"Bewildered" is a Homecoming.
My first major show in Chicago was with Hell in a Handbag, "Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical", in 2009. I played a fan of Poseidon Adventure who also played Crewmember #1, and I also played Water for most of the show. I sang "Mama Says" from Footloose at my audition, but I don't remember much else except that it was at North Shore Baptist Church in Andersonville, blocks from where I was living at the time. I got the call that night from David Cerda saying I'd been cast, while I was having a party at my apartment (like a 24 year old does).
I was so nervous at our first rehearsal, and barely said anything to anybody, other than my lines. Steve Kimbrough was the first to say hello, and had made extra copies of the score to share. Steve is so unabashedly kind and generous, and he made me feel at home immediately in this crazy family. Soon he was giving me rides home, along with Derek and Jason, starting friendships that have defined my life in Chicago.
Meanwhile, our unsinkable choreographer Brigitte Ditmars worked with this very motley group of "good movers", gauging actors' dance skills and finding out how to best magnify their talents. Constantly conferring (and giggling) with our director, Matt Gunnels, the two had a friendship and creative partnership that is legendary. Brigitte and Matt pushed us to better ourselves every time, and set the bar of professionalism that I aspire to this day.
Matt's no longer with us physically, but he's totally with us in spirit, in every moment, it's incredible. With all these people in the room who have worked with him, who were his close friends, who share his gay, fabulous, nerdy, naughty sense of humor. He would fucking love this show.
Poseidon was a game changer for me. It was my first run of a play more than 12 performances - we ran for 5 months. It brought my first show-mance, which became my first major relationship. I went on for one night as an understudy for Ed Jones as Nonnie - my first drag role, which my parents saw (my mom took a fall on the stairs at the Chopin that night, and we had to take her to the hospital - long story). It established my first real theater family in Chicago, and I'm so glad to be back with them.
I'm so fortunate to be in a room filled with personal and professional heroes.
David Cerda is an amazing artist. It's a very specific art, and he's brilliant at it. The work he pours into his company is mammoth. Ed Jones is one of the funniest people I've ever acted with - everything he does in character is hysterical. I can almost hear him adding, "if only he was as funny when he's not acting". Michael Miller is a surgeon when it comes to creating and characters, and he commits so fully to his choices - he takes his comedy seriously. And his graphic design work on posters is nothing short of iconic - full of precious detail and clever af.
Brigitte Ditmars has long been the best choreographer I've ever worked with - she discovers each actor's hidden potential for dance and exploits it to the hilt. She drills like a Sergeant, and demands only that you work your ass off. It doesn't ever need to be perfect, it only needs to be better than the last time she saw it. Like she told us at our first rehearsal, she's "tough, but fair." As director, she is confidently steering this massive ship with zeal.
When Honey West is a freaking understudy on a show, you know it's fucking good. When Caitlin Jackson is belting her face off, you know it's fucking good. When you've got Steve Kimbrough playing straight, you know it's fucking good camp.
Not to mention the small army of insanely talented stage artists whose reputations do not necessarily come before them. Robert Williams is hysterical committing to his ridiculous dual role. AJ Wright is a wonderful partner for this (hopefully) ingenious Darrin gimmick. Betsy Morgan is soooo Elizabeth Montgomery - she just fucking gets it. They - and Abner, and the Magic Stage Hands, and god help me anybody else I'm missing in this huge cast - are going to be household names imminently.
The work is so good.
The music is a warm nod to classic musicals with a subversive edge that goes over the top and then some. The script comes off as a wild spec script for a spin-off origin story, written by Bruce Vilanch (except better). Did I mention David Cerda is playing Endora? Ed Jones as Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur!
My mom would have loved this show - her son gets to play Dick York! I don't have very many specific memories of watching Bewitched with her, but I know she was at least familiar with it, if not a fan. She loved this kind of show, the wholesome family comedy - and she'd love the subversive musical take on it. Even if she might not "get" men dressed as women.
I'm very proud of this show. It's such an escape from the shitshow that is our current national spectacle. I love to make people laugh, and I love to sing - the atmosphere of a musical, the energy of the live audience. It's why I do this.
