and then I got back, and I was like “Oh-my-gosh! Every-is-due!” So I started contacting everyone, and Professor Wethli recommended Haystack School or Pendleton in North Carolina. I chose Haystack because it’s in Maine and a little bit less expensive.

Zarate Jr. That explains it. It didn’t seem like something that comes up very often in casual conversation.

Hopkins Well, with me…

Zarate Jr. Another thing that you mentioned that I found very interesting was your lament over the fact that Bowdoin does not offer courses in metal or wood – do you think this is something that Bowdoin should?

Hopkins I don’t know. I’m a little torn about that because Bowdoin is primarily a liberal arts school, first and foremost. It’s not an art school in the traditional sense of an art school, and I don’t think that it necessarily needs to be. I think you can learn a lot of the basics and fundamentals of art and especially art history through the courses that are offered. I feel that for people like me, who want to go on and do construction of arts specifically, who are interested in doing props for movie, for people who want to do truly artistic production on a larger scale, especially sculpture, it’s a little limited. But I don’t think that for the people Bowdoin tries to cater to they necessarily need to expand their overall program. I think there would be people interested in doing metal and wood, but considering how much money it would take to establish that kind of program in contrast to the benefits Bowdoin would get…And then there’s image. I don’t know what image Bowdoin is going for, but I don’t think it’s one of a technical art school. I think it’s very beneficial that Bowdoin would let me supplement my education this way, but as far as actually establishing a program, I don’t think it’s necessarily what the college needs to do.

Zarate Jr. Why props for movies? As opposed to props for theater?

Hopkins I’m a little bit more interested in props for movies than props for theater. Partly because they’re funded better. You can make more ridiculous props in a way. I mean to say you can really create an entire world totally out of the scenery. You can somewhat do that with theater, but its not as essential in theater because of the live performance aspect. Movies are a lot more like: “this is a world, entirely in and of itself”. You have to make people believe that.

Zarate Jr. What have been your roles here in the Theater Department? And as for the limitations distinguishing movies from theater, have any come up while here?

Hopkins My work with theater at Bowdoin is different with Masque & Gown than with the Department, but –

Zarate Jr. So you’re active in Masque & Gown?

Hopkins Yes, I’m Vice President of Masque & Gown this year. I was a freshman representative last year. I worked on the fall production of Closer last year. I was on deck crew, run crew, build crew, electrics crew, and I also was the assistant props manager. In the spring, I worked on A Lie of the Mind. I was props master for that, which was really neat, especially since it requited lots of props and a gigantic rubbish heap on the floor. And the fake hindquarters of a deer, which was very weird to make – I used real deer hide. It was disgusting. We still have it in the props barn. This year I was the Set Designer for Twelfth Night and now I’m working on props for the upcoming show The Pillowman next semester in which I get to do a lot of puppetry and stuff like that. It’s exciting. As for the Theater & Dance Department, I do whatever I’m needed to do. So this includes lights, prop construction, whatever. And the limitation…I’ve not found it much of a limitation, just because I didn’t do theater before Bowdoin. I was pretty much solely a music person before Bowdoin, so I haven’t been limited because it’s all a new world for me.

Zarate Jr. Going back to the movies, has there been any particular movie or director that has really inspired you to want to do props for a movie?

Hopkins The first time I really started thinking about it…it’s weird that I thought about it with this particular movie, because it’s not some fantastical movie: Catch Me if You Can. I started watching all the extra features for it, and it was really neat. I thought researching all of the props would be great, and you’d get a historical aspect too.

Zarate Jr. Very dramaturgical.

Hopkins Yeah, and I’ve always loved magic and illusion too. I think it’s really neat how with props something can be an object and then you make it into a completely different object for a film. Things don’t have to be what they actually are. There’s a children’s book called Look-Alikes – they’re kind of like I SPY books except they use all these different objects and make them into larger, other objects. It’s really near.

Zarate Jr. It’s been a while since I’ve even though of I SPY.

Hopkins You just don’t live in my world.

Zarate Jr. Where do you see – and this is a two-fold question – where, as Vice-President of Masque & Gown, do you see Masque & Gown’s role on campus? And, in a broader sense, what is the role of art itself at Bowdoin? What is the role of theater, in particular?

Hopkins I’ve been doing a lot of papers on this lately. I think especially with art since the 1960s, but art is a social function, I mean –

Zarate Jr. Art as a social function?

