Dr. Sarah Gabel will be performing in Lost in Yonkers as Grandma Kurnitz. The production, directed by Dr. Mark E Lococo, is Loyola’s first mainstage performance of the 2013-2014 theatre season.
As the chairperson and a professor at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts how do you feel about acting with students?
I feel like it’s a privilege. It’s an opportunity to interact and intersect with students in a way I don’t normally get to. To be involved in production but be responsible for just one small part of it, where usually as director I’m responsible for all of it. It’s great. I just have to worry about what I bring to the table to rehearsal every day and let the rest go. I’m so impressed with how professional the students have been in the process. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity and I don’t have that much time to pursue acting, so it’s always wonderful when I get that opportunity. It’s a first hand reminder of what I’m asking my students to do when I direct, and it’s always a bit humbling. I think it will improve what I do as a director.
Would you say that is the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced from Lost in Yonkers, that dual perspective of director and actor?
Yes, but also to play this character. She’s really hard. She’s out of my comfort zone. She’s not somebody I’ve done. I’ve never attempted a German dialect. That’s been challenging and fun to try to tackle. I guess I have played a few characters, but not since grad school, that are similar to this one in that her demeanor or personality is very hard. It’s always fun to become somebody completely different.
Have you ever acted on stage with your students before?
I have, because many years ago when the Vagina Monologues was first produced in colleges I worked with a group of students and performed with them. I did that for a couple of years here at Loyola. When I used to teach at the University of Alabama I performed also, but it was more common. We’ve done it here at Loyola quite a bit, but not as much with female roles.
What is it like being directed by your colleague Dr. Mark E. Lococo?
I think the roles are very clear. I totally respect Mark in every way. He’s a real fine director and creates a very safe rehearsal environment. He’s really sensitive to the actors and the stage managers in the room. He’s really clear with what he wants and instructions. He directs like the kind of person that he is. He’s very collaborative. There’s a few times I’ve probably felt like there’s an instinctual thing that comes as a director that I need to just put aside, but that’s what I’m saying. It’s nice to just be an actor. Mark and I have had a longstanding relationship. We were friends before we became colleagues, so I think there’s a mutual respect. It’s been easy. He is very sensitive to my situation.
How long have you worked for the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, and how do you feel it has changed since you first came to Loyola?
I started at Loyola in 1990. I was hired as a non-tenured track faculty for one year, then I was hired as a tenured faculty and that was in the Department of Theatre. I remained a faculty member in the department here until we merged to the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. The department has changed in every way. There is no facility that I interact with that is the same when I first came here. As a result of this change over the program went from what I would describe as, when I came on board it was more of an academic program, and now I would say it is equally professional and academic. The other big change that’s happened is that we’re so much more complex with our public programming. That complexity has demanded a greater level of organization.
What, do you feel, is the most rewarding part about working for Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts?
One of the most rewarding parts about working here is the student body. To work with students that generally care about issues of social justice and serving others, it’s not just talk. It is truly what, I think, the students bring with them and are nurtured to do more of and do it better. The other part that I really enjoy is that it is a very collaborative and caring faculty. The faculty really respects each other and genuinely likes each other.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your character or the experiences you have had with the production?
We’ve really moved along fast. There’s a shape to it already which Mark has really brought out of everybody. I’m going to be interested to see how people respond to this character I’m playing. She is described as cold, like steel. She even describes herself that way. She’s called “mean” in the play, and yet, I’ve been able to find her motivation for being that way, which makes me feel inside none of those things because I know that she’s doing what she has to for her family. She behaves the way she does for the betterment of her family. So it’s an interesting journey that way, even though those are not in any way the choices I would make as a mother.