Q-and-A: Eight questions with the late great Landon Hall
June 7, 2019
Editor's note: This Q-and-A with Landon was published in the very first issue of the Pine Knot News on Oct. 26, 2018. We are publishing it online in memory of him. He will be missed, very much. Sincerely, the Pine Knot Staff
Q-and-A: Eight questions with Landon Hall
It can be difficult to spot the director among the high school students at Cloquet High School these last couple years. It's not that director Landon Hall doesn't stand out in a crowd - with his outgoing personality and pompadour haircut, he does - rather it's the simple fact that he's only four years out of high school himself.
A student at the College of St. Scholastica, Hall is pursuing a double major in computer science and theater, with a minor in photography. He also works for CSS as a web developer, and then drives back to his alma mater almost every night in the fall to work on the musical.
Always an event, the annual musicals feature a large cast and have earned a reputation in the region as topnotch productions. Hall and his student actors dazzled a year ago with their performance of "Legally Blonde: The Musical" and he's aiming to push them even harder this year with "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Hall is no stranger to hard work in the theater. As a student at Cloquet High School, he acted, directed and was head of lights and sound for every show his junior and senior years. And yes, he still graduated.
The Pine Knot News sat down with Hall in the soon-to-be renovated high school theater last week, for a Q-and-A session with the actor/director/web developer/student and more.
Pine Knot News: What is your connection to Carlton County?
Hall: I've lived in Carlton County since seventh grade. I graduated from Cloquet High in 2014. I have family here: my uncle owns Cloquet Service Center, and my mom and most of my other family live here too.
PKN: You're 22 years old and now on your second fall musical at CHS. How did that happen?
Hall: I had done theater since forever, throughout elementary school. When I transferred to Cloquet, I started in theater here my junior year in high school. My first show here was "Anything Goes," which I student-directed with Kevin [Hamre]. I kept student directing until I graduated: a total of four shows. My last spring show was Kevin's last show, as well. Then I went off to college, and pursued theater at CSS as well. The next fall Kevin asked me to come back and help for a little bit and I basically got sucked back in. I told him I could help for a couple weeks, but I kind of stayed for the entire run. So my first show back [as assistant director] was "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Kevin retired after that and I took over last fall.
PKN: That's when you did an amazing job with "Legally Blonde." I have heard you were surprised by just how good the show was on opening night. True?
Hall: It's always stressful with a show, especially in the days leading up [to performances]. Still, there's always a point where everything comes together. It's different with each year and each group of kids. Sometimes we'll see it the nights leading up to opening night, and sometimes they just need the audience's energy. That's what it was last fall. They needed the audience, the feedback, the clapping, the laughter. It just brings the whole thing to life.
PKN: Tell us a little bit about what's happening for this year's fall musical next month.
Hall: We're doing the "Hunchback of Notre Dame," based on the novel by Victor Hugo, who also wrote "Les Miserables." It has the songs from the Disney movie in it, but this version has the dark tones of the novel instead.
They had produced a stage musical before, but one of the writers, Alan Menken - the prince of Disney music - felt he needed to revisit it. In 2014, he went back with Stephen Schwartz and they rewrote it to go directly to go into their licensing catalogue, so people like us could do it.
PKN: If you could have dinner with any four living people, who would it be?
Hall: Oh geez. I would have to say Alan Menken, just because I love his catalogue of music so much. It's what I grew up with, a lot of those films [like "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin"] and I hold it close and dear to my heart. Second would be Stephen Schwartz. I'd love to pick his brain about how he developed the music for "Wicked" and other popular shows. The last two - warning, this is going to sound repetitive - I would say Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, the original leads of "Wicked." Yes, I've seen it, but not with them ... I was pretty young when it opened in 2003.
PKN: Tell us something most people don't know about you, that you're willing to share.
Hall: I don't have a lot to hide. I'm very much a people person - you kind of get that way when you're in this line of work. I have a hyphenated first name: Landon-James, not a lot of people know that.
PKN: You have so many different directions and talents, do you have an ultimate goal when you grow up?
Hall: I would hope one day I could somehow mash my two majors. If I can't do that, I'd love to end up on Broadway or involved with Broadway ... or working for Apple. I love everything Apple: I've got the watch, phone, TV, computer - even the HomePod, which connects with all my other devices seamlessly.
PKN: Can you just think what you want, to the HomePod?
Hall: I wish.