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Under This Light Podcast Series

“It’s Literally a Murder Mystery” with Sara Porkalob

Artist, Activist, Writer, and Director

Episode 3 - It's Literally a Murder Mystery

In this episode of Under This Light we delve into the revelations of solo performance with artist, activist, writer, director Sara Porkalob. She teases us with Broadway; strips supremacy from Shakespeare; and makes a life-altering choice with a family dragon.

Sara Porkalob

Sara Porkalob

Sara Porkalob (she/her) is an award winning artist, activist, and creator of the DRAGON CYCLE. Awards and nominations include: 2020 Nominee Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award, Seattle Times “11 Movers and Shakers to Watch This Decade”, and 2019 Nominee for Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. The DRAGON CYCLE is her trilogy of matrilineal musicals about her Filipino American gangster family; one play for each generation built around a central female protagonist. The first in the cycle, DRAGON LADY, premiered at Intiman Theatre and was the recipient of three 2018 Gregory Awards (Outstanding Sound/Music Design, Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Outstanding Musical Production). The second in the cycle, DRAGON MAMA, premiered at American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) and was the recipient of two 2019 Elliot Norton Awards (Best Original Script and Best Solo-Performance). A.R.T. has commissioned the third play in the cycle, DRAGON BABY, and it will premiere on their stage in the near future. Sara will be making her Broadway debut in 2022, playing Edward Rutledge in the official revival of 1776. www.saraporkalob.com, @sporkalob

Lamar (00:00):

The following episode contains strong language and adult themes. Listener discretion is advised.

Lamar (00:15):

You’re listening to Under This Light A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self brought to you by Seattle Shakespeare Company. I’m your host Lamar legend. And today we have such a special guest. I am so excited. This is Sara Porkalob is joining us. Sara Porkalob is an artist. She’s an actor, director, writer, theater activist, and civil rights advocate. Last year, she was nominated for the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award. And the year before that she was nominated for Americans for the Arts Johnson fellowship for artists transforming communities. She’s been named Seattle Times’ 11 movers and shakers to watch this decade. Her critically acclaimed solo shows a trilogy known as the Dragon Cycle or a series of matrilineal musicals about our Filipino American gangster family. One play for each generation built around a central female protagonist in her life. The first in the cycle, dragon lady premiered at Intiman theater and was the recipient of 3 2018 Gregory awards for outstanding sound and music design, outstanding actress in a musical and outstanding musical production. The second in the cycle, dragon mama premiered at American Repertory Theater and was their recipient of 2 2019 Elliot Norton awards for best original script and best solo performance. Since then, ART has commissioned the third play in the cycle, Dragon Baby, which will make its East Coast premier on their stage. But before then Sara will be making her Broadway debut next year in the official revival of the highly anticipated re-imagining of the musical 1776 playing the role of Edward Rutledge. It is my joy to introduce Sara Porkalob to the podcast. Hey Sara.

Sara (02:06):

Thank you so much for having me and for writing a better version of my bio than I could ever do.

Lamar (02:18):

Oh, joy and a pleasure. So first to introduce you for our listeners who have no idea who you are that introduction was to to give them a taste of your brilliance, but speaking specifically about theater, cause this is why we’re here. Will you tell us how your relationship to theater began?

Sara (02:36):

My relationship to theater began at a very young age I’m Filipino, Chinese, Hawaiian American first generation. And for anybody who’s Filipino or knows Filipinos, you already know that we love to party. We’ll bust out the karaoke machine at a moment’s notice. We love to dance. We love to feed people, complete strangers on the street we will in, and they will leave with a to-go box full of Filipino food. So this like entertainment loves a party, loves to showcase vibe was already in my blood and unfortunate to have been born into a family who since day one was very supportive of my creative passions. The second that I was three years old, they told me that I would be on Star Search. Now the version of that today is like America’s Got Talent. And but they had no idea that I would make my name in the theater industry, writing a series of plays about our family. So I like to think that in many ways it was, it was my destiny and my fate to be a storyteller. And it just so happens in this lifetime live theater was was my way into that.

Lamar (03:51):

Was there anything in particular, like a specific moment or a show that you saw or that made you go, oh my God, that’s it. That’s, that’s what I want to do.

