BWW Spotlight Series: Meet Sascha Vanderslik, a Native Australian Who Calls The Group Rep Theatre Company Her New Home
With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series on Broadway World which features interviews with some of the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the Arts alive in the City of the Angels. And just like all of us, I wondered how they are dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved. This Spotlight focuses on Sascha Vanderslik, a native Australian who calls The Group Rep Theatre Company her new home.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?
Sascha Vanderslik (Sascha): I am Australian born and bred and grew up in the theatre. My Mum is an incredible singer with her band Organic Joe (https://www.facebook.com/OrganicJoe.Official/) and she did musicals when I was a kid, so I spent my childhood watching her perform. I would sit backstage and watch the actors put on their make-up and costumes, completely enthralled by the magic they were creating and then would go home and make up my own plays with my toys. Then one day they did Little Shop of Horrors and my mind was blown. Seeing that show changed my world and suddenly I realized how versatile and fun the stage could be.
When I was 12, I co-founded a theatre company in my home town since we didn't have a lot of theatre available for youth. So we made it ourselves and wrote plays that dealt with youth issues such as peer pressure and drugs. I took what I learned in the years with this company and I used it in my career. For me, the best art will always challenge you while it entertains you.
Since living in the States I've been focused more on film and TV work and building my credits. I felt something was missing though, and the last three years have been focused on reigniting my first love since theatre soothes my soul and there is no greater rush than performing on stage. I did two plays with the Manor Theatre Company in 2017 and have been a member of The Group Rep Theatre Company for a little over a year, during which time I have been involved with multiple productions at GRT. And I am pleased to announce I was just voted onto their Board of Directors as the 2nd Vice President.
(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?
(Sascha): When the shutdown started, we were right in the middle of rehearsals for London Suite which is the next Main Stage production at The Group Rep.
(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?
(Sascha): The Group Rep is such a fantastic company and we are lucky that both the Artistic Director Doug Haverty, and the Executive Director Bert Emmett, are incredibly transparent with the membership. There had been multiple discussions before the shutdown started about what the process would be. We had also had discussions with our Producer Aly York and Director Doug Engalla, both of whom really made it their first priority to make sure the cast were comfortable and felt safe while rehearsals were still happening. As soon as the shutdown started, we received communication from Doug and Aly explaining the situation and that we would be postponing rehearsals.
Once the shutdown happened, we have had regular communication from our Director Doug to check in and see how we are doing. Bert Emmett and Doug Haverty are also in constant contact with the membership to give them updates on what's happening, and we will be having Zoom meetings with the membership in the future.
(SB) Most theatre companies are going that same route for now, and all are trying to figure out options for their next steps. Do you know if plans in place to present London Suite at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?
(Sascha): At this time London Suite is postponed and not cancelled, and the plan is to open it as soon as it is safe to do so. We are rehearsing weekly on Zoom, which has been different and a lot of fun. We are a family and it's great to see people even if it's only on Zoom. Of course, we are only able to rehearse lines but it's nice to keep everything fresh in our minds so that when the time comes, we can hit the ground running.
(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
(Sascha): This year I am co-producing Nine Winning One Acts at The Group Rep. It was supposed to open in June, and we would be heading into rehearsals right now if we were able to do so. This festival has now been postponed and we don't have a date yet for when it will open. My Co-Producer Helen O'Brien and I have been hard at work reading all the submissions and narrowing down the plays so that when we get the green light, we can head into auditions and get the festival up on its feet.
I'm also in two staged readings that are postponed: the first, Baby With the Bath Water, is going to be completely staged and we are going to be starting Zoom rehearsals for that soon. The other, Ouartermaine's Terms, is just postponed until it is safe to open.
Lastly, I am in a hilarious new play, The Canary by Amy Sullivan, that is part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which has been postponed to October. So for now, rehearsals are postponed. This is such a fun play and I can't wait until it can be shared with the world.
(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
(Sascha): I am lucky that I still have projects keeping me busy, and rehearsals for London Suite have been such a bright light in these times. I've also been participating in the open call self-tapes that different casting offices have been doing. I also have some very talented friends that have been doing Zoom table reads for projects they have written.
(SB): While it's true the online theatre experience is not quite the same as being in a theater for a live performance, it certainly is keeping us creatively busy. Any thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?
(Sascha): This is such a hard time for our community and it warms my heart to see how we have all banded together. The Arts are so important to the world and we will make it through these dark times. It won't be easy and we don't know what the other side looks like, but we will make it through together.
And of course, the Theatre community is struggling right now and we need your help. Most of the small non-profit theaters are held together by a membership of volunteers, so without ticket sales we are struggling to survive. And since Art is always there to help people, in these dark times Art needs some help in return. Like so many other theaters, we need as many donations as possible. And while it has been incredible how many people have already donated, we still need more help. To donate directly to The Group Rep, you can go to https://thegrouprep.com/show/donations. Another place to donate is at gofundme.com/savenohotheatres.
Please stay in touch as we all work together to support our vibrant L.A. Theatre community! You can find me on Instagram @saschavanderslik or at thegrouprep.com
1. Sascha Vanderslik Headshot by Joe Funk Photography
2. Amy Sullivan and Sascha Vanderslik in MATT AND BEN at The Manor Theatre Company
3. Michael Robb and Sascha Vanderslik in DESTINY AND DAMAGE at The Group Rep
5. Cast and Crew of LOOSE KNIT at the Group Rep
6. Sascha Vanderslik after going on as Liz in LOOSE KNIT at The Group Rep