Q&A with Sarah Harris
Tell us a little bit about your background in theater.
Thinking about my background in theater takes me back to the days when I watched “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on VHS. Those were the days. Growing up, my family went to see quite a few shows including “Wicked,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Mary Poppins,” “Cirque Du Soleil” and “The Lion King.” These shows and many others peaked my interest in theater.
How were you involved in the drama department at CAC?
In the fall of 2007, I stuck my foot in the door at the CAC drama department as the house manager for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” I soon found myself taking theater tech, acting and being involved in the drama club under Mrs. Thomas’s predecessor, Hannah Sawyer. I learned a bit about how to produce a high school theater production through observing Ms. Sawyer while working both onstage and backstage. Mrs. Thomas came my senior year with ambitions of producing “Our Town” and “The Music Man.” It was then that I decided to jump into the role of stage manager and assistant director.
Tell us about your current internship.
I am the stage management intern for the Broadway production of “The Crucible” directed by Ivo van Hove. I get to work with some of the most recognized names in the theater industry. The whole company is composed of brilliant and talented individuals. Every morning, I wake up excited to go to work because I am so grateful to be here!
As a stage manager, you are actively involved in the production no matter what stage it is at. Right now, we are in the rehearsal process. The stage managers are keeping track of everything including actors, props, scenery, costumes, script changes and other design elements. They have to know what is going on at any given point in the show. In my position, I anticipate people’s needs and am ready for whatever they the request of me. For example, I could be doing paperwork one minute, measuring spike marks the next, and then running out the door to find a rehearsal prop. Though it takes endurance and focus, working with this stage management team has taught me so much.
How did the opportunity to intern on Broadway come about?
During my time at Harding, I worked hard to build up my résumé and experience. It was very important to me that I not only learn about stage management but also learn about every aspect of theater and be involved in any way I could. When I began applying to stage management internships, I quickly learned that the best jobs come from networking. So, I researched several stage managers on Playbill.com and documented where they came from.
My first internship came as a suggestion from my Harding professor Britton Lynn. I applied and was accepted for a stage management internship at Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge & Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the summer of 2014. I enjoyed my time there and wanted to work for BTG again, but my dates did not line up for the summer of 2015. Though I was disappointed, I began applying to other regional and summer stock theaters. I received two offers that changed my perspective on the possibilities that awaited. The offer I accepted was a stage management internship with La Jolla Playhouse in California to work on a show called “Come From Away“ directed by Christopher Ashley. It was truly an incredible experience to be a part of a new musical premiere. To be even a tiny part of creating a show with those brilliant artists was unforgettable.
During my time at La Jolla Playhouse, I worked with Broadway production stage manager Martha Donaldson. We worked well together and were able to have a few brief chats about stage management. At the end of my internship, we had breakfast at Caroline’s and talked about the future of our stage management lives. We parted ways and decided to catch up in a few months. Then on Christmas Eve, she told me that I would be the stage management intern for “The Crucible” on Broadway!
What has your experience living in New York City been like so far?
I wasn’t too worried about living in the city because I had been to visit a few times, but I knew it would be different — and it is. Living with eight million people takes some getting used to. You take the subway to work in a mass of humanity and begin your day. I enjoy living here, though. The five boroughs play a big part in making New York City the biggest neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. It kind of works like that. You have neighbors you avoid, neighbors you borrow from, neighbors you care deeply about, and neighbors you never see. I find that if you show a little kindness or even a hint of a smile, most people will return the favor.
What has been the biggest adjustment for you?
For me, adjustments are just adjustments. The two biggest adjustments are living in the city and working on Broadway. Living in New York City has been different. In some ways, it feels right because I’m spending every day working with a diverse group of people. Being there with them through the laughs and frustrations — being a light — this is what I was made to do.
Working on Broadway comes with greater risk and the possibility of greater return. I have found that no matter where you are, creating theater is, at its core, the same thing. Success and failure are all about how you react to the ups and downs.
Tell us about some of the people who have influenced your theater career.
I can’t just choose a few people because so many have influenced my theater career and some aren’t even aware of it. Every person I have met while working on a show has had some impact on my theater career and my craft. Directors, designers, stage managers, actors, crew, staff — the list goes on — we have all been together through thick and thin.
The most influential people have been my teachers, who have also been my mentors and friends. I am where I am today because of their patience when I ask a million questions, their support when our little world was falling apart, their honesty when I didn’t want to hear it, their encouragement to push myself and their unconditional love. I can only hope that I too can be a light as they have been to me.
Tell us about one of your favorite CAC memories.
Ah! So many fond memories. Though I wasn’t very good at acting, being in the class provided for some highly entertaining improv. Let’s see… I also remember there being a wasp in the shop — I hit it out of the air with a two by four. I remember creating a very nerdy spreadsheet for “Little Shop of Horrors” because I was responsible for making sure the giant clock on the wall was set to the right time. I had figured out that turning the tiny red disk on the back a full turn and a quarter advanced the clock by one hour, so I was able to determine the number of turns and assign them to specific moments in the show so that the audience wouldn’t notice much that time was passing onstage. One evening during rehearsal, the clock fell off the wall and shattered. I had not been able to hit the mark with old clock, though. Thankfully, we found a new one and that evening Emily Faith sang, “Seymour! Look! It’s six o’clock!” and everyone cheered because it was finally six o’clock!