Sara (04:02):

You know, kind of, sort of, you know, I watched a lot of public television growing up, like we were poor, right? We were in like section eight housing. And so we had a TV that had like three channels feel me and on one of the channels, they would always play musical theater movies and the movies that I would constantly watch on repeat because they were the ones playing on public television were The Sound of Music, Little Shop of Horrors, Grease one, Grease two, and Fiddler on the Roof. Really? Wow. Yeah, it’s a trash, it’s a trashy, but amazing movie in my opinion, like Michelle Pfeiffer. Okay. Like what, like I love it. I’ll be [inaudible] I love it. And also Disney movies, you know, my favorite, my trio of favorite Disney movies. If I had to choose a Little Mermaid Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and at the center of those, you know, they had these, these like strong, determined female protagonists.

Sara (05:07):

And my mother says that my very first performance was my favorite scene from Aerie, from Little Mermaid when Ariel’s father comes in and destroys the statute that she has of Eric and her secret little boudoir human things. Right. And she’s laying on the stone and she’s weeping and flounder and Sebastian come over and they’re like, Ariel, are you okay? And she’s like, go away, just go away. And my mother said that one day she was calling my name and I didn’t answer. So she just decided to come look for me. She finds me in my room where I had arranged all my stuffed animals in a circle around me. And there was a pillow on the ground that I was laying dramatically on. She goes, baby time for lunch, my dramatic, three years old up to her, it goes, go away. Just don’t go away, mommy.

Sara (06:09):

Oh my God, what have I made.

Sara (06:30):

Part of it too, due to the fact that I was an only child, we grew up in the same house with my grandmother and my aunties and uncles. My mother was the oldest. So she was 19 when she had me and then her siblings were ranging from 18 years old to eight years old. So being the baby, but still being raised around like older kids, it often meant that I was like the center of attention. And I would often get a lot of positive affirmation from my family to just interact with folks. My mother would always be like, I was so worried you would get snatched from the mall. Cause you’d always just be talking to people. You’d be like, hi, do you know what the voices? So it’d be like, what is this four year old saying to us right now?

Lamar (07:15):

Because hyou grew up in such a a household, I would say that’s correct me if I’m wrong. Like it takes a village. So you grew up in a village of, of family and community and had that positive reinforcement. Would you say that that’s typical?

Sara (07:31):

You know, it’s so funny. I honestly thought, I honestly didn’t think about it until in my early twenties. So for those listening, I’m 32 now. So in my early twenties, after I graduated from Cornish college of the arts here in Seattle and starting to make a name for myself, not only as an actor, but as a director and playwright, a lot of folks, specifically Asian Pacific Islander folks reached out to me to have podcasts interviews, almost like this one. Or just like written interviews and magazines, newspaper articles, et cetera. And one question that I was always asked by these API writers was, was it difficult to come out to your family to tell them you wanted to be an artist? And my answer every time was like, no, but after about the fourth time, I was like, whoa, the support that I’ve had from my family. And we’re like a brown and black, poor, queer, immigrant family, the support that I’ve had to pursue, my dreams I’m seeing now is atypical compared to my other API peers with immigrant parents. And it, and it really wasn’t until only like five years ago that I saw how much of that has been responsible for my success and my viewpoint on life.

Sara (08:53):

And I’m constantly aware of it now and trying to, to really articulate it in moments like this, to be like, that’s a privilege that I had a lot of folks who hear brown, black, queer, immigrant poor, they attach a narrative of suffering and oppression and marginalization to those social identifiers. Not realizing that the narrative that they’re projecting onto us is a symptom of white supremacy. That in fact we’re called marginalized because we’re marginalized by white supremacist culture, right. That there’s a lot of celebration, joy, sexiness comedy in our stories as well. Yeah.

Lamar (09:34):

All of those things are true and that was just baked into your life. That’s a part of your fabric. Hmm.

Sara (09:40):

Very much so. I’m very thankful for it too. Now that it’s become aware to me what a, what a privilege it was. And I, I took it for granted, you know, until my early 20s.

