Sara Chase has chased her dreams all the way to the bright lights of Broadway! Sara can currently be seen displaying her impressive acting range playing three characters in the new musical First Date. Her sense of humor off-stage is comparable to her spot on comedic timing on stage, and in this interview she offers a refreshing outlook on college, comedy, and a career in the theater. Enjoy!
MC: When did you catch the theater bug?
SC: I got the theatre bug because my mom signed me up, without telling me, for a musical at Renbrook Summer Camp, which is in West Hartford, Connecticut, so I was sort of tricked into auditioning for the musical but then I absolutely loved it—thanks mom!
Did anyone or anything inspire you to pursue a life in theater?
Family friends (who actually came to see the show last night) took me to my first Broadway show and I just knew from that moment on that that was what I was going to pursue. We saw Meet Me in St. Louis, which I think only stayed open for three months. At that point, I just knew I wasn’t going to be, like, a dental hygienist. That was it.
You have a BFA in theater from Boston University. What training did the school provide you with?
It’s a great program, but it was straight theater, and a lot of classical theater; I learned quickly that was not where I was going to fit in in this industry. Definitely comedy is what I naturally gravitate towards, so after school I ended up moving to New York and taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade and performing there, and then taking Groundlings classes. But definitely getting a foundation of “real acting” helped those other things I gravitated towards, for sure. But if anyone’s interested in pursuing at theatre degree I highly recommend taking other liberal arts classes because that’s what you draw on when you actually go to act, other skills and knowledge that you’ve learned.
What did you learn there when you studied at UCB and the Groundlings?
They make you read a book Truth and Comedy; the funniest things are based in truth. I definitely got more audience experience there. It’s a totally different skill performing in front of an audience and when you’re in school you’re just in a classroom all the time. The most important thing you can learn from improv, and I know Tina Fey says this a lot in her book, is their whole concept is “yes, and…” It definitely helps keep you on your toes and when a director gives you direction, instead of fighting him you can go, “yes and…” Or if someone gives you an adjustment in an audition room you can just jump right into it. Improv definitely keeps you on your feet, create a new character, and tweak your performance.
While you were at UCB you put up a show called Jen and Angie about Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie being stuck on a desert island.
My friend and I wrote a show called Jen and Angie about that. We performed it at UCB and LA and [New York] for two years, we took it to comedy festivals and it got a lot of attention. It was a blast and we got a lot of opportunities from it. That was definitely one of my wheelhouse for sure. It was so funny; we should bring it back, but they’re all married now. Weird.
What was it like to bring it to both coasts and what did you notice about a New York audience vs. a LA audience?
LA takes their celebrity gossip really seriously, so they didn’t laugh at the same things we love make fun of here in New York; they had a different reaction. But the show got more attention in LA since it was about celebrities. For some reason it was big in Sweden. The AP picked up our news story and we were on the front page of some Swedish newspaper, which was so weird! [Sarah laughs]
Awesome!! Did you get a copy of it?!
It didn’t. We only new about it because my sister was dating this Swedish rock star at the time who called her and said [in a Swedish accent], “Your sister is on the front page.” But I never asked him to keep it—I probably should have.
This is kind of random, but I read Mindy Kaling’s book, and she did a show in the City, Matt and Ben.
Oh yeah! We definitely did a wink to Matt and Ben; we put in a Matt and Ben joke. Here are two ladies doing a two-person show about two celebrities on a random island, we definitely did a wink to them. I ended up meeting Mindy Kaling a couple of years ago, I would always get to the final round of The Office auditions, so we talked about it once. She would probably not remember me.
While you were in LA you got to guest on some really awesome TV shows like, The Office and Arrested Development. Do you have a favorite guest appearance?
Being in the makeup trailer in Arrested Development. It was super top secret; you didn’t get a call sheet, you didn’t know what your lines were, they didn’t even tell you where to show up until hours before. So I was sitting in the makeup trailer and all of a sudden, like, James Lipton appeared, and Andy Richter, and Jason Bateman, and Judy Greer. I didn’t know who would come into the makeup trailer next. It was very exciting.
Well, now you’re currently making your Broadway debut in First Date. How did the job come about? What was the audition song that booked you the role?
I did the reading of it three years ago when another actress, who’s now super famous, dropped out at the last second. We have the same manager, so [my manager] was like, “Well you can’t have so-and-so, but Sarah will be fine!”
Everything worked out and I did readings of it for the past three years. I actually did Krysta’s role, and when it came to Broadway I knew they were going to be looking for names so I was like, “Hey guys, let me be the swing,” and my manager said, “No way.”
So, I’m like, “Okay, let me be the understudy?” and my manager said, “No way.”
