- Natalie Wisdom
Sarah O’Gleby, Broadway Veteran. Creative Director, Director/Choreographer.
[Interview Date: October 19, 2020]
The Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, Chick Flick the Musical, Frozen Broadway/National Tour (Associate) and more.
Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like for you?
I was in Hamburg, Germany for Frozen auditions but had flown over to Manchester, UK for my husband’s opening night of Back to the Future, the Musical. We woke up on Friday morning to a million missed calls from Disney and had to fly back to NY via four different European countries. Chris and I woke up together in Manchester and, strangely, landed within 30 minutes of each other at JFK, but via very different routes to get back. It was quite utter madness!
What was the week following March 12 like for you?
Between Chris and I, we had basically all of our jobs for the rest of the year cancel or postpone very quickly, and just looking at our bank accounts. And I was trying desperately not to freak out. I remember we had very dear friends of ours over for dinner who were in Broadway shows, and they weren’t freaked out at all. They just thought they would have a month off and then everything would go back to normal. But for Chris and I, our entire year had already shifted.
Did you anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
No, absolutely not. I don’t think anyone did. I was meant to choreograph my first Broadway show this year, which, of course, was disappointing. But nothing matters more than people’s health. I was heartbroken for all my friends and colleagues at Frozen Broadway, as they never had any closure of any sort when the show announced it would be closing.
What have you, personally, been doing over the past several months or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Well, I have a little one who is about to turn two, and he has been an absolute godsend and doesn’t really give you much time to think about much else, to be honest. Chris and I are very conscious that we wouldn’t have gotten this time with him, so we are soaking in every second with him.
How has your job as a creative changed since the pandemic began? What changes have you had to make and what decisions have you made, based on what’s happening?
I don’t know if it has changed much, since Chris, my husband, is a choreographer too. And we have been doing auditions via Zoom. (Neither one of us like that but very appreciative of the work.) We have rented a tiny cabin in Cape Cod on the water and are going into the city, when needed. We both feel like, ‘This is what we do. This is who we are.’ And we just have to be patient, whilst, of course, trying to pay the bills. We have just wanted to be outside every second we can, and our apartment is tiny in the city. We desperately needed space and nature to feel less anxious right now.
How has what’s happening in the world affected your drive to create? Have you felt a stronger urge? A lack of inspiration? Or has it stayed about the same for you?
I have good days and bad days. I’m sure-like everyone else. I have moments of so many ideas and am so lucky to have Chris to bounce those off, what is good and what’s not worth pursuing. Theatre has always been my base, but I have been creating ideas for other genres too, crazy all over the place with ideas! I do laugh at myself! But then there are the days when I’m petrified to ‘put myself and my ideas out there’. Chris guides me in these moments.
What has been the most challenging thing about the past months since the shutdown?
Not being with my family in the UK. We have lived here in NY for 12 years now and don’t always have all the time to spend with them and then, we did. But we were too nervous to travel, to be honest, and my parents are missing out on this really special time with Jonah, our son.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
Jonah, our little one. Chris was meant to have been away for work for months, and he got to have very special time with him.
What is your biggest concern right now, regarding the arts industry?
People losing hope. Actors, dancers, giving up their dreams. People giving up on New York, the most incredible place in the world!
What gives you hope?
Our community and history.
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
The people. That palpable feeling in the air. It’s like a drug. And LAUGHING!
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
An amazing memory for me was when I went to watch Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway a few years ago, and the show was being filmed for Lincoln Center. And Glenn Close wasn’t feeling very well, but the audience absolutely lifted her up and carried her through. Every second. It was astonishing to witness and be a part of.
What is the first thing you’re excited to do when live theatre is back?
Be back in the studio with everyone. To hug (if allowed to). To laugh, to make magic together.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Theatre will be back, better than before. And it will be worth the wait.
Favorite Broadway Musical: Billy Elliot
Favorite Broadway Play: Yerma (not technically on Broadway, but at the Armory)
Favorite Movie Musical: Ooh, so many. But I really love Grease 2! Haha.
Movie that you think should be a musical: Dark Crystal
Favorite dance step: I do love a low, skimming saut de basque to travel.
Dance Bag Staple: Something warm because NY Studios are always cold!
Favorite article of rehearsal clothing: I do love leg warmers!
Fosse or Jerome Robbins: Fosse
Michael Bennett or Agnes DeMille: Michael Bennett
Favorite Theatre Ritual: I love “Saturday Night on Broadway” when the PSM blasts an awesome tune across the system for half-hour to put everyone in the spirit!