Today we introduce Sabrina Sawyer, who plays the part of Viola. Sabrina is from Chicago and a graduate of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in theater at the University of Southern California.
Q. So can you tell me a little bit about how you found out about the show, and what made you want to try out for Twelfth Night?
SABRINA: I was trying to get downtown, and the bus was taking too long to get to my usual stop, so I kept walking to further and further stops, and the one over by 55th had a flier for the auditions! I had already missed one audition, and was busy during the second so I didn’t think I would do it, but ended up emailing Leslie (the director) just for kicks.
I wanted to try out because I’m always looking for a reason to like Shakespeare (because I don’t, but I feel like I should), and I wanted to do some acting for the summer!
Also, Twelfth Night was the first Shakespeare piece I found funny/enjoyed after reading it this past year in school!
Q. So, I will confess that I share some of your ambivalence about Shakespeare. Would you like to talk about why, apart from Twelfth Night, you don’t like him?
SABRINA: Oh definitely. There’s definitely a huge language barrier to begin with. I mean, we’re speaking the same language, but at the same time we aren’t. I have to really work to understand his points and jokes, and by the time I did all the researching to make everything makes sense, I couldn’t even enjoy it anymore! I also never understood how in any writing class, you’re chided for being verbose, yet when I would read Shakespeare, it seems he would take three lines to say something I could say in three words.
I’m also just not particularly excited when reading his plays. I love about theatre that it can make you think and understand and all these great things, but the bottom line for me is being entertained every time. And I never really was with Shakespeare.
Though, through actually having to act it out and understand through living it, a lot of the things I didn’t like, I now appreciate.
Q. So I have two questions now: 1) What kind of theater have you done before this point and 2) what’s the most interesting thing to you about Viola?
SABRINA: 1) Exclusively high school theatre. I study it currently in college, but was too scared to audition my first year.
2) I find it so interesting how, through such stressful situations, Viola is extremely good at adapting. She does it in such a good-hearted way that it doesn’t really feel like she’s deceptive. She has this trusting relationship with time that lets her go with the flow, no matter how tangled up or bad things seem to get.
Q. That’s really interesting. How big a deal do you think it is for her to adopt a male identity? Is that just something that’s part of the flow, or something she’s always sort of wanted to do, or how you do think she feels about it?
SABRINA: Initially, I feel like she does it because it’s the safest plan she can think of. She just doesn’t want anyone to mess with her. I think it becomes a bigger deal later when 1) it gets her in such a mixed up situation, and 2) (although this is only really mentioned once in the play) I think there’s something to the fact that she can see her twin brother again, who she believes is dead, when she looks in the mirror.
Q. Have you ever done a show outdoors before?
SABRINA: Never! I’m super excited
Q. What’s it like rehearsing outside?
SABRINA: There are a lot more distractions, like dogs–which I am terrified of–so I’ve had to find new tactics to make sure I’m focused. Projecting is more of an absolute necessity, and in this Chicago weather, we never know what temperature Illyria will be!
Q. No we don’t! I salute you all for your bravery!
SABRINA: Haha, we thank you!
Q. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you before we wrap up? Favorite role, favorite playwright, favorite flavor of ice cream, whatever…
SABRINA: I love strawberry vegan ice cream! Native Son is my favorite play!
Q. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and good luck with the show and the weather!
SABRINA: No problem! Thank you!
Susan Harris with Sabrina Sawyer