We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Tan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Well, my current business if freelancing as a performer, teaching artist, and Digital Communications Specialist with Grey Box Collective so, really, it’s a little bit of everything. I just graduated from ASU with my MFA in Theatre for Youth and was inspired to apply all the knowledge that I learned in the last three years. I’m someone who believes strongly in adapting and pivoting when necessary, so when Covid-19 hit, I told myself that I needed to gather all the knowledge and skills I knew to make sure I thrived and found meaning during this difficult time. That was my launching pad toward feeling more confident in my skills set and stepping forward to promote my own talents as a personal business.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I identify primarily as a theatre artist who specializes in devised work and interdisciplinary performance. I love what I do because it allows me and the people I work with to tap into our strengths during the rehearsal process. Before I talk about how I got into devising, it might be worth while to hear a little about why theatre. I always dreamed about being on the stage. My sisters and I grew up watching plays and musicals but never joined the school’s drama club. To be honest, I was incredibly self-conscious of how I looked and what I sounded like for most of my childhood so auditioning for a show was never an option. I got cast in my first ever play in high school when I auditioned with my friend simply as moral support. That first day of rehearsal, my hand was shaking so much I couldn’t read my lines – and I only had three. In undergrad, I started participating in more dance and theatre, choosing to major in Theatre Arts, after some encouragement from my professor. At that time, the only available options for a Senior Capstone in Theatre was to direct a play or play a lead role in one. Both of those felt too limiting to me. I strongly believed that my Senior Capstone needed to me a performance that showcased all of my talents, which is how I learned about devised theatre. Since then, I have continued to research, perform in, and direct new devised works, serving as a mentor to those who want to learn more. A lot of my learning and growth happened in the year I freelanced in Minneapolis-St. Paul. I hopped around and forced myself to learn as many skills as possible. During that time, I assisted in a community production, interviewed guests artists, curated a performance series, taught performing arts to adults with disabilities, house managed, and acted. Nothing felt too unworthy of my time of energy even if it meant working 60 hours a week, taking naps on buses, and learning my lines as I travelled between jobs. I wouldn’t trade that experience and the friendships I found that year for anything. That’s not to say that everything was fine and dandy. There were many times I felt like I made the wrong choice; that I was putting myself on the path of eternally being overworked and underpaid, which is while I enrolled in graduate school. Graduating with my MFA during a global pandemic definitely didn’t help me feel like I took a step forward career-wise but I am recognizing every other day how my new knowledge about pedagogy, facilitation, and working with young people have supported my ability to work virtually during this time. To anyone else who is trying to freelance out there, I would say that while money is necessary for day-to-day living, emotional health and positive communities are what is going to help you thrive. Holding on to what I have and who exists in my circles have been immensely valuable to my ability to push on.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ooo I would bring them to the Arts District in Downtown Phoenix. Even though some places remain closed, it’s so fun to roam around and see how many murals you can find. Every Saturday, there are also little arts and crafts booths on the street and the farmer’s market! Another place I would probably take them is Tempe Town Lake. I love the water, the way the bridges light up at night, and how the whole place looks during a sunset. Another fun little thing I love about that area is finding the small pieces of community art along the wall!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Special shoutout to Grey Box Collective, specifically Molly W. Schenck, who has been such an important emotional support for me during this time of freelancing. Another shoutout to Jisun Myung who first convinced me to audition for Grey Box in 2018 and for always reminding me of who and what I can be as an international artist in America!
Dragonfly Studio Photography Chris Weise Tyler Yando Sarah Tan Thomas Hiura