Lamar (10:00):

So switch switching gears just a little bit. Since this podcast is hosted by Seattle Shakespeare Company and we got to talk about some Shakespeare, so we’ll yeah. So will you tell us what your relationship to Shakespeare is? First really? Like when was, would you describe for us, like the first time you were introduced to Shakespeare and what was your response really? Mm,

Sara (10:26):

So I think the first time I was introduced to Shakespeare was middle-school with like Romeo and Juliet. The Bard is a pillar of our American literary and theatrical education. So of course in high school we had to read plays and drama class and an English literature. But it wasn’t really, it wasn’t until college that I had an immersion in Shakespeare that began with junior year classical text scene assignments where we would be assigned a scene partner. And then we had to choose a scene from the Canon. Or sometimes we would be assigned partners and a scene. And then also later that year, junior year of college, I was an assistant director on a school production of Hamlet. So I’d say junior year of college, which was 2011 was like my first time really being immersed in an active and present in Shakespeare and his work

Lamar (11:36):

Fairly recent. Yeah. And so where are your thoughts? I let’s jump back to, you know Romeo and Juliet like what were your thoughts around him at that time? Had you made up your mind about him and were like, oh, this is how I feel towards Shakespeare and, and his, his stuff. Or did you just kind of forget about him and let them fade into the background until you were really immersed in his work? In college,

Sara (12:02):

You know, I think he was, he was touted, you know, by a lot of my teachers in middle school and high school as being, you know, a great, a great writer. And so being young, I was like, yeah, I guess that makes sense. And what I found when we did read Romeo and Juliet, you know, I didn’t really care about Romeo and Juliet themselves as characters. I found myself really drawn toMercutio and his queen MAB speech, I thought for me, was the best thing in the entire script. There was something so magical about his speech that it like jumped off the page for me in a way that the rest of the text didn’t, but I didn’t think too much of it. I was like, that’s nice. Wow. Fairies goblins. Yeah. And of course I had seen many movie adaptations of Shakespeare plays. There’s there’s so many, and there’s so many, so in a lot of ways I was familiar with like the linear five act, shape and construct of his, of his work. Yeah.

Lamar (13:15):

And so when you, when you got older and you were working especially as an assistant director on Hamlet and doing scene study on his, on his, on his text at this point you must’ve formed some kind of opinion on, on him. I mean, good, bad, or, or, you know, not, not at all. He, must’ve had some kind of connection in some ways to his work, if not like an opinion of, of aversion, maybe. Yeah.

Sara (13:45):

It actually started earlier in the year when I had been assigned a scene for Measure, for Measure, and I was playing the role of Isabella and Isabella who’s basically Isabella is like a nun, right. And she has her brother who’s put in jail and she has to go plead to this other guy. And the scene that we were given was the one where the man that she’s pleading to, to save her brother’s life attempts to rape her. And I was thinking about the scene in my scene partner was a good friend of mine. And we were like, you know, how should we approach this? And we were like, well, we want to, at the time, in 2011, what we were really trying to make in the room was some type of intimacy consent. And I like to think at the age of 22 in college in 2011, we were doing a pretty good job of that.

Sara (14:36):

I’d like to, I think also what, what helped is that he’s a queer man and I’m a queer woman. So we had an individual vocabulary that helped with the intense, traumatic nature of the scene. But I remember reading the play and just thinking about her, her fate. And she ends up marrying that one other guy who was in disguise the whole time, who generally was a good guy, but I was like, what else happened to her? And so I started to become very critical of the female characters in Shakespeare’s work, as we continued to dive into classical texts as part of the curriculum. And I remember when we did that scene, we choreographed this whole moment where he has me on the table and it, it looks very violent to me. Remember the scene ended and we got up and we like walked back to our seat and the entire room was silent.

Sara (15:29):

And I think it was perhaps because there were two other couples who had done that scene, but ours had been the most physical and probably looked the most dangerous and also probably felt the most alive and precious. Like we sat down and people were quiet for about 30 seconds. And I remember thinking, even though at the time I was like, man, we should do a lot of material about rape at this school and we’re not really talking about it. Hmm. That doesn’t sit well with me. And then when I got into Hamlet, you know, I, I was working with a director who decided to have three hamlets instead of one, I think to share the text load, but also to play with something that he had been wanting to do with Hamlet for awhile, which was to have like the multiple voices and aspects of Hamlet’s personality manifested onstage, in three different bodies.

