Today we’ll hear from Sarah Holt- who has a great piece of career advice with an amazing story.
Sarah Lynne Holt is a St. Louis director (who happens to have many other roles on her resume as well). She received her BFA in Theatre Directing from Millikin University. Current roles include Vice President of the Board at R-S Theatrics, Co-Producer of The Arcon Radio Players, and Founder of The Maenads (look for us in 2017). Most recently, you may have seen her directing work in R-S Theatrics’ production of boom. She has also directed for The Non-Prophet Theater Company, The Tin Ceiling, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis WiseWrite Young Playwrights Festival, Arcon Radio Players, and PRIME. She is always open to discussing new projects and opportunities.
Q: What was your first experience in theatre?
My first experience as an audience member was actually when I was too young to remember. My grandmother was the president of Kirkwood Theatre Guild for quite some time, so my parents and I would go to dress rehearsals. The first one I remember was The Music Man when I was about five. I had no concept of genre conventions yet, so I had no idea how the story was going to resolve. About the only scene I remember is Harold Hill being arrested as I thought I couldn’t wait to get home so I could cry about that forever. (I recovered by the end of the show.) My first experience participating in theatre (that wasn’t compulsory) was running the sound board for Charlotte’s Web with the Nipher Players in the seventh grade. I was involved in every school play from then until graduating high school.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
It wasn’t so much a piece of advice as inherited wisdom from a former student at my college. After being told that he could not produce a piece he had written at the student-produced and -directed on-campus theatre because it wasn’t a finished piece, he promptly turned his basement into a theatre by painting it black, installing a sound system, and hanging some coffee cans with light bulbs in them, and did the show there. He wrote up a statement about never having to ask permission to produce art, and by the time I got there, the theatre had been running for years with a show in every free weekend during the school year, and his statement was hanging in a frame on the wall. During my four years working there, I saw traditional full-lengths, original vignettes, stagings of concept albums, concerts, stand-up comedy, and more. Each production was treated as if starting from scratch in the creative process; there was no rule that couldn’t be broken. I don’t think that people should have to create their own opportunities just to get work, but too often people forget that if they’re not getting to do the work of their choice, the solution could be to just stop asking permission.
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
In college, I was once stage managing a production of Carousel set in the Terezin Concentration Camp. (It worked better than you probably think.) It was a senior directing project, running for one weekend. On opening night, a major winter storm knocked out power to the theater (actually a black box space in a strip mall). It wasn’t getting fixed that weekend, so the show was pushed back until the next week. Only problem was, most of the family members of the cast and crew had already arrived for the show, and they weren’t going to be able to come in two weekends in a row. A lot of the cast was made up of freshmen in their first college roles and upperclassmen getting their first musical leads. It’s not understating it to say a lot of people were devastated. So we started thinking. We needed a space with power and a piano, which led us to the campus chapel. We negotiated to book it for the whole evening, last minute. The concept meant our production values were minimal anyway; we didn’t need lights or sound or even the set. The TDs weren’t supposed to go into the theatre (or let anyone else in) while the power was out, but a sympathetic one agreed to look the other way for a minute while I borrowed his keys to get the costumes and props. It took a lot of literal and figurative groping in the dark, breaking a lot of rules and making up a theater as we went along, but when the Carousel Waltz started and the cast launched into their choreography, I looked at all their families and burst into tears. Still one of the most rewarding performances of my career.
Q: What is your dream role/show?
There are a lot on my list that I think are attainable, so I’ll go with the one that isn’t: The Raft of the Medusa by Georg Kaiser. Something tells me a German Expressionist show with a cast of children learning about the nature of evil and humankind’s inevitable loss of innocence set entirely on a lifeboat in the open ocean would get me into trouble somewhere along the way.
Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
If I actually thought it was guilty, I probably wouldn’t get any pleasure from it. I own my TV tastes. That said, I probably watch more Food Network and Cooking Channel than is healthy.
Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator. See her work at gracemaustin.com
**DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of THE SCENE SHOP.