We're just at the beginning of this journey, but so far, it's a good one.
It is a new year, and I am focusing even more on my goals than ever. Which is why I'm here, updating my website.
2016 flew by, here are some headlights:
2017 has started with a lot of change, which I am very excited about, and will update very shortly. Thanks for reading!
Boy, has it been a busy Spring! After closing Ten Dollar House in January, I went right into Lester's Dreadful Sweaters at Lifeline Theater. It's a very clever children's musical about a boy who despises the knitwear of his Cousin Clara. I play the Father, Ben (a schoolmate of Lester), a Bandit, and a Clown.
What I'd thought would be just another children's show, actually became quite the challenge. The music was surprisingly dark, and it took some getting used to the rock-and-roll style. Playing multiple characters, I had to do several quick-changes and come up with specific, distinct characterizations. Finally, this show moves very fast, involving all sorts of props and set pieces - there turned out to be as much choreography between the actors backstage as there was on stage. Our director Heather Currie was very collaborative and insightful, and helped the five of us actors gel and create an ensemble.
Meanwhile, I've finally completed the Improv track at iO, and am currently in Graduation Shows on Sunday nights! I've had such an awesome time working with my class, discovering new and usually dirty-minded scenes and characters. Last week I played a bee exorcist, a schoolchild who doesn't really know what a lesbian is, and the personification of a wish. Until recent years, I've found so much security in working with a script - it's great to be free of that, and confident that I can create characters and scenes instantaneously without the need of a writer.
I'm trying to keep myself relatively free for the spring - I've been in rehearsals or shows consistently for seven months. Of course, there were a couple opportunities I could not pass up. On April 24, I'll be participating in the staged reading of a new musical "A Woman Onstage" as part of Pride Films and Plays' Gay Play Weekend at Center on Halsted at 4pm, the same day of our last performance of "Lester's Dreadful Sweaters" at Lifeline. In May, I'm excited to head up to Mineral Point, WI to reprise my role as Bob Neal in "Ten Dollar House" - that show was such a watershed moment for me as an actor, and I am really excited to reunite with the cast and crew and bring the show back to life in its' historical setting.
Finally, I've written a short piece for myself and my frequent collaborator/best friend Marissa Chastain that I am excited to shoot at the end of the month with Yadhira Arroyo. I've been mostly focusing my creative talents toward the stage lately, so it will be nice to return to film. I'm excited to take the experience of the last several months and translate it to a different medium.
Other than that, I'm getting by just fine. I'm working in HR for a fantastic moving company. I absolutely killed "Love Shack" and "Psycho Killer" at Karaoke last night with my Nothing Special peeps. NSP just opened a fantastic production of "The Rise and Fall of the Mad King of Scotland", so we had cause to celebrate. I've also been able to see a couple other awesome plays: "D.O.A." at Strawdog, and "The Misanthrope" at Piccolo Theater. What a joy to see the hard work of your friends and peers.
Advancing confidently in the direction of my dreams.
Well, they like me. They really like me.
As uncomfortable as this feels, I need to share some of the fantastic things people have been saying about my performance in Ten Dollar House. I've never received many reviews in the past, and these are particularly glowing, so here goes:
"The real star of Ten Dollar House is Sawa, whose comic timing and aloofness mingled with vulnerability imbues the entire production with warmth and heart." --Clint May, Chicago Theater Beat
"As Neal, Sawa carefully and honestly keeps his performance from veering into caricature even with all the overly witty and sarcastic quips in the script." --Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
"Scott Patrick Sawa is a most commanding force as Bob Neal. Mr. Sawa manages to capture both Neal’s eccentricity and artistic side, while still finding Neal’s vulnerability and quieter moments." --Colin Douglas, Chicago Theater Review
Obviously, it's been an honor to work with an established Chicago company like Pride Films and Plays, as well as my extremely talented castmates, crew, designers, writers, and director. The best though has been sharing this story, a slice of Midwestern gay history, with the audiences. They've been the best audiences I've ever had, and I'm so proud to have been a small part of Bob Neal's legacy. This has been a dream.