Sara (16:25):

Right. Now the three different bodies were able-bodied young white people, which was something that wasn’t lost on me when I was a junior. But the multiplicity of bodies for this character it’s very well known. And I think respected and valued by the theater community was interesting to me. I was able to see the conflicts, the nuances as well as the, the struggle and the different tactics that Hamlet is, is constantly, constantly doing in the play in a different way. And I was thankful for that. And I mean, but the fact is too, it’s like I never just accepted that. He was great. I accepted the fact that he had a lot of plays that a lot of people like remembered and have done over and over since he wrote them. I think he was true. I mean, we can tell just by his, what his lexicon, that he was just turning, he was turning out plays.

Sara (17:24):

And there were periods of his playwriting where we can actually chart the type of journey that he’s going on as a man, himself in his life, as he gets older, what’s happening politically in his country, what’s happening in his personal life. And I think in some ways I was more interested in that. I was more interested about why he was writing what he was writing, what was going on in his personal life, who was the Monarch of the time who were his peers that whose plays hadn’t been reserved through time? I was like, he’s just a guy who wrote a lot of stuff that a lot of people like. Yeah.

Sara (18:04):

And the one thing that I will say too, is that when we were doing Hamlet, I just remember people being like, it’s so intense. He’s so heady. It’s just like, so existential it’s like the struggle of man. And I was like, y’all are forgetting that when this play first came out, nobody knew that Claudius had actually killed Hamlet’s father. Right. It it’s literally a murder mystery. It’s literally a blockbuster and a lot of, a lot of you all, you know, me in college and I were like young and pretentious. And I was like, a lot of y’all are pretentious fuckers who like to shit on blockbusters and entertainment, but I can sure tell you this. I want to entertain people first and foremost. They can take away what they want and like mull over it and brood over..becomes super heady. But when Shakespeare wrote this, nobody knew what the fuck was going to happen in the audience, least of all Hamlet himself. And I don’t know, but that’s like super real life. And I just, haven’t seen a production of Hamlet that encapsulates that for me. And I think it’s hard because we all know what happens. So like people are like, but then we should dive into the unconscious internalized aspect of his life. And I’m like, cool. But the unconscious internalized life of the people directing these plays historically has been white men. So then what Hamlet’s journey has come to mean has been like angsty white men.

Lamar (20:03):

It sounds like you were investigating Hamlet at a very early age investigating Shakespeare. So would you, you’ve already touched on this a little bit, but will you tell me, like, do you believe that Shakespeare is still relevant and necessary today?

Sara (20:18):

I think it’s a mistake to say that he is for everybody ever. I think it is our job. It is our as theater makers, my storytellers, it, it is, should be part of our practice to ask ourselves those questions. And we should also be ready to realize when we’re making up answers to make a piece of the puzzle fit when it doesn’t anymore. And we have to be okay with that. I think people try so hard to make something fit for right now that oftentimes creatives in theater lose their sense of intuition. They lose their intuitive sense of what a story could be right now for the audience of today. And they put a 1920s filter on it and put a tap dance routine. And I’m not saying that’s bad. I love tap dancing. The 1920s were fascinating and full of despair because like, you know what I mean? But I just, yeah, I can’t say for sure that it is relevant. His work is relevant for everybody right now. I think he has a lot of material. That’s actually like the, I think that’s the biggest thing about Shakespeare is that there’s like a lot of his work that we can actually rifle through and sift through. And so the chances of finding something relevant are bigger, cause he just has a larger body of work in

Lamar (21:48):

Shifting towards you as a storyteller. Will you walk us through the birth of dragon lady and the dragon cycle,

Sara (21:58):

The birth of dragon lady and a few years later, the dragon cycle came about because I woke up to the reality of my white Western often supremacists education halfway through my degree. And I was very scared. It felt like the impulse to leave was the most present and demanding feeling in my body. And once I was able to, to recognize that and give space to that, the other most present feeling in my body became apparent to me, which was anger and frustration and rage. Once I woke up to my white supremacist education and looked at the history of white supremacy in America, that our industry is not free of its everywhere. I decided that I should probably make some different decisions regarding my practice and my dreams and my goals as a storyteller and theater maker. At that time, I didn’t know what skills I had to offer nor did.

