Born in Alexandria, Virginia, and raised on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Sarah Rudinoff, a self-described “half-Episcopalian, half-Jew” has lived and worked in a number of North American cities. She has appeared in Negative Space and Richard Foreman’s Ontological Hysteric in New York City and in several new plays at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. For a number of years she has been based in Seattle. Sarah she has appeared in many of Seattle’s professional theaters including starring as Ruth in Wonderful Town and Hildy in On the Town at the 5th Avenue Theatre., as Yitzhak in the original Seattle production Hedwig and the Angry Inch and in her solo shows Broad Perspective (1998), Go There (2003) and in The Last State (2004), a piece about growing up haole (Caucasian) in Hawaii. I had the pleasure of directing her in a well-received concert version of It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman, where she managed to top Linda Lavin’s Broadway performance as the over-sexed Sydney. We have stayed pals and I am pleased to share with you our chat about her life, career and latest role as Smitty, the BFF of another Sarah, leading lady Sarah Rose Davis in the 5th Avenue’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, directed by the 5th’s Bill Berry, and opening Thursday, February 4, 2016.
DEH: You have gotten to play a few classic roles in musicals in the past including your memorable turn as Hildy in ON THE TOWN. Smitty seems like she could maybe be Hildy’s daughter or niece. What do you love about the role?
SR: Yes. Hildy and Smitty could definitely share a taxi ride and have lots to talk about! What I adored about Hildy, was that they let this classic “broad” type have a love story of her own. Smitty is more of the “best friend” role. However, they give her all the end of scene, comedic zinger lines. I realize these little scenes were most likely written to cover cumbersome set changes back in the day, but I’ll take the laughs! Smitty is the character who says what she thinks at all times. It reminds me of Dorine, the maid in Tartuffe who gets all the asides to the audience. Smart women who smell a rat- I love playing those kinds of roles.
DEH: Is,”Cinderella Darling” in or out of this production? Not a great song perhaps but you could make it sizzle.
SR: It is in. Bill and I spoke about this a few months before the show. The song was included in the last Broadway revival (with Daniel Radcliffe) but cut from the previous Matthew Broderick revival in the 90s. I don’t think it was cut because of the melody, which I think is really fun- especially in our production with Bruce Monroe’s sizzling new arrangements. It was cut because there are a few lyrics that make it difficult for modern audiences (“We want to see his highness, married to your lowness” was one I asked Bill if I could maybe tap dance really loudly over…). However, when you look at the show as a whole, the writers were satirizing everyone- ambitious men, greedy corporations, idiotic bosses, obsessively romantic women. It was written at a different time, but we have found a way to make it fun and make sense in our production. With a few previews under our belt, people’s reactions seem to be positive.
DEH: The How to Succeed… cast seems to be a smorgasbord of great Seattle talent situated in perfect roles and preview audiences are mad for it. Are you having too much fun?
SR: It really is a joy. Bill is great at casting from a wide net because he gets out there and sees a lot of theatre and not just musicals- I see him at On the Boards! (Adam Standley was a last minute replacement for Bud Frump and he comes from more contemporary plays and non-musicals- this is his first production at the 5th. He’s such a strong actor and has made Bud a deliciously bratty villain). Bill treats his cast as collaborators and trusts us to do our work, and he makes the room feel free to experiment and play. That is so important and doesn’t always happen when you have stress of the the machine that is a big musical.
DEH: A decade or so back you became a successful realtor yet still keep the artistic juices flowing. How do you juggle two such demanding careers?
SR: I always say it is an art, not a science. I don’t do a lot of 8 show a week runs anymore and sometimes that is a sacrifice but more often than not, I choose to see it as an asset. I get to do such a variety of work since expanding my creative reaches outside of the repertory theater model. I write my solo shows, do music at the Triple Door with the burlesque community, perform in modern dance pieces and get to re—occur in serial, gay television programs (Capitol Hill!). It takes a lot of pre-planning to do a show at the 5th, I refer my business when I am doing something like this and am really lucky to have the best clients in the world. And they love to come see me in shows and see me in my “other” life!
DEH: You and I both left Hawaii and followed our passions here but you have quite a few family members still there. Would you ever go back there to live?
SR: Yes, we are both local girls! As you know, Hawaii has such a massive pool of talent. Everyone I grew up with sang and danced and played music. I was raised on Kauai which didn’t encourage a lot of off-island dreams back in the 70s and 80s- it is better now with the internet and the world opening up. I don’t know if I could ever live full-time on the rock, but I do go back every year. I am lucky to have two siblings who live here now and my family visits all the time. I will have 15 family members flying in for the show – I get one supportive Ohana! (for those who speak da kine pidgin).
DEH: What about your upcoming projects?
SR: I have been working on a new solo play “NowNowNow” for the last 2 years, and it will premiere in March at On the Boards. The delightfully talented David Bennett (A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music at the 5th) is directing me and the wonderful Robert Aguilar who designed the How to Succeed… lights is my lighting designer.
Next, Sarah jumps into my non-patented take on the Inside the Actor Studio Q and A!
What is your favorite word? Aloha
What is your least favorite word? Exclusive
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Rigor. Compassion. Grand attempts. Nature. Forgiveness.
What turns you off? Cruelty
What is your favorite curse word? Mothefucker (said out loud or to myself, each time I have to do a “burpee” while working out)
What sound or noise do you love? The sound of the ocean while I am just drifting off to sleep.
What sound or noise do you hate? A cell phone going off at the theatre.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I think I would like to be a Detective Chief Inspector in England in the 70’s and 80’s. No wait I think I just want to play Jane Tennison in a remake of Prime Suspect.
What profession would you not like to do? I saw a woman on an island in Thailand once and she was breaking apart rocks into smaller rocks for gravel and I had a silent hope for her that a machine would come along that she could operate. So, no hard labor for old Rudinoff please.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? The good news is, you were wrong. I do exist.
Sarah and her cast mates, including leading man Eric Ankrim and co-stars Jessica Skerritt and Allen Fitzpatrick, open in How to Succeed… at the 5th Avenue Theatre tomorrow night February 4, 2016 and run through Feb 21. For more information and ticketing go to www.5thavenuetheatre.org.