And now, onto the next one, Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, at Lifeline Theater - we begin rehearsals tonight! Cheers!
For the last several months, I have had the profound honor of working on the play Ten Dollar House for Pride Films and Plays. Easily the toughest role I've ever took on, I play Bob Neal, an interior decorator in 1930's Wisconsin, who falls in love with his handyman while restoring historical buildings. It's an amazing and true story about a committed relationship between two men in a time when being gay was strictly taboo. We follow Bob and his partner Edgar as they fall in love, open a antiques shop/teahouse/restaurant, weather the economic downturn, and figure out how to create a lasting relationship in a time when there was no such thing for men of their persuasion.
Working with Michael Graham, Joe Anderson, Tom Chiola, Jean Marie Koon, and Mindy Barber has been a dream. Michael is a director of great nuance and insight, and helped me mold my performance into something grand yet subtle. Joe has been the best stage partner I've ever had - passionate and fearless in his dedication to the role. Tom, Jean Marie, and Mindy have been a complete pleasure to work with, and have challenged me to dig ever deeper into this character and his relationships. The crew of this show too has been invaluable: our stage manager Albert "Beep" Trefts with his precision and professionalism, our ASM Alicia Crook always being in the right place at the right time with a prop or costume piece, our costume designer Joshua Allard with his genius attention to detail in costuming and his endlessly deep knowledge of period style. Our designers Sarah Lewis (set), Kallie Rolison (Sound), and Aimee Warshal (lights), and Joshua (costumes, of course) has created a beautiful world to live in and explore. And our producer David Zak has been so supportive and helpful through this entire process, it's been an honor to finally work with him.
Finally, Martha Meyer and Rick Kinnebrew, the writers who brought this story to life so brilliantly, with such poignance and humor. I am forever indebted to them for entrusting me with this role. This is such a wonderful story that speaks to today's issues, while shedding a light on lesser-known rural gay history.
Working on this show has helped me get through one of the worst periods of my life, following the death of my mother. It has given me a greater purpose than simply showing off my acting skills; to share this true story that honors the past while inspiring today's audience has been such a blessing. As an actor who's somewhat uncertain of what the future may hold in terms of a career, it has been cathartic to play Bob Neal, a man who's encountered similar uncertainty in his business and personal life, and has gotten through that uncertainty and the other obstacles that have come his way. It's not always perfect, and he makes mistakes along the way - hell, things that he might regret for the rest of his life. But he sticks to his principles and his goals, and he created something that lasted.
As an artist, I want to create something that lasts, build my own small empire. I want to be my own version of Bob Neal.
We have 8 more performances. Audiences have been so enthusiastic about the show, I received some great feedback from peers and critics, and I even received my first fan mail! As with my Mom, all I have is love and gratitude and respect for those who have made this show possible. Love, Respect, and Gratitude. For always.
My Mom passed away a couple of weeks ago. It has been, and continues to be, the worst experience of my life. Granted, my life has not seen much tragedy, so don't feel too bad for me. But it still sucks. It sucks that I won't be able to hear her leave a message on my phone. "Hi Scott, it's just Mom..." On the other hand, now she never has to miss any of my shows, and she can see my career blossom from a front row seat.
It's been easy to fall out of focus with my career, but I think it's time to get back on the horse. I shot my first industrial two weeks ago - my first paid gig for an agency, finally. I'll be shooting a commercial next week as well. I begin rehearsals with Pride Films and Plays for Ten Dollar House November 15th, which will mark a good change of pace from the zaniness of Nightmare in Paradise. Meanwhile, Nothing Special is in a position to expand greatly, and that's a very exciting (if a bit precarious) place to be in.