Sara (23:18):

I really know how to articulate the stories that I cared about and the stories that I wanted to make so faced with all of this unknown and a decision to continue forward. With my degree, I asked myself, Sara, what can you do? Cause you, you can do a lot of things. And I was like, Hmm, maybe this is an opportunity to actually explore what I think are my boundaries and limitations. So I looked at the roster of classes for my senior year and I saw solo performance and I was like, wow, that’s scary you, I don’t want to do that. And then I was like, oh, you probably should do that. And I was like, yeah, I probably should. I have to say too, at that time, my intuition has actually always been strong thanks to my family environment, but it was really my junior year of college that a huge, a huge leap of growth in my intuition happened.

Sara (24:19):

And I signed up for solo performance cause I was scared of it. And that class challenged me unlike any other class that I had taken there. And it also revealed to me the skills that I always had, but didn’t know that I had. And one of our prompts for solo performance was to create a two minute, no longer than two minutes scene inspired by a real life family argument that we’ve had in our family had to include or had to, had to include at least three characters. And you had to play each character with a different mask, a different vocal choice in a different gesture. You couldn’t use any props and you weren’t allowed to use anything. As a set, other than a chair, if you wanted, or a block. And I played four of my family members, including myself in my mother’s car, on a drive, away from a play that I had done.

Sara (25:22):

And up until that point, like nobody at Cornish would, would think that I was a comedic actor. And I had people laughing in that audience just by telling the truth, getting, getting to the like nuts and bolts of this family argument. In two minutes, people were rolling on the ground. I was playing characters that felt so real and present in my body in ways that no Shakespeare character had ever felt no, no other character I’d been assigned had felt in my body. And I remember thinking after that, I was like, this is I, a gift has just been given to me or it has been revealed to me, what am I going to do now? And from that two minute family argument sprung the three page six minute, very first draft of dragon lady which would eventually transform from a one person show playing eight characters and four karaoke tracks to a one person show playing 32 characters with a three man band, original music and a cameo appearance by my real grandmother at the very end of the play. Good

Excerpt (26:42):

Excerpt from Dragon Lady

Lamar (27:03):

And how did that spawn into the dragon cycle? That’s

Sara (27:08):

Into the dragon cycle because

Speaker 4 (27:12):


Sara (27:13):

Realized in my early twenties that in order to work on my own work, my original content, I had to give myself deadlines. If I didn’t have a deadline, I wouldn’t do. I was in my early twenties, right. I was trying to hustle. I had a day job. I was going to rehearsal for other people’s plays in the evening. So what I did is I gave myself deadlines. I would sign up and asked to be an opening act for like burlesque shows. I would keep an eye out for opportunities for short minute or short play festivals. And thanks to a series of deadlines. I ended up expanding dragon lady and to many different drafts and many different iterations and people always wanted more. I was selling out. So the demand from my work got higher and higher and I kept receiving opportunities to develop the work.

Sara (28:01):

So I continued to do so. And I realized and about, I think it was 2016. I was like, wait a minute, Sara, why are you trying to find the perfect draft dragon lady? You don’t have to write one play. And I was like, oh, I’m writing multiple plays about my family. And then a year later I was like, I’m literally writing a trilogy about my family. And then a year later I was like, I could totally write a TV series about my family. And at that point I had gotten rid of any type of insecurity or doubt or rather I should say I was practicing my confidence and execution in a way that was like really rigorous that I was like, yeah, I’m just going to do it all. I’ll do it all on my own time.

Lamar (28:45):

Of course. Cause well, cause you are a worker and a hard one at that.

Sara (28:49):

Yeah. You know, I just, I love working. And when I graduated in 2012, I had a five-year goal, a five-year series of goals. And one of them was for every year that you work, increase the amount of work that you’re doing to be original work. And in 2017, five years after I had graduated, I had reached my goal of doing mostly my original work as my like financial revenue stream, you know? Yeah.

