Thursday, December 31, 2009


It’s quite the cliché to look back on your year on this day—but this New Year’s Eve is even bigger than that, as our decade is about to come to a close.

In world news, this decade has been tumultuous and ugly and weird and I’m glad to see it go. I was thinking about the decade during my walk to work this morning and suddenly it hit me—this was the decade of my twenties. Having been born in 1979, my age directly correlates with the decades. The 90’s were my teen years, and the aughts (what an awkward term!) were my twenties. I’ve never really thought about it like that before.

When I turned thirty last January, a lot of people asked me if I was freaking out about leaving my twenties behind. I wasn’t. My twenties were fun and hectic and tumultuous and crazy and wild. I learned a lot about the world and even more about myself. I had lots of triumphs, made a ton of mistakes, met some wonderful people, lost family members, gained family members, started a career and lived in many different apartments in many different cities. All of my experiences have forged the person I am today. But in my thirties I look forward to the whirlwind settling down a little: I plan to get married, start a family… well, maybe not settling down so much. A different kind of crazy, more like.

Bored in rehearsal today, I started making a list of the important events of my Aughts, in a vaguely chronological order. It’s strange to see how much I’ve packed into ten short years. And I don’t even recognize the twenty-year-old I was at the beginning of the decade—she seems like an entirely different person. And so very young!

So here’s what happened to me this decade, starting from that headstrong and confused twenty-year-old Sara in 2000, trying to figure out her decade.

I quit college at SUNY Fredonia after one year, frustrated and love-sick. I was in college for acting, but I hated it. I was also dating Kevin, who was living in Pittsburgh at the time. I hated college and I hated being away from my boyfriend, so I decided to quit, move to Pittsburgh and find myself.

And I did. In Pittsburgh I found a new career: stage management. I also discovered that I could do it on my own in a big city, and that Kevin and I weren’t meant to be. Mostly because I was gay, but there were many other factors as well. Needless to say, my parents were overjoyed when I left both him and Pittsburgh behind, but I was already moving on…

Getting accepted to SUNY Purchase was a dream come true for me. It is notoriously difficult to get into their Design/Technology program and even more difficult to actually graduate from it. But I did it. I survived shitty dorm living, intense class work, strikes on Sundays, Dan Hanessian, being a freshman, a certain grad student, D/T football, the dining hall food fights, the end of the year party, the operas, crazy directors, loose-cannon acting students, Set Design I, and September 11th twenty minutes outside of New York City. It was a whirlwind, and after it all had passed I came away with a degree in stage management and a wonderfully dysfunctional theater family who I know will have my back always, no matter what.

Every summer for five summers beginning my sophomore year at Purchase I worked at Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, NY. Those were some of the best summers of my life. I learned so much about stage managing from the down-and-dirty work of summer stock, and I came away with plenty of crazy stories and adventures. The woman who fell down the audience stairs. The What the Butler Saw opening night. Hiking with the girls. The cast of Steel Magnolias. Sam.The audience member who pooped in her seat during a show. Carrot cake cupcakes. Drinking, dancing and singing at BG’s. Sueann introducing me to bourbon. Eating pizza in the lobby. Dave & Lisa’s wedding. Going out to dinner with Bill. The Elting House kitchen-bedroom. The 4th of July parades. BBQ’s at the Eckert’s. Getting to know and be friends with Rachel, watching her grow up from a shy fourteen-year-old volunteer to one of the finest backstage crew people I have ever worked with to a professional lighting designer. Daytrips to New Paltz and Woodstock. Painting the floor for A Couple of Blaguards. Our first scary show, The Woman in Black. Directing Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune—Bill and Sueann gave this first-time director a dream come true. Mostly I remember Bill, my mentor, my friend, the patriarch of my theater family.

I had no idea where I was going after I graduated from college. I literally got out my Regional Theater Directory and sent out a resume to every Equity theater in the United States. Only three called me back—one in California, one in Cincinnati, and one in Philadelphia. Seth Rozin from InterAct Theatre Company in Philadelphia graciously allowed me to interview over the phone, as I was stuck in tech at Shadowland. I remember exactly where I was when he called me back to offer me the job. Philadelphia it was. I love this city. From my first apartment in Chestnut Hill to my Christian Street apartment with Danielle and then later Alison to living with Deb on 2 Street (okay, that place wasn’t the best) to my current apartment, I have loved this city and the people in it. I’m so grateful to Seth for bringing me here. This city and I work well together. I spent two seasons at InterAct, where I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life...

