Sara Edwards
Edited by: 
Raheida Khalique

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you were at the very beginning of how you became involved with the performing arts?

My mom and both of my older sisters danced.  So, the first glimpse of dance that I had was simply as a third child feeling I had to do whatever they were doing already. However, I was the one that really caught the bug. I was well behaved enough to observe my mom's classes, so I would sit in the corner and watch dance classes eventually joining in. I danced all through my childhood and did some summer camps. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I went to Oklahoma City University for college which was great. I did all of my high school’s musicals and spent my college summer’s at Music Theatre Wichita and a couple of other summer stock theaters. There was no other place to do what we do besides New York and, luckily for me, it was only a few hours from my parent’s house in PA.

I'm supposed to be doing a show for Wayne Bryan at MTW this summer, we were planning on doing Grease.  We are supposed to start the first week of June and while he hasn't cancelled the season yet, I feel like any day that is going to be the news. We will see.

Q: What has the performing arts taught you that you have applied to your everyday life and how you engage with the world?

The performing arts has taught me amazing communication skills. I think, more than anything, it took me through really difficult moments of creativity, when you're stuck and harnessing someone else's energy in a room and figuring out a way to communicate to get the best thing into the show. By teaching people I've learned so much- that I am a teacher more than I ever knew in my life and that teaching is something that I'm really good at. I love teaching non dancers. One of the best parts of being Warren Carlyle’s associate for many years is the incredible principals that have been in the shows that we've worked on and many of them come into the room and say, “Oh, good luck I'm not a dancer”. Then, within hours, sometimes weeks and sometimes months, they're doing it, they're really doing it. I also love that about our community- how it is full of people who are just resilient and go after what they want and that's amazing.

Q: Has the performing arts helped you overcome any hardships in your life?

Yeah, it has helped me. A couple of years ago we were looking to grow our family beyond just our amazing five year old son. I had a really bad year of miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. And it also happened to be one of the busiest work years of my career doing many different shows and a lot of different buildings with incredible, creative humans. I know that if I hadn't been in those rooms, the experience of moving on from a tragedy like would have been much more difficult. I was full of hope because I was surrounded by people who had similar experiences and were there to share their stories with me.

Q: What other interests and passions, do you have either outside or inside of the performing arts that influence and inspire your artistry?

I would say the things that have captured my attention in the past few years are on the education side. I started teaching more classes and creating my own work and not just as an associate to the few choreographers that I've worked with in the city. It's been amazing to go from a dancer or creator that loves to go and take class. I mean one of the hardest things about this whole time is not being able to be in a dance class either as the person in the front of the room teaching it or just simply taking it, and existing in a room with a bunch of dancers. I'm eager for that to come back into my life. There comes an experience of what it's like to not just learn someone's creation, but when you're making it yourself and putting it out there, it is a completely different dynamic, vulnerability and fear factor to it. When people take it, love it, embrace it and celebrate it, that sparks a feeling of joy like nothing else. I really love teaching and on top of that, my kiddo. I love when I get to do dance projects with him or with his class at his school.

Q: How do you think that the performing arts can be a platform for social justice issues?

When people come into the city, I tell them to see the big blockbusters but, I also encourage them to see something that's going to challenge them and make them ask questions. I think one of the greatest things about New York City is that it is a performing arts capital. When you are in a smaller city with touring companies, those theaters are bringing in only what they think that community is going to want to buy tickets to. However, when you go to New York City the possibilities are endless. You can have some really thoughtful theater experiences. And I think that it is so important to make you ask the big questions while you're sitting in a theater with a whole bunch of strangers.

Q: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as an artist?

I've been directly affected by COVID-19 in the sense that I have fled my home and my career. As an artist that means that my career has pretty much been suspended for now. My teaching jobs have gone away. There were a series of universities coming to town for workshops and programs this spring but unfortunately that is no longer happening and all employees no longer have that commitment. We’re still hoping The Music Man will happen this Fall. We had two workshops canceled this month. I was working with Hugh Jackman on The Music Man, but that has been put on pause for now.

