Name: Emilee Hassanzadeh
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Year in School: Senior
Major: Musical Theatre
Emilee Hassanzadeh knows a thing or two about branching out. While on a road trip to North Carolina her senior year of high school, the Minneapolis native decided to go a little further south when she heard about an “up and coming” musical theatre program at a place called Coastal Carolina University. Drawn by an audition call, Emilee rented a car so she could divert from her trip and try out for the program. From that point on, as Emilee says, “the rest is history.”
“I think it is good to get out of your comfort zone,” Emilee explains. “Coastal definitely challenged me and taught me a lot about what I am capable of.”
Emilee quickly learned she was capable of dancing in music videos. In another “out of your comfort zone” experience, she was greeted with quite the surprise the first day of her freshman year when theatre professor Robin Russell surprised Emilee’s Acting I class. Russell informed the students that they would be dancing in Coastal’s video twist on the song “Happy” by Pharrell. Although very nervous about the first assignment of her college career, Emilee danced her heart out and is now forever part of Coastal Carolina YouTube lore. Calling it “a great ice breaker,” her first CCU credit would prove to be just the tip of the ice burg.
Throughout her time at Coastal, Emilee has acted in numerous CCU Theatre productions (the non-spontaneous variety), delighting the community with her talent. Looking back on the plays she took part in, Emilee has a special place in her heart for Oklahoma. She took on the role of Ado Annie, a perfect fit for Emilee considering her love for comedic acting. The hours and hours poured into productions combined with class time and other program pursuits helped draw Emilee very close to the theatre faculty. She cites the relationships that she developed with her professors as the most impactful imprint on her time at Coastal.
“They have taken me under their wing over the past few years and mentored me,” Emilee says about the theatre faculty. “I have also learned a lot about them and I know I can go to them about anything.”
Once she walks across the HTC Center stage this weekend, Emilee will have a clear plan moving forward. After taking the month of May to travel overseas and decompress, she will return to Minneapolis to perform in Beehive: The 60’s Musical. After production wraps in October, she will move to New York City to pursue her dream of acting on Broadway. Using “spunky” to describe herself, Emilee will be sure to keep a smile on her face as she navigates an immensely competitive environment that is the New York theatre scene.
“It is important to bring a sense of humor to everything, it can get you through a lot,” Emilee says.
We can’t wait to see you on the big stage, Emilee. Good luck!
Q&A with Emilee
How did you hear about Coastal?: I found CCU by pure happenstance! I was going on a trip to North Carolina during the fall of my senior year, and heard about Coastal Carolina’s theatre program on the trip. Coastal happened to be having on-campus auditions that weekend for its musical theatre program, so I rented a car and drove down to Coastal to audition…the rest is history!
Why did you come to Coastal?: To escape the Minnesota winters, and cultivate my artistry at one of the best up-and-coming musical theatre programs in the country! It was quite the big change moving from Minnesota to South Carolina, but I gained a lot of independence and found out a lot about myself and what I am capable of. Taking risks is self-empowering, and often leads to success!
Favorite professor: Dr. David Bankston has been an instrumental figure during my time at CCU. He has been an unwavering pillar of strength and support for me at Coastal, and I am so grateful to have crossed paths with him. While his official job is my voice teacher, he also doubles as my style coach, friend and mentor. We have bonded over the years over our shared love of big dogs, funky shoes, fitness and guitars. The guy’s got impeccable style… ask him about his notorious B.I.G socks.
Favorite class: I have two…
Acting I my freshmen year with Robin Russell was a trip! It was my first class ever at CCU, and Robin showed up with a camera crew and told the class we were all going to be dancing in a music video that CCU was making to the song “Happy” by Pharrell. We were all nervous enough because it was the first day of college and nobody knew anybody… and now we had to DANCE in public in front of complete strangers! I will never forget that day because…
1. You can still look up the video on Youtube and see our class breaking it down on Prince Lawn and
2. I met one of my best friends, Philip Rast, that day.
My other favorite class I took at Coastal was Musical Theatre Scene Study with Becky Timms my sophomore year. I was always so excited to go to that class because it really got at the core of what I love about being an actress. We got to explore scenes from classical and contemporary musicals, and hone in on character development and crafting the story.
Favorite aspect of Coastal?: My favorite aspect of Coastal is that it is a big school that feels small… it’s kind of the best of both worlds! Coastal has super-supportive faculty members and really tight-knit student communities that make the school feel very familiar and cozy. At the same time, I love going out to the tailgates and sporting events that give Coastal the big school vibe. It’s great that you can walk around campus and run into your friends, but also have the opportunity meet new people each day!
Favorite aspect of living in the Conway/Myrtle Beach area? Honestly, I love that I can walk to class in January and not have to wear a coat. I love that Ican go back to my apartment in between classes and lay by the pool and catch a tan. This issimply unheard of where I am from!
Clubs/Intramurals/other extracurricular activities involved in?: I’ve put all my focus on my training, auditions, and our New York showcase my senior year, but I was previously involved with SGA, Greek Life and a couple of volunteer organizations at CCU.
Plans after graduation?: Heading back to Minneapolis where I will be performing in a production of Beehive: The 60’s Musical from June-October. Before I begin rehearsals for the show I am taking a graduation trip to Sweden and the Netherlands with my family. After the show closes, I will be moving to New York City to join the theatre scene there and continue auditioning. Being on Broadway has been a lifelong goal, and I’m ready to get out there and make it happen!
What are your hobbies? I love traveling, playing guitar, working out, singing, dancing, drinking good coffee and reading good books. I am very into fashion and fitness! I am a city girl but I love to spend time outdoors, whether I’m running, hiking, skiing, or out boating on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes! Everyone that knows me can tell you how much I love dogs… I am borderline obsessed. I am very passionate about dogs and animal rescue. I volunteer at a couple of non-profit animal rescues both in South Carolina and back home in Minnesota. I rescued a blue heeler puppy two summers ago.
Do you have any hidden talents?: I would say I have a 95% success rate shooting free throws. I think the average in the NBA is around 75%. Go figure!
Bonus Info: It’s been a wonderful four years at CCU, and I sure will miss it. I’ve made memories andfriendships here that will last a lifetime, and I am so grateful for my time here.