Five Questions for Sarah Cameron Sunde

Sarah Cameron Sunde - photo by Geoff Green

Sarah Cameron Sunde - photo by Geoff Green

Name: Sarah Cameron Sunde
Title/Occupation:Organization:  Freelance Director / Associate Director, New Georges / Co-Artistic Director, Oslo Elsewhere
URL:  www.newgeorges.orgwww.osloelsewhere.org and right now,www.amishproject.com!


1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Northern California, in the Bay Area….Somewhere around the age of 16, I decided that I’d move to New York after college, and so that’s what I did! I graduated from UCLA, went traveling, lived in England for 7 months devising work, and then when my work permit ran out, I moved straight to New York.  I had one friend who lived in New York and didn’t know anyone who worked in the theater, but I got lucky. I met Susan who I work with at New Georges during my first week in the city. That was 9+ years ago now.

Somehow I’ve forged a way, directing plays and working with lots of talented folks, and kind of, well, making it happen. For me, it’s about trusting the gut, seeing how this thing can lead to that thing, and being pro-active. And sometimes, it’s about jumping off a cliff. I try to remind myself of that, that I want to keep jumping off the cliffs.

Right now, I’m in an amazing collaboration with the talented writer/performer Jessica Dickey. She asked me to work on The Amish Project with her in a moment when I was super busy last year, but somehow I knew that this collaboration was something I needed to do….and now it’s at Rattlestick!

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

There was a piece I saw in England during that year abroad, made by a group called Theater Alibi. It was the most live experience I’ve had in the theater, it was heart-wrenching and funny, imaginative and magical. I had never seen music integrated into a play in a way that felt so cohesive and real and not cheesy. It moved me. I walked out of the theater and started running down the street, literally jumping for joy. I’ll never forget that. I don’t remember the details of the piece, but I think of it often, as the kind of full experience I hope to give my audience.

And then of course, there are the plays of Jon Fosse, which I translate and direct here in New York. His writing has had a huge impact on my directing work as a whole…his work has taught me about silence, space and living in the questions.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I wish I had a better sense of time. I’m fascinated by time, and how it expands and contracts, and I use that a lot in my work, actually. But I am, unfortunately, not so skilled at keeping track of time when it’s steady. Still working on that….

Oh, and I wish I could speak at least 5 more languages. That would be ideal.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

There is no “normal” day. I think that one of the best parts about working in the theater is that every day is different. I’ve been lucky enough to somehow make ends meet with my directing, working with New Georges, and doing a few other random jobs here and there. I do the computer work best late at night, so I’m often late to bed, late to rise, but I kinda love it when I have an early morning meeting and have to get up.  I have tunnel vision, so if I’m in rehearsal for a project, that’s what I’m doing. No matter what, I’ll spend to try to half my time focused on my projects every day – either in meetings or research or reading or thinking. And I’m usually at the New Georges office for at least a couple hours every day – unless I’m out of town or in tech!

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

When I came to New York and vowed never to work a full time job, I guess that would have been the moment I chose art over work. I decided I could happily survive on top ramen if it meant that I could work part time to earn money, and spend the other part of my time pursuing my directing career.

Creating art is work. It’s the good kind of work, and we’re lucky to be doing what we love, but it is work. And so often it’s less structured than other jobs, which makes it difficult. We have to be self-disciplined. It’s hard that we all have to stuggle for the money, but I think it toughens us up and makes us stronger. It’s the best part of American theater and the worst part of it. When we create something, it’s a true labor of love, born out of the struggle.

I have this dream that after 10 years of working as an artist, a secret fairy godmother-type should appear to every artist and say, “you have struggled for a decade and now we’re going to make your life easier, here is some money to do what you want! Just don’t tell anyone that this is what happens” Somehow, I doubt my dream will ever come true.  But I do notice that some things seem to be getting easier…

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