Proud Stories: Sarah Misch (She/Her/Hers)
Q: What kind of performance artist are you?
I'm an actor, dancer, and life model!
Q: When did you first know that you wanted to be a full-time artist?
I feel like I didn’t know I wanted this for myself until fairly recently. For most of my adult life, I've confused being a full-time actor and being a full-time artist. I’m not saying that these two paths don’t overlap (because they absolutely do), but I had assumed a lot more overlap than inherently exists. Around 2 years ago, my actor life and my artist life began to seriously diverge, with the endless cycle of auditioning and casting director workshops taking a toll on my spirit. Rather than feeling energized, confident, and generative, I mostly felt tired, self-conscious, and closed-off. Worst of all, I was too anxious to devote time to anything I couldn’t directly spin into “castability” and too drained to work on artistic endeavors that I felt more personally invested in. To alleviate some of the burn-out, I decided to pause auditioning for a while, and in doing so, I opened up so much more space in my life for creative thought and exploration and discovered I really like the process of creating even if it isn’t linked to some flashier opportunity. And because of my wonderful community of collaborators, I’m still acting plenty in projects that truly excite me. Looking back, that realization that I loved having space for my art-making more than I wanted most of the acting jobs I was forgoing was the realization that I wanted to be a full-time artist.
Q: How are you keeping yourself inspired to create during this unprecedented time?
I’ve become very investigative of my own artistic process! To me, theatre and filmmaking are team sports, so I’ve never really been that interested in working alone. I feel at my best creatively when I’m in a rehearsal room asking questions and bouncing ideas off of my collaborators, so it was initially very awkward to create work by myself. This pandemic period has been a real lesson in how reliant I am on the genius of others to spark my own. That being said, I’ve become intensely curious about how my brain works, how my body moves, what structures I need in place to feel inspired, and what I’m actually interested in making without external influences. I’m less focused on creating pieces that I would consider to be finished and more focused on just creating something and then asking myself “how did that go?” “what didn’t work?” and “what can I use next time?”
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as an artist and how did you overcome it?
I have always struggled with the relationship between art and commerce in the United States. In our society, it feels as though art needs to prove it can make money to be allowed to exist and that we’re all subject to this constant churn to produce more and more finished content. There’s not a lot of room for taking your time to figure things out or sitting with uncertainty or even putting something down and coming back to it later. As someone who’s interested in making weird interdisciplinary art that doesn't neatly fit into one category, I often feel stifled by expectations of “what people want to see,” confused about how to talk about what I do and rushed to finish whatever I’m working on before I fully understand what it is. This is not an obstacle I’d say I’ve overcome (or that I even believe is possible to fully overcome in my lifetime), but it’s an issue I’m contemplating a lot and a conversation I want to bring to my collaborators once the world begins to open up again.
Q: What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
The last major show I did before the pandemic was a beautiful documentary theatre piece called For the Love of Friends: a story about the life and work of Brent Nicholson Earle. Brent Nicholson Earle is an incredible actor and activist who ran the perimeter of the United States in 1986 to awaken America to the AIDS crisis and honor the friends he lost, and his amazing story was one I had not been aware of until I began working on this piece. This project was so special because Brent was not only the subject but a fellow cast member! Learning from his experiences, hearing his stories, and simply feeling his presence in the rehearsal room was an unparalleled experience.
Every member of our diverse and talented ensemble took such care and responsibility with Brent’s story and left an indelible mark on the show. FTLOF would not have been what it was if any of us had been missing, including me. It’s unusual for me to have this kind of clarity about my own contributions, but it feels deeply true. I’m particularly proud of co-choreographing my own dance solo with our director Cara Consilvio and of playing Brent’s mother, Marion, who he told me I “really got.”
Q: Is there anything you are working on now that can be shared and supported?
I don't have anything specific to promote right now, but folks can follow me on Instagram at @smischievous for a fun mix of dance improvs, visual art (of me, not by me #sorrynotsorry), thoughts on the creative process, and acting announcements!
I'd also love for people to check out my theatre company, Improbable Stage. Improbable Stage is a non-hierarchical theatre company of like-minded artists hailing from an amalgamation of experience and backgrounds. Sparked by dance and forged in theater, our devised work—both original and reimagined—asks and explores the universal questions and themes of our society today. We believe that radically examining our humanity in this way is our improbable imperative.