Elizabeth Hansen was born and raised in southwest Iowa. Among her first theatre experiences was appearing in a Christmas pageant under the direction of a future Miss America, Rebecca Ann King. As a freshman at AvoHa High School, she was cast in D.H. Lawrence’s The Rocking Horse Winner, learning a Scottish accent for the role. In 1976, during her senior year, she was named outstanding performer of her Thespian troupe.
At Iowa State University, Ms. Hansen planned a career in arts advocacy until a theatre education professor persuaded her to give teaching a try. She taught seventh grade in Fremont, Iowa for two years, becoming the school’s speech coach and assistant theatre director. After a three year hiatus in North Carolina with husband Jay, she returned to Iowa and was hired to teach eighth-grade language arts in Grinnell. She chartered Thespian Troupe 4274 in January, 1988 and moved from eighth grade to the high school, where she teaches speech, drama, mythology, and television production.
In March of 2007, Grinnell High School opened a brand-new auditorium, giving GHS students a permanent home for theatre. After spending twenty years in a community center auditorium, finally having a place for students to call home has been one of Ms. Hansen’s greatest accomplishments.
She shares directing and Thespian troupe duties with her former student and GHS colleague Michael Hunter. Together they directed The Laramie Project, the 2010 Iowa Thespian all-state show.
Ms. Hansen served as an Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA) district officer from 1993 to 1995 and on several IHSSA committees. She was Iowa Thespian chapter director from 1997 to 2004 and was inducted into the Iowa Thespian Hall of Fame in 2004.