Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week's week, we are ecstatic to introduce Hannah Cohen, an emerging actor and comedian! A New York-based actress and comedian who received her BFA in Drama from NYU Tisch, Hannah Cohen has shifted her aspirations since her last Artist Spotlight feature. Now, her main interest is filmed content: be it music videos, short films, or sketches. Her passion lies in the collaboration process and creating content from scratch. Temporarily relocating to Cleveland because of COVID, Hannah has been forced to prioritize herself, her health, and even her financial situation first: “ Leaving New York was really hard, but it's ultimately been the smartest decision, as I've not only been able to stay safe COVID-wise, but also save up some money while the entertainment industry is on pause.” Despite the pandemic-induced entertainment interim, Hannah has found several ways to flex her artistic and entrepreneurial muscles: “ I've been finding a lot of small ways to keep busy and creative: opening an Etsy shop for my embroidery & cross-stitch; creating comedic TikTok sketches; starting a weekend bakery business. While it's disheartening (and scary!) for my entire life in New York and the arts world to have halted, it's nice that I've been able to explore and enjoy some of my other side passions. While I still want to return to performing, I'm realizing that I also love running a small business, so that's an avenue I could look into further.”
Has your creative process changed since your last edition of Artist Spotlight? I've definitely put a bit of a hold on my film and theatre goals. A few things are starting to open back up, but being in Cleveland and still trying to be safe, I'd rather just wait it out. I'm fortunate enough that I have the ability to do that right now, since I'm staying with my family, and don't have to pay New York rent. So my creative process has shifted from concrete projects to just finding ways to stay artistic whenever I can. I've done a few virtual stand-up shows, which are fun, but obviously not the same. It's really hard to write standup when you're isolated, as well, because a lot of my material comes from encounters in real life. But I've been jotting down a lot of fun ideas for things when it's safe to perform again. And, like I said earlier, I've been posting little jokes and bits on TikTok, which has been a surprisingly fun and real form of art.
Has COVID impacted your relationship between art and social justice? If so, how? I think it's helped me put everything into perspective. It's weird that the arts industry has probably been hit the hardest, and yet it's the thing we're all turning to for joy and escapism. What did we do those first few, unsure weeks of quarantine? Binge TV and watch movies we've had on our lists for years. Read books we've been meaning to, listen to podcasts. Art has been so instrumental in keeping everyone sane and hopeful. It's definitely what's gotten me through these last few months.
With everything going on in politics and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well, I think it's necessary that artists use their platforms and work to contribute to social justice. Art influences everyone, it's universal, and I think that artists hold so much power with what they do and say. Plus, it's essential as an artist to understand what's going on in the world and when it's your place to speak or not. When should I step back and put the spotlight on someone else? How can I help under-represented voices be heard? What changes do I need to make in myself? I'm still educating myself and working towards a place of better understanding for the people in my industry (and in general) that aren't being treated fairly.
The flip side of that is giving people something to smile about or laugh at through comedy. We all need a release from the outside world. So it's nice to be able to make jokes about Donald Trump or watch a political satire like Borat and just laugh. It's cathartic and so important.
Have your artistic aspirations changed or evolved since the last edition of Artist Spotlight you were featured in? Things haven't changed that much: I still want to work in film and TV, ideally acting and writing. But I know that this past year has been a bit of a plateau career-wise, and it's going to take some time to get back into things. So I'm trying to keep my expectations of the future realistic. I'm hoping to return to New York in February or March, but that all depends on how the country as a whole handles this spike of Covid cases. I really want to get back to work but know that my long-term goals may take a little longer to reach because of the pandemic, and that's okay. What advice would you give to artists who are looking to continue building their careers during this time? There are a bunch of small things you can do to still work on your career. Consuming media is actual work; you need to know what kind of shows and movies are out there, what you like, what you don't like, who you like, etc. Support people when they do virtual shows, or join one if you're able to. It's not the same as live performance, but it's something. You can update your website, clean out your hard-drive, research production companies or casting directors. There are plenty of things you can do to get yourself ready for when the world opens back up.
But: don't feel pressured to be productive. There's a lot of pressure to write a novel or a screenplay, or produce an album, or whatever. And some people can do that, and that's great! But a lot of people, like myself, need to step back and just do their best to get through this. The pandemic is so mentally and emotionally exhausting--my mental health has been all over the place recently--and I am constantly reminding myself that it's okay to do the bare minimum right now. If I watch TV for 5 hours straight instead of responding to emails or updating my website? That's fine. Do what you can to get through this time.
Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging comedic artists like yourself?
While virtual shows may not be the most exciting thing, watch as many as you can. Having an audience on a Zoom show or Facebook livestream means a lot to the people performing. It's not the same as a live audience, but it truly makes a difference. If you have the financial capabilities, buy tickets and make donations to new theatre groups, foundations, non-profits, and more. It will really help artists, especially young ones, stay afloat during this pandemic when so many are struggling.