(This post is a part of the Diversity & Inclusion blog salon led by Online Curator Jacqueline E. Lawton. Check out further Diversity & Inclusion interviews on Jacqueline’s blog. If you are interested in participating in this or any other Circle blog salon, email Gus Schulenburg.)
JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, tell me about the work you do as a theatre artist, practitioner, or administrator.
SARAH HABER: I’m a stage manager first, and sometimes a producer, dramaturge, or theatre-goer.
JL: How do you identify in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and heritage? How has this identity influenced the work that you do?
SH: I identify as Japanese American, a 3rd culture kid, and many other things. Who I am hasn’t effected what I work on, but it does affect the lens that I view that work through – who is hired or cast, the issues the work is trying to address, etc.
JL: How has this identity impacted your ability to work in the American Theatre? Have certain opportunities been made available to you owing to “who” you are? Have certain doors been closed to you?
SH: I’d like to think that all of the opportunities I’ve had have been based on my skill. Of course, I know this isn’t entirely true; people hire based on whom they know or who is recommended to them. That being said, I can think of only one instance when how I identify played a role in my participation on that project, and I had also actively tried to be a part of the project because of how I identify. However I have only just begun my career so there is plenty of time for doors to be open or shut based on “who” I am.
JL: Next, tell me about your experience in the USITT’s Gateway Program. What are your greatest takeaways from your time with your mentor/mentee and your cohort?
SH: The biggest thing I took away from the gateway program was a reminder that I’m not alone, that there are other people in this business who look like me. Before the program I had never met a stage manager who wasn’t white. Being mentored by Ruth, someone whose life and cultural experience has been so similar to my own, was incredibly affirming. She and the others in the Gateway program reminded me, as odd as it may sound, that I have a voice.
JL: Almost a year later, what are you doing in your career? What still resonates from the Gateway experience?
SH: What resonates the most is the idea that diversity in the theatre is something that shouldn’t just exist onstage, but also backstage. I’m currently finishing a stage managing internship on a Broadway show and at every point I’ve been more aware of how white the theatre remains. The other thing that resonates is the reminder that I’m not alone, that there are others out there in my profession who look similar to me or who have had similar cultural experiences. It makes it easier to look up and realize you’re the only person of color in the room. It makes me hopeful that someday no matter what room it is, I won’t be the only one.
Sarah Haber is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She’s currently finishing a stage management internship on Allegiance: A New Musical, opening on Broadway this fall. Past work includes Scenes From An Execution (Potomac Theatre Project), Devil Music (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The Wayside Motor Inn (Signature Theatre Company), Good Men Wanted, (Ars Nova ANTFest), If the Saints Arrive in Germany (Healthy Oyster Collective), We Are Samurai (Marrow’s Edge), Not Retarded (Manhattan Reparatory Theatre) Peer Gynt, The Good Mother, The Glass Menagerie (Sarah Lawrence College).
Jacqueline E. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. She resides in Washington DC and is a member of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena. jacquelinelawton.com