Sarah Stiles is currently offering one of the most comedic performances of the season in the laugh-out-loud, Tony-nominated new musical Tootsie, based on the film of the same name, at the Marquis Theatre. Stiles plays struggling actor Sandy Lester, a role that earned the artist a Drama Desk Award nomination as well as her second Tony nomination. The gifted actor was previously Tony-nominated for her work in Robert Askins’ Hand to God, and her other theatre credits include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, and the Public Theater production of Into the Woods at the Delacorte.
We recently asked Stiles to pen a list of her most memorable theatregoing experiences; her responses follow.
Jessie Mueller in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever on the First Day of Rehearsals
She opened her mouth, and the room buckled at the knees. I got to see a star being born right in front my my eyes.
Betty Buckley and Christian Borle in Elegies
My manager Bryan took me to this when we first started working together. We didn’t know what it was. We sat center second row. It was like we were onstage with the actors. The show was so funny and then went so deep, and by the time Christian Borle and Betty Buckley had their duet the two of us were sobbing in what felt like a fully lit seat on the stage. It was a real bonding moment for us.
Here Lies Love at the Public
Ruthie [Ann Miles] and I worked together at Avenue Q at New World. She was a cover for Christmas Eve at that time. She was so talented but also kind of wacky when she would go on. You never knew what to expect. She performs from such a raw and instinctual place, you can’t anticipate what she’s gonna do. The one thing that was always consistent was strength and power. Seeing her in Here Lies Love at the Public was jaw-dropping awe for me. I had never seen her do anything but Q. She is truly one of the most gifted performers I’ve ever seen. She pulls energy up from the earth and cultivates it in her belly and then serves it up on a golden platter for the audience to devour.
Who’s Your Baghdaddy? at St. Luke's Theater
A friend got me a tix to see Olli Haaskivi in this show on their final performance. It is still, to this day, one of the most thrilling theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. I laughed so much, I cried so much, I ate a doughnut. It was incredible.
Into the Woods on PBS
Does this count? I feel like it counts. I wore this tape out. I watched it daily for years. I studied Joanna [Gleason] and Bernadette [Peters] and Danielle [Ferland] and Chip [Zien] and everyone and fell so hard for musical theater. I got cast on my birthday many, many years later by James [Lapine] and Stephen [Sondheim] for the Delacorte production and basically could have died then, ’cause nothing will ever feel more special than that.
Our Town, directed by David Cromer
Perfection on all levels and then....the bacon. It was all just too much to take. Heart explosion. Dead. Died.
You Can’t Take It With You
Such a masterpiece. Scott Ellis directed the most gorgeous, perfect production and David Rockwell with that set! And kittens! Joy. That entire production was total joy.
Lucy Thurber’s Killers and Other Family
Here is another play that wrecked me. I had to sit in my seat for a very long time after the curtain call with lights up and everyone leaving. I was sitting, crying, processing the brave performances and beautiful play. Shook.
Hairspray: The Whole Cast but Especially Kerry Butler
I saw this show in previews while I was at AMDA, having just moved to New York City from a small town in New Hampshire. Kerry was hilarious, adorable, and awkward all at the same time and a belting machine, and I wanted to be just like her. When she was onstage, my eyes were on her, studying her brilliance and hoping one day I could play a role like Penny and do it with as much charm and detail as she did.
Let the Right One In at St. Ann’s Warehouse
Bad-ass vampire girl doing the most incredible fight choreography. The set and lighting were so stunning. It was scary and moving and beautiful. I went into rehearsals for the Broadway production of Hand to God a few months later, and I asked our fight choreographer, Robert Wesley, if he could add some fight moves for Jessica, but alas she was a lover, not a fighter.