So, I was like, “Okay well then can I at least audition for the sister?” And my manager said, “Okay.”
Thank God it worked out, I’m so happy to be here.
You play three roles that are very different from each other. How do you work on finding your characters?
The Groundlings and UCB training helped the most with this project, for sure. The Groundlings is all about character, physicalizing it, finding a voice, and making everything different and specific. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Groundlings helped me book that role. Then, they added a scene midway through previews where Lauren is talking to Casey about why she’s so damaged, and I thought now I have to be a real actor now and that’s definitely the BU stuff came in handy.
You get to sit at a table for a chunk of the show with you co-star. How do you stay engaged when you are onstage but you can’t pull focus, and do you get to talk to the other actor you’re sitting with?
Oh yeah. I’m not so sure we don’t pull focus. [Sarah laughs] We’re definitely talking the whole time and trying to make each other laugh and now we’re trying to make each other miss our cues and mess up. We’ll purposely try to trick the other into thinking it’s a different part of the show, which is surely mean and horrible. We’re thinking of starting a web series called: Don’t trust the Bs at Table Three. I’m starting live tweeting on Tuesday to give people a peek into what happened at Table Three. We talk about everything from Project Runway to doing imitations of other Broadway actors, it’s a very entertaining show going on at Table Three.
I would totally be fine with watching that for an hour and a half. It sounds fun!
I guarantee it wouldn’t be boring! [Sarah laughs]
How do you apply your improv training to your work onstage every night or does it come out naturally?
Absolutely. It’s live theatre so stuff’s going to happen and be different every night, and with improv, you don’t even think twice. Another rule of improv is you acknowledge when something happened, don’t deny is the second rule of improve. So, when someone forgets a line or someone says something really differently, you acknowledge it, or if someone’s giving a different performance one night, you adjust yourself to that. That’s where improv 100% comes in handy.
But I can be totally unprofessional. There was a woman was smacking gum with her feet up in the front row last night and I broke character and gave her a death stare.
Did you say anything to her?!
No, I was doing the song with Zac where I’m his mother and it’s very quiet and emotional. Then there’s this woman smacking her gum. So, before I did my last turn I gave her a death glare. She has such little self-awareness that she didn’t even realize that we were totally distracted. Watch her be the head of Warner Brothers or something. Just my luck! [Sarah laughs]
Aw no. Uggg, some of the stuff that people do with realizing how distracting it is can get crazy. Like, how do you deal with cell phones going off?
I really think that people think they’re at home watching TV, and there’s an invisible wall between us onstage and them, the audience—it’s just not true, we can hear everything: every candy wrapper, every throat clear, every gum smack. And we can see everything, too. There was this one lady who was wearing a neon sweatshirt we could always see her. I’m unprofessional about it because I’m like, Ugg I can’t believe those people! Let me give them the death state.
You just have to ignore them and do your job—and I’m getting better at it… You can’t ruin the show. You can’t let your emotions get in to way of giving a good performance to a paying audience.
Do you have a pre-show routine?
We’re so chatty and gossipy. By the time all seven of us get backstage, we circle up and check in on each other, Zac usually says a few inspirational words. There are a lot of spiritual and religious people in the cast, which is great, and they remind us to be so grateful and thankful and give people a good show because that’s why we’re here, and it’s nice to check in and remember that before each and every show. And then someone inevitably says something dirty.
That’s a great way to start the show.
If you had to play one of your characters for the full hour and a half show who would you want to play?
I think Lauren only because she can switch in and out of sketch and real. But I definitely have the most fun doing Grandma Ida. I imagine that would get tiring after one song.
If you had the opportunity to be miscast in any show whom would you want to play?
Easy! I would have loved to be Lillias White’s character in The Oldest Profession. She played this middle-aged tired prostitute and got to sing this show-stopping number about being a tired middle-aged prostitute. I think I could put my own little white girl spin on it.
What’s your current favorite Broadway show, besides First Date?
My friends are in Cinderella, Santino [Fontana] and Greg Hildreth. I thought it was delightful. I loved how Douglas Carter Beane made such a modern script but kept the feel of a classical Rogers and Hammerstein show. I loved it!
What’s your advice for aspiring Broadway performer?
Try to do what you do really excellently. Be nice to everyone. Have a life outside of performing because you’ll need to rely on it a lot in between gigs. Remember your own identity. Have a support team. And also, surround yourselves with people who know what you’re going through. Sometimes it is hard for parents or siblings who aren’t in the business to give you support or advice. At one point in your life it helps to have a roommate who’s pursuing what you’re doing so you guys can talk about this and that. That’s what I’d say for sure! ♦