Lamar (29:22):

And so would you say that that creation creating the creation of the dragon lady and the dragon cycle, like that was your first forays into writing, into being a writer? Or did you begin writing before

Sara (29:35):

Then? I began writing before then. I was a, an original works major at Cornish, which, which meant that I was doing a track that had a special emphasis on directing producing and content creation and generative ensemble. So I was already taking a series of classes that promoted original work prior to writing my autobiographical work my senior year.

Lamar (30:03):

Right. And so was the same true of directing. I mean like, was that when directing began for you

Sara (30:11):

You know, directing actually began for me sophomore year when I was elected to be a director. Sophomore year we did this thing called auto Corps, which was a year long course of content generation. And the whole class worked together every week. We would receive a problem that we had to solve and we would showcase on Friday, it was a class that really focused on relationship building ensemble, dynamic, and really highlighted, honestly, a lot of the like toxic kind of hierarchical power stuff that lives in our industry. Right. And I remember halfway through the year and auto Corp, I hadn’t been a director yet. I had been mostly a participant, but I, I loved watching people. I loved watching people, reveal themselves to be very honest with you. I’d be like, Ooh, she’s tyrannical. He’s making horrible sexist jokes all the time. They have a bad attitude for no reason.

Sara (31:14):

So I was just watching my classmates reveal themselves and their, their working nature. And you know, I wasn’t, I wasn’t minding my P’s and Q’s, but I also wasn’t a pushover. So when we got to the, you know, the end of the year and we had to do actually a musical theater presentation, we had to take a fairy tale and adapt it into a genre of our choice. The group that I joined chose musical theater, we didn’t have a director, they looked at me, they were like, do you want to be? And I was like, yeah, sure. So it shouldn’t be hard. And at that time I thought that directing was managing communications. And to be very Frank with you, that’s some pretty mature thinking for a 22 year old. And why I thought that is because all of the directors that I had worked with had done a job of it. I was like, wow, people really aren’t working to make sure that they’re communicating what they’re actually thinking and to facilitate and help ease communication between the people that they’re supposedly in charge of.

Lamar (32:25):

So it sounds like, you know, you were learning so much in school and that’s where your beginnings of you know of a solo artist began writing, creating content, as you said, now, looking back, I mean, would you say that there’s a specific teacher or mentor you had had a particular impact on your life, let alone your career?

Sara (32:47):

Yeah. I’d say one professor in particular by the name of Kiera McDonald had a huge impact on me. She was my solo performance teacher. And when I was a sophomore, she was my physical technique teacher. She was very no nonsense. She once failed our entire class after we all presented what is our like sophomore physical technique capstone, which is called the animal project, we have to transform into an animal and then do a little presentation. And she failed all of us the first time. And I remember feeling though, when she failed us, I was like, Ooh, I’m relieved. And I remember other people in my class crying and I was like, it’s just F you guys, it’s just an F. And then she was like, y’all are gonna do it again. And I was like, cool, we get a second chance. And I chose the Egyptian fruit bat. So when I did, I was like, I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna smoke a blunt and watch some animal planet and see what inspires me.

Lamar (33:52):

That’s how you came to the Egyptian fruit bat because I was going to ask, okay.

Sara (33:59):

I was like, okay. Cause I had been watching planet earth and we went to the zoo and I was like, bats are cool. I love bats. I was like, hi off. So I go home and I’m like, woo hoo. I just failed. I got my first F this feels so enlightening. And I turn on an episode as a lineup, a blunt, and I’m watching the bats and I’m like, dang. A lot of people think as they move crawling on like the roof of their cave, that they’re really creepy and stuff. And I’m just like, that looks like fun. So I got down on the ground and I started crawling around like the bat. And I was like, cause my previous routine had just been the bat cleaning itself, looking back now. I’m like, wow, how boring is that?

Sara (34:46):

Yeah, this is it. This is a vibe I’m going to crawl around and I’m going to go on a little journey. And then I was like, wait a minute. If they’re watching me, it just looks like I’m hi, wearing a black hoodie and black leggings crawling around on the ground. And I was like, what do I do? And I was like, perfect. I’ll stack some rolling mats. I’ll have them lay down on the mats, but hang their head over the edge so they can watch my presentation that way I changed their viewpoint and what they see looks like a large human bat crawling around on the ceiling. And they did. And my presentation was two minutes and I was having so much fun being a bat. I like found some stuff. I ate, I grew myself. I said hi to some bat friends and I soaked it up and went to sleep. And afterwards Kiera was like, okay. So thank you all for your second attempt. And out of the 10 of you, only three of you have passed this time and I was one of them.

