Theater is a labor of love for one recent Virginia Tech graduate.
22-year-old Sarah Wylie started participating in theater when she was 16, and has been acting since. She pursued her interests while studying theatre arts and cinema at Virginia Tech, then her passion inspired her to establish two theatre companies.
After graduation, Wylie couldn’t find auditions in the area. Her love of theater and the New River Valley led her to produce her own show.
Her first show’s success encouraged Wylie to establish the theater company Open Air Shakespeare NRV. She said she started the company for people who are looking for a professional grade environment for performing art that is not musical based with a fair chance of getting in.
“I’ve always really liked Shakespeare, it’s classic, and it’s something that is not done around here,” Wylie said. She plans to eventually branch out to other classic plays.
Wylie also founded Miss Sarah’s Stage, a theater class taught at the YMCA for children ages five to 17.
“Kids have their own rhythm,” Wylie said. “You have to be able to build focus in them and allow them to still have their fun.”
Wylie said she hopes that the theater companies will become permanent fixtures in the New River Valley.
“She sets her mind to do something, she gets it done,” said Robert Smith, president of the New River Stage theater company.
Smith played Friar Francis/The Sexton in Open Air Shakespeare NRV’s production of "Much Ado About Nothing." He described Wylie as a helpful director and talented actor. Wylie said she has been in 45 shows and has directed about seven.
“The best directors are also actors,” she said. “People who have acted are able to relate to other actors better because you’ve been on stage; you know what its like.”
Though Wylie is pursuing directing and producing through her companies, she still relishes the roles on stage.
“Acting fits my personality — I like to be the center of attention,” Wylie said. “I like to be able to enthrall and entertain people. It’s fun; it’s a different world. It can be an escape in its own way, it can also be kind of trying.
“I want to continue to do the things I love as an actor because I want to keep growing. I’m passionate about teaching and about learning. As an actor, I want to learn and as a director, I want to teach."
Wylie relies on the other actors to help her balance her roles as producer and director.
She said one thing actors must learn is to trust each other. She teaches this through exercises that facilitate openness.
“The more you open up your mouth, the less vulnerable you are,” Wylie said. “We switch knowledge, and we create something really cool.”
Samantha Eberhardt is Wylie’s friend, assistant and fellow actor. Like Wylie, Eberhardt enjoys the feeling of being on stage.
“It’s amazing, seeing the audience pay attention to you,” said Eberhardt. “Its fun to be able to be someone else for a little bit, taking a break from yourself.