On the eve of the 2017 Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards we sit down with Sarah O'Connell to talk local theatre, Eat More Art Las Vegas, and inspirations.
VIM: Hello! With the Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards just a day away what are you most looking forward to at this year's 2017 Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards?
Sarah O'Connell: There are so many great aspects to this event that have me truly excited; some of them because they have been successful in the three years prior, and others because they are new to the Valley Theatre Awards. The awards show has always enjoyed highlights of the past season from incredibly gifted local performers, and this year is no exception. The performances will be as diverse as the great selection of shows that local companies have producedin 2016/17, with everything from Sondheim, to Lin-Manuel Miranda, to the slasher musical Carrie- with a little Opera, and body percussion in between. We are partnering with The Space LV, a new venue for us, and in incredible gift to local Las Vegas non-profit groups; and with support from local high-end production companies, there will be a few visual bells and whistles to add to the production value. This year, we are pleased to welcome a host of special guests and presenters from every part of the Las Vegas Arts scene, including arts advocacy groups, the Las Vegas Artists' Guild, the Liberace Foundation, Las Vegas Poets, and many more. It is more than a celebration of theatre, it is a celebration of the entire vibrant Las Vegas area Arts community.
VIM: The judging panel is made up of volunteers from the community and not just reviewers from the media. How excited were these judges to be part of the voting process for these years awards?
Sarah O'Connell: This is such a great way to make a difference for people by doing something they already enjoy- seeing shows! The Theatre often suffers from the misconception that it is an elitist activity. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the people's art, because, by definition, theatre must have an audience present, or it isn't an act of theatre. Live performance means that everything that happens on stage is very personally offered as a gift to the audience in that room, in the moment. The judges get a lot out of the connection they make to the experience, because their feedback through voting continues the conversation with the performers.
VIM: Las Vegas does have a great local theatre scene. Two local actor friends got me into to the theatre scene. Since then, I love going to watch live theatre. What was your introduction to live theatre?
Sarah O'Connell: Thank you to your friends! I always suggest that people turn their "Girls and guys night out" into a theatre night. When I was in 4th grade, I played a Turkey leg in a Thanksgiving pageant...maybe that's where my motto Eat More Art got it's start? The local theatre is full of trained talents that happen to be your next door neighbor. It is an excellent option for people who want to see a live show, but still have enough money to actually by your date or your kids some dinner, too. Many performers on the Strip work in the local theatres along other artists who prefer to focus on independent companies. We are one community in that respect.
VIM: Tell us more about Eat More Art Vegas. Along with theatre, you also cover dance and music?
Sarah O'Connell: "You are what you eat, so Eat More Art!" is a mantra of mine that informs my approach to life, because you can't give what you don't have. Theatre is my passion, because to create it, you need every discipline of the Arts to do the best work. It's perfect for Vegas. We all understand the joy of a great buffet. That is why we cover Dance, and Music, and next month we will be adding Poetry and Storytelling a well. Those are also acts of theatre, and they deserve more attention. Las Vegas has an incredible community of poets and storytellers to enjoy. EatMoreArtVegas.com was founded at first to make sure that cuts in local Arts coverage would not cut us off from our audience, but the vision has always been to do more than inform, it is all about inviting the audience to participate with their feedback, because it is THEIR theatre. Our critics are only one voice, and we want people to post their own ratings and comments on our reviews and listings, so that we can function as a kind of "Rotten Tomatoes" for local groups.
VIM: Whats next for you and Eat More Art Las Vegas?
Sarah O'Connell: There is a catch 22 with the Theatre: if you do your job right, it looks easy. But it takes a lot of time and resources to put on even a simple production. We are hoping to help others who have been dedicated to making Las Vegas a sustainable, healthy home for the Arts community, by facilitating more cross-discipline, company, and public agency collaboration for special events, shared work spaces, and promotional partnerships. Our mission is to show people that Art is for everyone, in all of it's forms, and in Las Vegas it's everywhere you look once someone points it out to you. We will continue to organize our "Meet and Greet More Art" events at local venues, recruit more judges for the Valley Theatre Awards, and expand the depth and breadth of our coverage for our rapidly growing group of followers. There is always room for one more seat at the performing arts table, and every member of our local audience is an honored guest. This year's Valley Theatre Awards are an invitation to dig in!