I met Deb through a sound designer I was working with at InterAct. We discovered we lived close to each other in Chestnut Hill, so we began to carpool. Deb was her roommate, and it was pretty much love at first sight. Five years later, we're planning to get married and have kids. I couldn't imagine life without her.

Meeting Deb and enjoying the very first stable and long-term relationship of my life was amazing, but of course it meant that I couldn't keep my sexuality hidden any longer. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties trying desperately to date men, hoping this pesky gay would go away if I could just meet the right guy. I never did meet the right guy, and although I did end up dating some very nice guys, it never worked out for some reason. And then I met Deb and it all clicked. Still, telling my parents wasn't easy. And to be honest, there are times when me being gay is still tough for my family. But I have never doubted their love and support for a second, so I am confident that we will continue to foster growth and understanding in the decade to come.

Coming out to my friends, however, was pretty much a non-event. You gotta love theater people for that level of acceptance.

Getting the job at the Walnut Street Theatre was huge for me. It was a huge step up career-wise, and I was so happy to have stable stage management work in a very supportive atmosphere. I just began my fourth season here at the Walnut-- who knows what the decade ahead holds for me?

This decade saw many additions to my family. I gained a sister (yay, Maria!), three second cousins (Maggie, Rachel & Harper) and a life-partner, not to mention a fat kitty named Betty and a goofy greyhound named Hyde.

I lost my Grandpa Tompkins. He was the best grandpa a girl could hope for-- I'll never forget his sly humor, his awesome fire-making skills and his homey meals. He was "kickin" to the last second, and his love for his grandchildren knew no bounds. I think of him every day, as I inherited his awesomely 60's kitchen table and a bunch of his kitchen stuff. Every time I sit at that table or use his utensils I feel like a little bit of him is with me. I'll never forget you, grandpa!

The odds and ends from this decade: my mom's store burning down (the new store is awesome-- yay!), turning thirty, my best friend Weas' wedding, getting four tattoos and a nose piercing, becoming a vegetarian, developing a love for cooking and gardening, that New Year's in Vegas, teaching myself how to knit and cross stitch, learning to love my body at any size, that awesome summer that I spent with Weas, Amanda and Matt at the dinner theater, learning to accept and embrace differences in others, Joseph graduating from high school, Jonathan moving to Puerto Rico, developing an incredibly close set of friends here in Philly (I'm looking at you-- Mel, AJ, Amanda, Alison, Arizona, Lindsay, Carrie, Dalice, Beth), taking a burlesque dance class, stage managing for the Philly Fringe Festival and mostly.....

Learning slowly, painfully how to love myself.

So goodbye, aughts. Goodbye, twenties. Hello new decade, full of promise and possibility. I can't wait to see what you hold.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Princes of Philly

Yesterday was our first rehearsal for our next Studio 3 production, a new play about politics, corruption, greed and the greased palms of our elected officials called The Prince.

Today we trekked to City Hall in the freezing cold for our Publicity Shots:
That's Tom Miller, our Communications Manager, on the ground. Armen Pandola and Bill Van Horn are our very talented actors/playwrights.

The show runs from January 19th-February 7th-- don't miss this one!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sara's Christmas Workshop Santa's, only slightly creepier:

And with a completely disinterested dog in the background!

More pics when my project is complete and in the hands of it's recipients.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas in Philadelphia

'Tis the season.... and this year, I'm really feeling it. Christmas can be tough for those of us in the theater, as our jobs revolve around providing entertainment to the masses and this time of the year the masses sure do want their entertainment. Lots of it. Added matinees and evening shows and shows during snowstorms when the rest of the city is shut down are pretty much our lives.

But for some reason, I'm loving this season. Maybe it's the fact that I'm feeling all settled and content in our cozy apartment, or maybe I'm just over being cynical and exhausted around Christmas time. It's nice to embrace the true spirit of the season-- giving to others and being with those you love.

I really wanted a real Christmas tree this year, but they are so expensive, plus a pain in the ass to get into our apartment, especially without a car. Deb solved this problem by buying a tabletop tree and hauling it home on the handlebars of her bike. Isn't she the bestest?

No Christmas season would be complete without our friend Rob's swanky Christmas party. True to form, everyone was dressed to the nines, the drink fountain was bubbling and we all had a wonderful time:

I don't think anyone likes getting dressed up as much as Amanda and I:

Pretty tree, Rob!

