Interview with Sarah Shiner, Fresh Takes House Manager

Sarah Shiner
Sarah Shiner

Volunteers are an integral part of the WAM Team, and Sarah Shiner has dedicated her talents this season to being the House Manager for four of our five of our Fresh Takes Play Readings at No. Six Depot in West Stockbridge. She has some great insights into the how and why of volunteering, and what makes her experience with WAM special.

WAM THEATRE: How and where did you first learn about WAM?

SARAH SHINER: I first heard about WAM through their Artistic Associate, Molly Clancy. I had had an amazing time working with her at Shakespeare & Company the previous year, and when she told me about her work with WAM, I definitely wanted to be involved.

WAM: What inspired you to volunteer?

SARAH: If you’re passionate about theater, volunteering is such a great way to experience all the different aspects it has to offer. You get to have a taste of different jobs, styles, genres, audiences, etc., while promoting something you love. You get to be a part of the creation of a show, and the community it then creates with its audience, which, in my opinion, is a very special thing, no matter how long or short the run. It’s even more rewarding when the shows that you’re a part of benefit such a wide variety of people, both in the theater and outside of that realm.

WAM: Why volunteer for Fresh Takes?

SARAH: One of the things I love most about theater is how versatile it can be. It can reach everyone and speak about anything just by morphing into a different type of theater. It’s fun to do things on all ends of the spectrum, whether it’s on a stage with full effects, or basic and raw. Readings are also an incredible platform for new plays and playwrights to get their work out into the world and in front of an audience. No need for anything fancy: just a room, some chairs, and maybe a snack, and all of a sudden you have an engaging and inspiring afternoon. My personal experience working in theater has mostly been in productions, so I jumped at the chance to be able to help with (and then enjoy!) five different plays that I might not have otherwise been able to be a part of.

WAM: What has kept you with us all season?

SARAH: The thing that has struck me about WAM over the past few months is that everything about it is genuine. The enthusiasm for theater, for new plays, emerging playwrights, female artists, philanthropy…everything about it is sincere, authentic and dedicated. From on the stage, to backstage, and in the office. It’s very easy to work in that kind environment and become genuinely enthusiastic about the work and the mission as well.

WAM: How have you enjoyed the season? What’s been your favorite moment? Favorite play?

SARAH: I’ve been really impressed by the variety of the shows in the series so far. Each one of them is a standalone piece, but they work incredibly well as a part of a series, which is a testament to a good season line-up. Some of my favorite moments have consistently been right after the end of the first acts, just as intermission is starting. The audience is so engaged with the story that there’s a pause as they’re waiting for more. It’s always a wonderful moment to see that anticipation happening if you’re part of the production! So far, my favorite play has been Silence by Moira Buffini. It’s just so clever and well written, and had such a seamless combination of laugh-out-loud humor and poignant commentary…one of my favorite combinations. It started out the Fresh Takes season perfectly and really set a precedent for what this series would be about.

WAM: What have you learned and what has surprised you?

SARAH: Honestly, I’ve learned just as much as the audience at the talkbacks with the director and the actors at the end of each reading! I love learning the reasons behind certain decisions, what the actors’ thought processes were, or why the director did that particular staging. And in talking to a different audience each time, I learn a lot from peoples’ experiences and observations when they contribute to that discussion. I’m still surprised at every show by how differently people can experience the same play. Stay for talkbacks when you can, they’re fascinating!

WAM: Tell us about you…

SARAH: I was born and raised in Guilford, Connecticut and recently graduated from the University of Connecticut, where I worked with the Connecticut Repertory Theatre to get my degree. My family moved to the Berkshires a few years ago, so I had visited the area on and off, but it wasn’t until I worked in theater here last summer that I really got to spend a good amount of time here. I was lucky to stumble upon a nook of amazingly vibrant theater and art in the middle of the mountains! Right now, I’m interested in traveling and continuing to explore different aspects of theater and film, and would love to continue my education as a dramaturg and in acting.