Lamar (35:48):

Wow. So I would say that knowing you, having worked with you, that being an activist is just intrinsic to your character, to your nature. That’s who you are, you know, where would you say that began?

Sara (36:07):

I at an early age, you know, my parents, my, my mother’s my biological mother. So she’s an immigrant Filipino American woman and she’s queer. And so my other mother, Tina is a black American disabled woman, which is not to say that just because you’re brown you’re down. Right. But I am so blessed and so privileged and so honored to be able to say that these two women were my parents because they raised me with their intersectional identity at the forefront of our family dynamic. They taught me to love myself. They taught me to be wary and suspicious of white folks. And that has been a core pillar of my survival in this world. And in this industry, they also taught me to be humble and to be confident at the same time. And you know, I remember shopping at the Chinese grocery store.

Sara (37:11):

And when I was there with my mom who was an Asian woman and my other mom, Tina black woman, like it was chill. But when I was there with just Tina, the Chinese clerks would follow her around. She’s a black woman. I remember noticing that I remember going home and Tina telling my mom, she’s like, you know what? I just feel so uncomfortable doing grocery shopping there because when you’re not with me, they’re following me. And my mom’s like, what why? And Tina’s like, cause I’m black. And my mom’s just like, so, and Tina’s like, I’m black. And they think that I’m going to steal, Maria. And my mom finally got it. And I remember being little and being like, whoa, this is an intense conversation. I don’t know if I know everything that it means. But what I do know is that there’s racism involved.

Sara (37:55):

And we went back the next day and my mom had some words with the Chinese clerks. And I also just remember growing up too in thinking that, because I had a black mother because I had a black side of my family, I could have possibly be anti-black. And then in college being confronted with my anti-blackness was very scary. So there’s, there was this dynamic of like accountability and like not being afraid to lean into what we didn’t know and not being afraid to really fight for what we believed in, in my family. That when I learned in college, what I believed in, I was like, oh great. Then I should fight for it. Like it didn’t, didn’t actually seem difficult. I was like, cool. So how do I fight for it? Why should probably practice articulating what I think about the world in a cogent concise way?

Sara (38:46):

How can I start that? So I started on Facebook literally the other day, Facebook memories were like, here’s some memories from 2012. And I was like, oh, and I looked at it and one of them was, I’m an intersectional feminist. If you don’t like it, you could unfriend me 2017 calling myself an activist and having people in our very community being like, I just don’t think art has to be political. And I’m an artist first and I’m not an activist. And I’m like, I’m not even talking to you. Like, why are you, are you saying this? I don’t care good for you. Good for you. And it just has been constant, you know, I’ve definitely made mistakes. I have definitely been an unconscious perpetuator of like white supremacist culture. And I’ve definitely had to do work on my own unconscious socialized self around white supremacy.

Lamar (39:45):

Tell us what are you working on that you’re excited about right now?

Sara (39:49):

Okay. So I actually, I think I can, I think I can say this. So I am heading to the east coast next spring to be in my Broadway debut, the revival of 1776. And before I leave town, I’m actually doing a, a farewell to Seattle run of my shows, dragon lady and dragon mama. Cause nobody in Seattle has seen the live final version of dragon mama. The last time that I did that on stage was actually in Boston. So I’d really love for people to see that. And I’d love for people to have the opportunity to see the first two plays in the trilogy I’m in repertory. So I’ll be doing that middle of January through middle of February.

Lamar (40:40):

Yeah. So I was just going to say like, where can people find that that’s great

Sara (40:45):

And cafe Norto here in Seattle is a theater Culinarium. So as you may know, Lamar, they are an immersive dining experience where they curate the menu and the set and all, all of the design to incorporate the audience as a live aspect of the play, not just as a passive spectator, but for my shows, we are removing that element one because we want to get more seats in there. But two, their downstairs space is really active. So we actually will have the opportunity to pair opportunities for folks to have food and drink and enjoy other artists downstairs while I’m performing upstairs. Not quite sure what the calendar looks like, but I’m very excited for that.