Q: Can you talk about your initial reactions and what process you were in, when it first happened in New York City and kind of what that was looking like for you?

I was commuting during the week before the shutdown happened. I traveled from my Upper West Side apartment to Union Square every day to rehearse for The Music Man with Sutton Foster and Hugh Jackman. Then, I noticed people were not pushing to squeeze into the trains. They were being a little bit more thoughtful about their spatial awareness before anyone ever said anything about social distancing. I remember being in the room with people and suddenly, everyone was washing their hands a little bit more and using sanitizer. When someone coughed, we'd all look at them and a little bit of anxiety crept into the room. We scheduled our time together four days before I left the city and the public schools officially shut down. When that happened, because of my kindergartener, my husband and I looked at each other and said “well, your work isn't keeping you here and my work isn't keeping me here, and our son doesn't have school so let's go somewhere safer and ride this out.” We packed a few small bags and left thinking it'd be a couple of weeks.

Q: What does a daily routine look like for you and what have you been working on during this time if anything?

My daily routine has changed so much over the past six weeks. I have become pretty much a full time kindergarten teacher. My family is up by six o'clock in the morning because my six month old wakes up early and we eat breakfast together. By 8:30, my five year old Charlie is checked into school. They're taking attendance online for kindergarteners and he has a full day of work that I help him with. My husband is coming and going from the work that he's able to do, and if I'm lucky, I get about an hour of the day where I go through my jazz warmup that I use when I teach classes. This always grounds me and reminds me of what I love doing. Sometimes, I go for a nice walk on the beach or I jump rope. That’s usually during the short period of the day that's really my own, and otherwise we're just really dedicated to our kids and trying to make this as normal as possible for him. Especially because he's not with his friends or in his real home. Although it's very comfortable and wonderful here, it's still not home.

Q: For the music man are you still in contact with everyone that you were working with during this time or is it stopped?

Warren, and I have bi-weekly meetings where we FaceTime for a few hours. We talked through the script and dance sequences and he stands up and does some dance moves. I stand up and make suggestions- we make notes all over our script which, by the time we get in the room, we'll hopefully be able to see the actual words written on the page. We are still working at it and I know that Warren, and our director Jerry Zacks, are talking. We have to keep going because at some point we will be allowed to come back together in that rehearsal room, whether it's with five or fifty people. When they say we can, you bet your bottom dollar that Scott Rudin will have us in that room rehearsing and I can't wait. I can't wait.

Q: Using the idea of world making to imagine the performing arts world after the pandemic the way that you would like it to be and like it to look?

Right now, I just wish it would come back. I think you're right that even with this challenging time, it gives us an opportunity to rethink how we do things culturally and as a business with how things work and operate. A few years ago I was in a production of She Loves Me for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, and we got to take part in a Broadway HD recording. Broadway HD has made a couple of recordings of Broadway shows over the past, maybe five years, and I have the app on my phone. I'm an avid watcher.

Early on, when we were told to stay home, they released some great footage from productions that none of us had ever seen. I hope that coming out of this we will find ways to make recordings because there's B roll of everything. Every production is shot from a couple different angles in order to advertise it. I hope that we will find ways to put that out there, so that people can still have access to the shows that they love. I don't know how to do that, but that's something that I hope for. I think that there's also an opportunity here to invite people into the process in a different way and to know that there's a set design meeting. What if you could spend money to join in on a Zoom call for a design meeting, or to feel like you were part of the process. There's so many new shows that we're gearing up to open, or even the new shows that are open this year.

I think there's footage of past productions and I think it would be really easy, potentially, to say to some of those principals, can I do an exit interview with you and can you talk about your experience? Then we can air it with similar to how they do editors’ versions or the directors. In the director’s version, you can watch a movie and the director talks through it. The director talks about what it was like to make the scene. I did a production of Follies on Broadway and I think it would be amazing for them to air that production of Follies. You could hear Bernadette Peters, Elaine Paige, or Danny Burstein talk about their experience of doing that show.

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