How Berkshire Fringe’s Sara Katzoff Claims Her Place

Reserve your place now for WAM Theatre’s Claiming Her Place benefit on Sunday, June 30 at 7:00 pm.

Sara Katzoff is the Co-Founding Artistic Director of Bazaar Productions/The Berkshire Fringe. Here’s how she claims her place.

How do you define claiming your place?

A place in the world. A seat at the table. I would define a ‘claiming of place’ as a complete reexamination of the world and a complete reinvention of the table. Claiming place evokes images of trailblazing exploration, shattered glass ceilings and visceral leaps into uncharted terrain that invite us to redefine the route and challenge the horizon.

 Can you tell me about a time when you claimed your place in your profession?

I spent my junior year of college in California performing and training with an international theater company called Dell’Arte. While I was on the West Coast, I observed how Dell’Arte attracted a diverse community of patrons and supporters of all ages to their shows despite the rural setting and the limited population. This stuck with me because I had been observing just how much my own generation, my own peers back home on the east coast were not engaged as  audiences or patrons of the arts and of theater in particular because it was often too expensive and inaccessible. I wanted to  change that. If my peers weren’t invested in the arts, who would be in 30 years?

Shortly after returning home to complete my undergraduate degree, I also started noticing just how much new work and new voices in the performing arts were underrepresented in the mainstream theater culture of Berkshire county and the surrounding region. It was my belief  that a presence of high quality, financially accessible new works of theater, dance, music and multi-media performance by fresh, emerging ensembles  would have a unique ability to bridge the divide and inspire all audiences to think about theater in a completely different way. The seed was planted!

In 2005, I co-founded Bazaar Productions and The Berkshire Fringe. I was 21 years old and claiming my place as the leader of a new and extremely unique arts organization was a colossal challenge. It took years to convince colleagues and patrons that I was in fact an Artistic Director and not an intern. It still takes some convincing from time to time!  In nine years, we have presented and produced over 100 full-length original productions by nearly 500 artists and ensembles from all over the world. We have provided resources and recognition to the next generation of performers, devisers,  composers and choreographers and given their unique stories and modes of theater making a voice in our community.  Along the way, we have been met with some wonderful success (and a fair amount of glorious failure as well!)  There have been triumphs and trials, all part of a dynamic process. Through it all, we have continued to follow our passion, reinvent ourselves and work tirelessly to establish a vibrant and thriving center for new performance in the heart of the Berkshires.

What fictional, historical, or current public figure do you admire for her ability to stand up for herself?

 Too many to list but here is a quick sampling of those that are popping into mind right now:

Historical: Eleanor Roosevelt (specifically the choice she made to invite Marian Anderson to perform at the White House as a means of speaking out against segregation) Nelly Bly and Martha Gellhorn for their pioneering work as investigative journalists.

Current: Kakenya Ntaiya, who I just read an article about today, which led me to her amazing TedxTalk about women + education—and the education that she herself demanded. Elizabeth Warren, who eloquently and unapologetically asks the tough questions and doesn’t back down. Lena Dunham + Melissa McCarthy for their hilarious and ballsy responses to critics of their bodies.

Fictional: CJ Craig (Allison Janney) from The West Wing has always inspired me with her ability to exist in an entirely male dominated political sphere with wit, grace and humor. Arya Stark (Song of Ice & Fire) for being fierce, feisty and knowing who she is so completely.

 What advice would you give to women who are just starting to establish themselves in their careers on how to claim their places confidently?

Confidence, perseverance, flexibility, levity and presence are key. Collaborators, colleagues, peers and mentors are essential.

 Is there a quote–from a song, movie, book, poem, TV show, etc.–that seems relevant to the subject of claiming your place and facing challenges in your working life?

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
~Milton Berle

 “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”

~ Sarah Bernhardt

“Revolution happens in small rooms. I don’t think revolution ever happens on big Broadway stages. So our responsibility is to create extraordinary events in small rooms that infect the rest of the culture. Nothing happens in a flash in the pan. You have to give time to incubate ideas and things that people are trying out. What I’ve learned is that exposure through time to adventurous work changes cultures, changes people. It has a big effect. But the key is time. Time is the essential ingredient.

~Anne Bogart

“My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations”

~George Bernard Shaw

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

~Lucille Ball

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