Sarah Sanford, who was never told it was irrational to be an artist, now teaches today’s emerging artists | Theatre Philadelphia
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Sarah Sanford, who was never told it was irrational to be an artist, now teaches today’s emerging artists

Feb 13, 2017

As we get ready to celebrate over two decades of the Haas Award at our Haas Happy Hour on February 27, we’re sharing reflections from past recipients in this series.

Sarah Sanford, an actor and director, came to Philadelphia in 2001, and received the Haas award in 2010 Actor and director.  She is primarily teaching now, through UArts/Pig Iron MFA program.

When Sarah’s name was called at the Barrymores: “My stomach flipped.  It is the biggest honor I have ever received.  I think after hearing my name I just tried to focus on one moment at a time - getting onto the stage without falling on my face, remembering to breathe, speaking the words of gratitude I had jotted down on a piece of paper.  I remember feeling very small and humbled, completely astonished that I was being celebrated in this way. It’s a huge vote of confidence.  It makes you feel valued, which isn’t always a given in our field.  I already knew I was planning to stay in Philly and continue to work here, so receiving this honor just felt like Philly theatre opening its arms even wider for me.

When asked about who supported her as an artist, Sarah had a lot to share! “If you want to go back to the beginning, it was my parents - who paid for dance classes and never told me it was irrational to want to be an artist.  Then, it was all the people who challenged me in the context of schooling - Allen Kuharski at Swarthmore College and my incredible teachers at Ecole Jacques Lecoq.  Coming to Philadelphia I entered the mad world of Pig Iron, whose artists continually pushed and challenged me to try things that scared the sh*t out of me - but whose love of theatre and one another was infectious. Then along the way there have been dear friends and colleagues - Lee Etzold, Charlotte Ford, and Emmanuelle Delpech, directors/mentors like Harriet Power and Terry Nolen, and the love of my life, James Sugg [2005 Haas recipient] who has the keenest artistic impulses, and the gentlest heart anyone could ask for. I must also mention Carole Haas Gravagno, who put her faith and stock in me, the theatre companies who have hired me, and the audience members who have supported all of our work both by buying tickets and by being present for the many extraordinary, human moments that happen when the lights go down.

Now, as a teacher, Sarah is surrounded by emerging artists. “I am inspired by all of my students at the Pig Iron School, past and present.  I spend a lot of time with them and have the honor of watching them grow.  Their courage is immense, their hearts are tremendous, they support and challenge one another to make arresting, surprising performance, and it is daily inspiration to me.

Join Theatre Philadelphia in celebration of the artists and supporters that comprise our community at the Haas Happy Hour on February 27.

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