Hopkins It’s obviously gone on longer since the 1960s. Art is an expression of concepts, an artistic expression. That’s what Masque & Gown does for directors, and script-writers as well. The director takes the script, and has this big interpretation of it, and all the literary elements in it, and the social elements in it, and from that you get this artistic expression that makes it more accessible to a lot more people. I guess art is a facilitator between ideas and audiences. I only say the 1960s because I’ve been doing papers about the Chicano poster art movement – that’s where my mind is still. That’s art’s role at Bowdoin. It’s not necessarily just art like craftsmanship, its more conceptual. We do a lot of art like drawing, and I think that’s really important, but I think if you’re going to try to make art into a liberal art thing, then you have to go the conceptual route. Or the social-commentary route. Or you have to add something in addition to the “this is just art”, which makes me sad, but again, I didn’t come to Bowdoin thinking  I’d do visual arts, and I stayed here because I love it too much to leave.

Zarate Jr. So what did you think you were going to do?

Hopkins I came in thinking I might a Gov-Econ major. [Laughs].

Zarate Jr. Talk about a 180 degree turn.

Hopkins Now I’m a Visual Arts and Latin American Studies major. Little bit of a change there.

Zarate Jr. Why Latin American studies?

Hopkins I’ve always loved other languages. My high school only offered Spanish. So I took Spanish for three or four years there, and loved it the entire time. Then I came here and really wanted to continue with it, just because I wanted to be able to really apply it to something else. And I didn’t feel like switching over to French or Russian, or anything else. Because then I’d have to start all over again.

Zarate Jr. Russian is very pleasant.

Hopkins On top of that, I like the idea of traveling, and I like the idea of helping other people. I didn’t chose to do a Spanish major, because I feel like a Spanish major is just an English major in Spanish. And I was much more interested in –

Zarate Jr. Those are fighting words.

Hopkins I was much more interested in applying the language to other subjects that I was interested in. Like economics, or government. You know. So Latin American studies was a way for me to do that.

Zarate Jr. Have you traveled to South America at all?

Hopkins No, but I’m planning to for study abroad next year.

Zarate Jr. Where?

Hopkins My top choices right now are either Guadalajara, Mexico or Mendoza, Argentina. They both have really good studio art programs there.

Zarate Jr. And if you had to narrow it down to one…?

Hopkins Right now, Guadalajara. And I don’t have a good reason.

Zarate Jr. Arbitrary. Well, I have never been to either one of them, so your decision is just as acceptable. I’m drawing a blank at the moment. Feel free to say anything that comes to mind.

Hopkins I might have mentioned that another reason I wanted to do the metal and wood was that it’s dangerous to start those by yourself.

Zarate Jr. You did not mention that. And well, I think these are very important things to mention. I mean, I can’t imagine what would happen in metal and wood working that would be dangerous. Do tell us all the gory details that I’m missing out – clue me in.

Hopkins Well, I mean, working with metal (outside of wirework) always involves fusing metal with some heat source. Either furnaces, or soldering irons, or blowtorches. You know, super fun. But dangerous too. I know Professor Bisbee has a huge hammering machine. These are things you wouldn’t want to just pick up and start messing around without knowing how to use them. Same thing with all the power tools that you use to cut wood, or burn wood. It’s really stupid to just use them.

Zarate Jr. Have you ever personally encountered a particularly horrific incident that illustrates these lessons?

Hopkins No. Not besides the horror stories Deb Puhl tells us. She calls the area around the circular saw the ‘circle of death’. Which I think is more for her theatrical purposes than anything else.

Zarate Jr. Very fitting, “theatrical purposes”.

Hopkins My grandfather is really into building things, and I know he chopped off the top right of his finger on a circular saw so that’s a bit of a reminder.

Zarate Jr. So do you think this fascination with building things with your hands, is partly inherited?

Hopkins Yeah! My mom is big-time into crafts. She does a lot of err…handiwork, I guess. She does –

Zarate Jr. What’s the distinction?

Hopkins – a lot of sewing.

Zarate Jr. Ok. No power tools involved in sewing.

Hopkins Yes. Well, sewing machines. They’re dangerous things. I did know someone this summer who was working at a factory that used some sort of sewing machine. He somehow managed to have the needle go all the way through his finger three times. Anyways. My mom and I have always done handiwork and crafts when I was growing up. She was into making fairy houses and that sort of thing. My grandfather built the house we live in, and my mom and her sisters all grew up around construction, knowing all these things about construction, and power tools, and making things. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, but never really gotten as involved as I would have liked.

Zarate Jr. Is there any particular reason you enjoy it so much? Is it calming, therapeutic? I assume there must be some draw to it if you’re willing to put yourself in harms way of blowtorches, circular saws, etcetera.

Hopkins They’re fascination! No…well, I don’t know what the exact draw is. It is calming for me. It’s something I have an instinctual draw towards. Even when I was playing music – I played oboe and saxophone for seven years or so – I ended up making oboe reeds instead. I enjoyed that a lot more than playing oboe. And I thought, maybe I should do art instead. It’s something that…even when I’m watching TV, or playing Dungeons & Dragons or whatever –

Zarate Jr. Don’t worry, we don’t judge here.