I was recharged when I was invited to participate in Pride Films and Plays' Simply Sensational benefit last Monday night. We performed two scenes from Ten Dollar House as part of a program that included the AMAZING Alexandra Billings, a beautiful costume parade by John Nasca, and so many other talented performers. At the end of the night, Alexandra performed "I Don't Care Much" from Cabaret, which transitioned into "Creep" by Radiohead. Cabaret and Radiohead are two of my very favorite things, so I was GEEKING OUT, and she sang the hell out of those songs, reminding me what live immediate performances can and should be. A friend said she "casually blew the roof off the building" - no doubt.
Time to get to work and do the things I want to do. I'm doing it.
We just started rehearsals for Nightmare in Paradise 4: A Spooktacular Musical Extravaganza Adapted from the First Folio by Brian Rohde by Brian Rohde. As Rohde would say, "You guys, this show...". It's going to be so good. The script is stellarly silly, the cast is CRAZY talented, the music is catchy and hilarious, the choreography is some of the most fun dancing you will ever see. You need to see this show.
Opening Oct. 12 at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park, through Oct. 31.
I'm also participating in a fundraiser reading this month of Pride Films and Plays' upcoming production Ten Dollar House, in which I play Bob Neal, an architect in 1930's Wisconsin who falls for his handyman. It's a touching and true story, and I'm looking forward to working on this new play!
The Lang House Fundraiser for Ten Dollar House happens on Sept. 27 from 2pm-4pm at Lang House (7421 N. Sheridan Road). There will be a full reading of the script at the Evanston Library on Nov. 14. Finally, the play will open January 7 at Piccolo Theatre and fun through Jan. 31.
Keeping busy, and chasing that dream!
I've had a busy week, working as an actor! Living the dream!
On Sunday, I filmed a short with Abraham Werewolf, a local theater/multimedia company. I'm playing Tim, an everyman corporate cog struggling to finish a report for his boss, who's aided by Ninja Hand, literally a hand dressed as a ninja. It was a really fun shoot, and I'm expecting to have great footage to add to my reel. Their previous "Hand" short film, Fingers of Fury, was featured on Funny or Die, and they plan to create a series involving my character Tim and the Ninja Hand.
Yesterday, I got paid for extra work on a student film. I was playing a driver picking up the main character. Three hours, in and out, very basic stuff: move car out, drive car back in, repeat repeat repeat. It was great to work (even in a mechanical tertiary role) and even better to get paid for it.
Next Monday at 7pm, I'll be starring in Monday Night Live at iO with my friend Marissa Chastain and directed by Michael McCarthy. The hour-long show is written by the iO SNL Sketch Writing class, and rehearses only 12 hours in the week before the performance. Since SNL is certainly a personal artistic touchstone, working on this kind of project is definitely a blast.
Then, starting Sunday, I'll begin rehearsals for Nightmare in Paradise 4: A Spooktacular Musical Extravaganza Adapted from the First Folio by Brian Rohde, by Brian Rohde. I'll be reprising the role of The Bellhop, probably my favorite role of all time. He's spooky, creepy, and screwed up, in all the right ways. Playing him is such a blast, and I can't wait to get him in front of an audience again!
So I've been a bit negligent of my website for some time, I'm sorry to my adoring fans. This changes today. Allow me to get you up to date.
I will be reprising my beloved role of the Bellhop in Nothing Special Productions' upcoming Nightmare in Paradise 4: A Spooktacular Musical Extravaganza Adapted from the First Folio by Brian Rohde by Brian Rohde. Performances begin October 12th at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park. We will have them rolling in the aisles through October 31.
I've got a leading role in a play produced by a major Chicago non-equity company, that will be playing in January 2016. I'm not sure if it's been announced, so I'll keep a bit mum on it. But I'm excited!
After leaving my law firm job last June, I've been driving for Uber and hosting at iO (Formerly Improv Olympic). This has been awesome.
I recently performed at Mary-Arrchie's notorious Abbie Fest 27 with my buddies at Nothing Special, hosted a birthday bash for Lynn Reidl, and will soon be seen in a series of shorts produced by Abraham Werewolf.
Keeping busy. Living the dream.
In keeping with our promise to release a new video at the end of every month (and our preference to ignore the month of March), we released our wittiest and twistiest episode yet, "The Great Debate" on April 30. Who would you vote for??