And of course the big news around these parts is the SNOW. Lots and lots of snow got dumped on us yesterday-- in fact, we had more snow yesterday than we had all year last year!

Hyde loves the snow. This is his morning walk, before the real accumulation began:

It's the Walnut Street Theatre's policy to never cancel shows, so we all had to trek to the theater for two shows yesterday. I tried to sweeten the deal by bringing everyone some schmancy hot cocoa. (l-r: Lauren, me, Katie)

On our dinner break, Lauren and I decided to have some fun with the weather. We walked from 9th & Walnut to Washington Square Park, making frequent snow angels. By the time we walked back, our first angels were almost completely gone. Crazy snowy!

Lauren demonstrates her technique:

This is me, making the point that the hardest part of a good snow angel is the dismount:

Twin angels!

Back at the theater, our loopy mood continued. I caught Lauren making shadow puppets during my light check:

After last night's show, I tromped through the snow to our good friends Lindsay & Carrie's house for an ornament decoration party! Carrie baked up some cute shapes and we painted them:

Craft time with Melanie and Dalice!

Today is Carrie's birthday, so naturally we had a cake from Isgro's.

Hyde found his buddy Amanda pretty quickly:

I did some last minute shopping for Mom at Macy's this morning, and stopped to enjoy the Christmas light show:
So this year finds me at peace with this crazy time, trying to find beauty and balance in this hyper season.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Teching Tuna

So I'm a little behind the ball on this one, but I got some great pictures during our tech for Red, White and Tuna. We run from now through January 3rd-- I hope you'll come and see it!

The Starlight Motel, where all of your dreams can come true:

A view of Vera Carp from the stage manager's table:

The call book:

Shon Causer, our esteemed lighting designer, hard at work as always:

Helen and Inita: (Bill Van Horn & John Zak)

Our dresser Katie Rauch watches Studio 3 apprentice Lauren Tracy pat Pearl Burras's (Bill Van Horn) stomach:
Studmuffin Arles Struvie (John Zak) at the Starlight Motel:

The two lovebirds, Bertha Bumiller (Bill Van Horn) and Arles Struvie (John Zak):

Director Madi Distefano has to get this picture for posterity:

Lots of good country sound cues programmed into QLab:

Our TD Andrew Thompson chats with our Set Designer Adam Riggar:

Lauren completes her run-sheets like a good ASM:

It was a crazy hectic tech, as all Tuna tech are, getting the lights, sound, costume and set changes coordinated. But we're open now, and the show is running like a (relatively) well-oiled machine.
Come on down to Studio 3 and spend your holidays with the boys (and girls!) from Tuna, TX!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Theater Family Thanksgiving

Our schedule was completely insane this year, and without the trusty Subaru, we decided that travelling to Homer for Thanksgiving just wasn't feasible. It was a real bummer to be away from the family for the first time on Thanksgiving, but luckily enough we were invited to Andrew and Keila's for a Theater Family Thanksgiving.

Dax and Deb enjoyed chillin' on the same chair together before dinner:

Katie and Alison, also orphaned this Thanksgiving, await the feast:

This is what a vegetarian's Thanksgiving plate looks like! Clockwise from the top: yams, roasted corn salad, pumpkin lasagna, my green bean casserole, pineapple bread pudding. Who needs turkey?

Well, apparently Deb does. This is a carnivore's Thanksgiving plate:

Susan entertained us at the dinner table:

Happy Thanksgiving! Around the table from the left: Keila, Rajiv, random German guy (and the only non-theater person among us!), Susan, Katie, Alison, Shon, Deb, Carolyn

Dax is super excited about dinner....

Dessert time! There were so many options, so little stomach space... but we managed to pack it all in somehow! Naturally there was pie, but Andrew also made pumpkin ice cream and cranberry sorbet too!

Susan & Keila bond over dessert:

Dax got sucked in again by the Wiggles after dinner:

Post-dinner glazed eyes from Deb & Alison:

Rajiv is ready for his nap. (Don't you love him & Deb's matching sweaters?)

Even Dax started to think about bedtime!
It was so wonderful to be surrounded by such lovely people and such delicious food. A huge thank-you to Andrew & Keila for being such amazing hosts!

This was truly a family Thanksgiving: even though none of us were blood related, we are the family that theater created and it was great to celebrate this holiday together.