Lamar (41:34):

And now to excite your curiosity and in the spirit of infusing the world with more joy, I present to you some magic questions.

Lamar (41:48):

If you could master one skill that you don’t already have, what would it be

Sara (41:54):

Driving really fast in manual transmission cars.

Lamar (41:59):

Oh my goodness. Oh, that’s a good one at why?

Sara (42:02):

I just think it’s badass. Like I love, I love sports cars and I know how to drive a manual transmission, but I’m a little bit timid and I just want to be, I want to be fast to like flex on everybody, especially men.

Lamar (42:19):

There you go. Subverting the narrative again. I love it. Hey will you describe for us your idea of the perfect day?

Sara (42:28):

The perfect day is a Wednesday. The temperature is 75, no more than 78 with a light breeze, some clouds in the sky, but mostly patches of blue. I am by water. Doesn’t necessarily have to be the ocean, preferably not the ocean cause it’s kind of boring actually here in the Pacific Northwest I’m by a lake or by the sound. I have a bag full of snacks that are salty and umami. I have as many edibles as I could possibly want. I am wearing my favorite thong, bikini with my out oiled and brown as a coconut. And I have some buggin bangers and slappers playing on my noise, canceling headphones while I scroll through my favorite Instagram friends.

Lamar (43:28):

Oh gosh, that sounds delicious. All right. Here’s a biggie. All right. So you learn a family secret and that family secret is that your family has a family dragon that visits it visits once every generation, she visits you and offers you the same choice that she has, you know, given every woman before you and all of them have turned them down prior to you. Here’s the choice. Come with me and receive the powers and answers of the universe sail across, across galaxies. The only caveat is that you can never return to the life you have. What is your choice? Go?

Sara (44:33):

What use is all that information and all that wonder and all that discovery. If I can’t share it with anybody also like, is there going to be chicken wings on the trip? Sorry, go for it. Is there going to be crinkly fries or like garlic fried rice on the trip?

Lamar (45:03):

Well, in thinking about your perfect day, it makes total sense that you would ask that question. I love it. You follow in the in the steps of your forebears, which is, which is in turning down the Dragon’s choice. Yeah.

Sara (45:16):

I know. And no surprise in many ways, thinking about my family that I would follow in their footsteps. What a great question. Lamar thank you. Sure,

Lamar (45:23):

Sure. And lastly, when you die, because we all will, if people forget everything about you, what’s the one thing you want them to remember?

Sara (45:38):

Can I choose two things like one or yeah,

Lamar (45:42):

Sure. Why not?

Sara (45:44):

The first thing is that I want people to remember that I had jokes and almost funny, like if I like you, I will do everything in my power to make you laugh. If I don’t like you, I won’t even look at you. So I hope people remember that I had jokes. If they don’t remember that I had jokes. I hope they remember that I had a fat ass from lifting all these weights,

Lamar (46:11):

Both of those things. Oh my God. And with that, thank you, Sara so much. It is. As I expected a joy, it’s been giggly fun and deep and enriching. Just like you, you are so profound and so amazing and so huge and such a star. And I can’t wait to see more of you.

Sara (46:32):

Thank you, Lamar. I can say all the same things about you. We’re going to go.

Lamar (47:00):

Thank you for listening to Under This Light. A Revelation of Shakespeare and Self, the series is a project of Seattle Shakespeare company. If you enjoyed this discussion and would like to learn more about Seattle Shakespeare, company’s productions and programs, please visit Seattle shakespeare.org. We’d love to hear from you. Seattle Shakespeare is located on lands, taken from the Duwamish Stillaguamish Muckleshoot Suquamish and all coast Salish people. We pay respect to them as this region’s original storytellers. The music you hear in this episode is provided and composed by Stefon Dorsey artwork for our series was created by Marla Bonner, I’m host and producer Lamar legend. And we’ll be back in two weeks with another episode. So subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts, give us your hands. If we be friends and Lamar shall restore amends.