This week, we meet Sarah Herndon of Lisle. She joined TWS in 2006.
Q. Why did you join TWS?
A. I had just graduated from a small private university in southern Indiana with a Bachelor of Science double major in Theatre Performance and Writing. I knew there were a lot of things that went along with the “life of an actor” that I wasn’t interested in, like being a professional barista, no health insurance, no savings account, and the constant anticipation of rejection with each audition. That’s why I double majored with writing, so I could have a “real job.” But I still wanted to continue my passion of performing and making theatre happen, even though I wasn’t pursuing it as a full-time career. Acting and working in theatre were still a huge part of me and what made me happy.
Q. How did you find out about TWS?
A. I moved to Chicago knowing almost no one because, one, I knew there were a lot of jobs in publishing up here and, two, my little sister had just been accepted to Loyola’s North Shore campus as a freshman nursing major. I found my roommate through roommates.com and moved to LaGrange right after graduation. Luckily, my roommate was the niece of one of TWS’s most prominent and long-time Actives, Charron Traut. Charron introduced me to the theatre, and I immediately got a subscription and went through the Studio acting program.
Q. Go back in time. When did you discover you had an interest in theatre/drama?
A. When I was 6 years old, I saw the 1988 original Broadway cast perform “Into the Woods” on the American Playhouse program on TV. More specifically, my parents recorded the whole thing on our VCR (because it was too long for me to watch before bedtime), and I watched it countless times after. Bernadette Peters as the Witch was amazing to me, and I immediately wanted to be an actress. My first role was as Veruca Salt in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in elementary school and acting was a magical feeling. Then I took a lot of acting and improv classes in elementary school through high school at local children’s and high school theatre repertory programs. I even got cast in a local theatre’s production of “Into the Woods” when I was 15, but it was as Sleeping Beauty and a member of the props crew! I auditioned for several different university theatre programs and ended up attending the University of Evansville and double majoring in my two favorite subjects, theatre and writing.
Q. At TWS, do you work on crews, backstage and/or front of house?
A. I’ve worked backstage and front of house. There’s something fun about every responsibility. When you’re working hospitality, you get to be the face that welcomes the audience into the theatre, making them feel comfortable and glad to be there. There isn’t one specific backstage role that I like better than others. I like working in the dressing rooms on costumes and makeup, being immediately there to support the performers and handle small emergencies like rips in costumes. I like working props and being given direction as well as being in the booth to call cues as a stage manager.
Q. At TWS, do you act on stage?
A. I have performed almost every season since I joined 7 years ago. Some of those parts include Nellie Ewell in “Summer and Smoke,” Nina in “The Quick Change Room” and Mina in “Dracula.” “Dracula” was a challenge in many ways. I was onstage a lot and had a lot of lines and blocking to remember, and I also had a lot of costume changes. Just the mechanics of getting into the rhythm of a ton of quick changes backstage (including hair changes and putting in fangs!) and then getting back onstage in time was a challenge. Learning a proper British accent and being consistent with it can be quite hard. Most of all, becoming the character was the challenge I enjoyed. The character of Mina is actually quite strong in comparison to the male roles which is unique for the time period. Even while clearly being afraid, she moves through and beyond that fear to do what must be done, regardless of the personal cost. One of my favorite scenes in “Dracula” actually had no lines at all. Communicating without words, and hearing the expectant silence from the audience as they are enveloped in the experience with you, is really rewarding.
Q. What do you love about TWS? What is it about TWS that motivates you?
A. I love the people. TWS became my family in a city where I didn’t know anyone. Everyone cares so much about each other and wants to make the theatre the best it can be. That motivates me. I want to give just as much energy and passion to TWS as my fellow Actives.
Q. TWS has flourished for 85 years. Are there traditions at TWS that you value?
A. The tradition of doing the absolute best we can is extremely important. I’ve seen professional theatre in many places, and just because a show is Equity, or gets reviewed by top Chicago critics, or costs $75 a seat doesn’t mean it’s going to move you. The production values (i.e. the impact of the stage, the sound, the lights, the costumes) are incredibly high at TWS. Keeping that tradition of pride center stage has been very important to the Active community. When everyone is here voluntarily, they want to be able to say that they did something important and meaningful to themselves, and for others as well.
Q. Tell about something at TWS that was, is, or will be a really big thrill for you.
A. I was very excited to see TWS put on the musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” this May. I saw it in New York, and it is a laugh riot! The Theatre of Western Springs hasn’t done a musical in a long time, but we did a revue last year and sold out every performance. I learned there were even more hidden talents to be found in our community. It was fantastic to see the theatre full of new faces who love musicals last spring. I look forward to the thrill of hopefully welcoming those new audience members into our Active community so they can experience the joy and gratification I’ve felt in my time here.
Q. List three things you have given TWS.
A. My time, my talent and my willingness to help wherever I’m needed, even if it’s not in my comfort zone.
Q. List three things TWS has given you.
A. An enhanced education in the true business of performing and making theatre, pride in my creative abilities and some of the best friendships of my life.Tags: Theatre of Western Springs