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Scottish Opera singer, Samantha Hankey, shares her day in rehearsals

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Sam Hankey in Tribeca NYC Pic: Daniel Welch
Sam Hankey in Tribeca NYC Pic: Daniel Welch

Good morning, Glasgow. I get out of bed and hope for a bright, sunny morning – a girl can dream. We’ve just begun ‘tech week’ at Scottish Opera for our new production of Ainadamar. After weeks of rehearsals we’re now in the theater and seeing the different elements come together. The work rhythm has shifted from morning-afternoon to afternoon-evening hours. So, today I tried to sleep in a bit. To help banish the grogginess, I head into the kitchen for my favorite beverage of the day – coffee. While I’m on the road for long gigs I travel with my own coffee maker and milk frother so I can always have an oat-milk cappuccino wherever I may be.

After working in the UK over the last few months, I’ve become a big fan of English breakfasts, with my own vegan twist. Today, it was roasted red bell pepper, hash browns, vegan sausages, and baked beans. Sadly, I’m all out of bread for toast and spinach to sauté. It may be carb-tastic, but it helps get me pumped up and fueled for the day ahead. While breakfast is cooking, I check the news and tackle a few emails. As a freelance opera singer, there’s always something to be brainstorming, researching, working on at the computer, or practicing, in addition to the current project.

I take a little “me” time for a bit of movement, stretching, and foam rolling, as I had an intense (virtual) workout with my trainer a few days ago and my hamstrings are still angry. I love weight training and would love to do a workout today, but my body isn’t having any of it and is telling me to rest. With the physical intensity of this production of Ainadamar, I guess I have to listen.

Time to get showered and ready for the day. There’s no need to style my hair or put on cosmetics since I’ll go straight to the wig and makeup room in a few hours and they’d just undo my work.

My husband frequently travels with me, but he’s at home in the USA and, because of the time zone differences, I’m +5 hours from him. By now, he finally got himself together to have our first FaceTime call of the day. I’m always grateful for technology and the ability to stay connected with my loved ones while on the road. Before I head out the door, I drink a vegan protein shake as I am not ready for lunch yet. Then I pack up my purse, umbrella, and walk over to the Theater Royal, Glasgow.

I transform into Lorca. This involves putting my long hair into pin curls, getting a (gorgeous) handmade wig on, and having makeup done. However, it’s really all about the eyebrows. Ainadamar re-imagines the life of Federico García Lorca who was a poet and playwright, executed during the civil war for his politics and sexuality. It’s fascinating to have so much material and history to pull from, but while it’s a great honor to play this role, it’s also a responsibility to play someone real.

Costume time. As I’m playing a ‘trouser role’, an essential part of the process as a woman portraying a man begins with my undergarments, so I get into some (anti-)shapewear to disguise my figure. I can’t wait to get into the suit, as it’s the most comfortable custom suit I have ever worn on stage. Made of bamboo, it’s soft, but also environmentally friendly. Incorporating eco-conscious living into my work can feel like a challenge, as performances involve lots of waste (such as glitter, uneaten food, and single-use items like props and makeup). Jon Bausor, our production designer, showed care and attention to the sustainability of the fabrics and that wowed me.

The cast is called to the stage for rehearsal. Yesterday we did the first few scenes, so we picked up from where we left off.

I head up to my dressing room to finally eat my lunch, which feels more like an early dinner. Red lentil pasta with a Beyond Meat marinara sauce and broccoli. Not the most creative dish, but it gets the job done.

Back on stage. This new production is Deborah Colker’s first time creating and directing an opera. Without giving too many spoilers (because you need to get tickets and see this live show to appreciate it), this Ainadamar will resonate with anyone who enjoys dance, flamenco, musical theater, live music, and opera. It feels like a melting pot of creatives and, while challenging at times, it’s been a rewarding project to be a part of.

That’s a wrap, but now I have to take my wig off, get out of costume, pack up my bag and sign out of the theatre. On my walk home I give my mom a call, which gives me a chance to catch up and have a nice wind-down from the day.

Theater is a messy business with the wigs, make-up and sweat, so a shower is cathartic, with the hot water washing off the final layer of character – particularly the gel used on my natural hair under Lorca’s wig.

I cook up a little dinner; some marinated tofu, rice, kimchi, bok choy, and a nice pot of peppermint tea.

I want to watch the new episode of Andor on Disney+, but I’m saving it for this weekend when my husband returns to Scotland. Instead, I watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead, before having another FaceTime call to say goodnight to my husband.

Time to go to bed to rest and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow.

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