Hopkins – I always end up doing either my sculpture homework. Or making snowflakes. Or making roses. Or something. I can’t sit still. I have to make something.

Zarate Jr. What’s something you’ve made that you’ve been most proud of? I’m assuming there is something more than oboe reeds.

Hopkins That deer was pretty fun. There’s a still life that I did last semester that I really liked. Not so much because of the still life itself, but because I  was getting closer and closer to realism, and I have this fascination with making things look as real as possible. I don’t know why. We did a wire project this past semester where we made a wire version of our face, which was not my favorite medium in the world, but I really liked the result. It was neat to make something that was 3D rather than drawing it.

Zarate Jr. I think I’ve seen the wire faces. Here’s a question for you: would it be more realistic if it was a two-dimensional painting that was spot on or if it was a three-dimensional sculpture that was abstract?

Hopkins I’d almost say the painting. You can do more modeling of form with shading…that’s an interesting question. Not one that I’ve thought of.

Zarate Jr. If you had thought of it, then I would be very surprised. And curious to know what you usually think of on a daily basis.

Hopkins Speaking of works that I’m proud of, this is one reason that I want to go to the Haystack school this summer. I feel that – especially at Bowdoin – that life is so crazy, so packed with things, that I don’t really get the chance to actually sit down and draw, or make a sculpture. I’m one of those people that – and this is weird, because it’s contrary to the idea of an “artist” – likes instruction a lot. It’s not necessarily the “you-do-this” and then you do it. It’s more someone being able to tell me how to perform a process. It’s reassuring for me to start a project in an academic setting.

Zarate Jr. You mentioned that Bowdoin can be very crazy. What other things are you involved with on campus?

Hopkins Masque & Gown takes up a significant amount of my time. And then, work-study at the theater, Film Society…

Zarate Jr. Bowdoin Film Society?

Hopkins Yes, although I am often so busy with Masque & Gown that I don’t really get to do much with Film Society. Then there’s Taiko, which is Japanese drumming. Next semester I’m doing the ASB trip, and that’s a side project. I’m technically part of the BOC, but I want to get a lore more involved in it.

Zarate Jr. I like the use of the word ‘technically’.

Hopkins I haven’t been able to do anything with them this semester, so…And I think that’s about it.

Zarate Jr. Returning to Film Society, have you participated in the making of any short films here at Bowdoin?

Hopkins Not yet. I wanted to this semester, but it was just too difficult to get schedules lined up. Hopefully in the spring it will happen.

Zarate Jr. The Bowdoin rule. It is impossible to line up three people’s schedules. I have gathered that much. Now, let’s see. I actually should have asked you this at the beginning, seeing as how it makes more sense as an introduction, but what made you come to Bowdoin? Being from Georgia and all, which is outside of the New England region, it’s kind of strange for you to be here.

Hopkins This is true…I found Bowdoin because I was looking for small, liberal arts schools in the Northeast. I was born in California, and lived there until I was seven. So I had already done the California thing, in my mind anyway –

Zarate Jr. At seven years old…

Hopkins Well, I mean not exactly, but I’d had some exposure to it, my family being really liberal and all. Then I’d lived in the South, and definitely had that experience. I was ready for something else. The Midwest was too cold –

Zarate Jr. So you came to Maine.

Hopkins Ok. So, Maine is a lot, a lot less cold than Ohio. At least Bowdoin is anyway; it’s right on the coast. Anyways, I was looking at Amherst and Swarthmore. I was on Amherst’s website, and their dining hall page said they were ranked second in the nation, and I wondered who was ranked first. So I found Bowdoin because of it’s food, and stayed because of the academics and people.

Zarate Jr. Not the food?

Hopkins It’s a big draw too, but it’s a little bit much to make your college descision only on that.

Zarate Jr. So I guess this is the most important question of the interview then. Moulton or Thorne?

Hopkins Moulton.

Zarate Jr. Moulton, not even a moment’s hesitation.

Hopkins Thorne has better mac-and-cheese.

Zarate Jr. Thorne has better mac-and cheese? So why Moulton then?

Hopkins I like small spaces. Moulton’s much more intimate.

Zarate Jr. You are a theater person, aren’t you?

Hopkins Yeah! [Laughs.] I walk into Thorne and it’s nice and awe-inspiring, but then I cringe…I don’t like it.

Zarate Jr. So Moulton it is. And I believe we’ll be ending the interview on that note. It’s been a pleasure, Dana, thank you very much. Best of luck with your Watterson. Hopefully we get to see the results of it come next fall.


Given unlimited resources, I would stay the entire summer
— Dana Hopkins '14