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Q& A Interview with 2024 OCTG Outstanding Lead Performance Winners Aaron Lipp & Cody Hanify

2024 OCTG, Cody Hanify & Aaron Lipp.

Written by Patrick Chavis

This year’s OCTG awards had great performances with a strong group of nominees. The two who made it to the top of the ticket, both winning Lead Performance, this year were younger actors, Aaron Lipp for Curious Case at the Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills and Cody Aaron Hanify for his outstanding performance in Costa Mesa Playhouse’s production of Clybourne Park. I had a chance to talk to both of these actors, and we had a spirited chat about acting, theatre in Orange County, and much more… [Note: Quotes have been lightly edited for readability and concision.] 

Patrick Chavis: Were you both surprised that you won Outstanding Lead Actor this year?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Chapman Uni PC: Kylie Pickering and Jess Lewis

Aaron Lipp:  I was very surprised. I don’t view myself on the same level as everyone else performing in the Orange County theater space. Curious got all this great acclaim, and I had great reviews written about me, [but] it’s still weird to me. It doesn’t feel like it’s right for me to be there. I never want to put that energy out there of being like, “Yeah, I’m gonna win.” I don’t like having an ego around that stuff. I’m still very surprised.

Tartuffe Orange Coast College

Cody Hanify: I would say that I had a very similar experience where the surprise came through. But there was an overwhelming amount of support and an overwhelming amount of attention to that specific role. For that specific play, Clybourne Park, had garnered a lot of attention, winning some awards here and there from multiple different factions and getting multiple articles written about the actual play and my performance.

I’m looking at the nomination list, and honestly, being on the same list as Aaron is like, if I get this award over Aaron, I don’t know how that’s possible. So it was very humbling to be awarded in the same category, let alone being nominated in the same category as him. But I will say it was definitely a surprise. I was so overwhelmed the music started playing in the middle of me talking because I had no idea what I was supposed to be saying. So I was prepared, but not prepared at the same time.

Patrick Chavis: this being a performance that garnered some praise and awards. Does it feel any different than any other role you normally do?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Chapman Uni PC: Kylie Pickering and Jess Lewis

Aaron Lipp:  Curious Incident is a show that I hold very dear to my heart. I fell in love with the character when I read the play for the first time. I don’t think any show I do after it will match it. No show is going to come close to that for me.

It’s not about the recognition for me. I love acting because it’s fun. I enjoy storytelling. It’s not about the roles that I play. It’s about who the character is. It’s not how the character is received from people or how big that character is but how that character makes me feel. Christopher is me, and I am very much who Christopher is. And so I think I will carry that role with me my whole life, but it’s not because it got that high acclaim. It’s just because of what the role is.

I Hate Hamlet – Newport Theatre Arts Center

Cody Hanify: I mean, this role has definitely stood out amongst the most recent roles, especially since I’ve played a lot of characters that have had antagonistic qualities to them. I’m not the most well-rounded human being on planet Earth. But this is the first time I got to tackle it in a lead situation and be the actual antagonist of the entire piece.

So that comes with a lot of fun, a lot of new territory, and a lot of challenges. And it comes with a lot of unlearning, especially in this specific role, of the way that his truth exists, especially when it comes to people of color and all of that. So that was definitely a challenge. But what was super familiar to me was being able to play two different roles in one piece. So that was actually the most exciting, intriguing part, to be a part of playing more than one role and being able to be on stage for a certain amount of time and be able to portray two completely different human beings.

Patrick Chavis: I asked both actors if they had any questions for the other actor, and this is what they said.

The Dining Room Beckman High School

Cody Hanify to Aaron Lipp:  I was curious about the way that you approach Christopher (his character). Is there a moment when you turn Christopher off? And when does that kind of start? Does it turn off? Because I’m someone who turns it off completely.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2023)

Aaron Lipp: Fully depends. The line between me and Christopher is so thin. But for a character that I’m a lot less kind of close to, my director even told me (talking about his experience performing in the musical It Should Have Been You at Chapman) I didn’t find the character until tech week. It’s so off from who I am as a person. And so, I just had to find it. Find that thing that gets you into it a little bit before and then head out. It’s different for every single character.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2023) Chance Theater. Photo by Doug Catiller

Aaron Lipp to Cody Hanify: You’ve been doing it longer than I have (community theatre). How do you find yourself staying positive?

Cody Hanify:  That’s a really good question. I would basically say read the productions before you go see them, kind of go see shows at other playhouses to kind of garner, “Oh, is this the level of creativity, quality… whatever it would be.” If anything’s kind of piquing your interest, because, at the end of the day, you’re the most important to not only your mental health, your physical health, and how much fun you want to have, as well. So, as long as you’re putting in as much effort as you possibly can and 110% into where you want to be and why you want to be there, I think everything’s gonna happen 10-fold.

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