Sarah Stoker’s decision to come to UC Berkeley was influenced by a fish. A goldfish, if you want to be precise. Sarah was visiting Berkeley from her home state of Hawaii, trying to decide if Cal was a good fit for her, when she visited some family friends and noticed their fishtank. “There was this enormous goldfish in a large tank, way bigger than any goldfish I’d ever seen,” Sarah shares. “And I learned that a goldfish can grow much larger than you might expect, if you put it in an environment where it is allowed to do so.” Deciding that the same could be said of her, Sarah decided to take the leap from close-knit island community to Cal’s campus.
Though Sarah embraced and enjoyed new situations in Berkeley—joining the rowing team, becoming a reporter for CalTV, pursuing acting in TDPS—she sometimes felt lost in the large campus. “My sophomore year at Cal I felt very small. Coming from an island where everyone knows everyone, I was looking for community. I needed to take small classes where I could get to know my classmates and do life with them,” she says. Due in part to her decision to take small classes, Sarah ended up in a directing class with TDPS Professor Peter Glazer, where she discovered her passion for making “art about what I know.”
For Sarah, “making art about what I know is what I find at the intersection of theater and performance studies.” She is interested in working in solidarity with other artists to make people think and respond, valuing diversity, questioning exclusion and inclusion, and exploring her experience in the world. “When I say that I need to create art that I know, what I mean is that I want to tell stories that respond to my own life and personal experiences. I am not implying that I know everything!” she emphasizes. “ I have so much more to learn. And knowing that fact has held me accountable to keep learning, researching and asking questions. I’m so grateful for the resources and teachers here at Cal that are pushing me to keep growing.”
Currently, Sarah is drawing on her life experiences to co-direct the workshop Politics of Spectatorship with Lara Nupert, a University of Glasgow student who is studying at TDPS for the year. The two students first met at the TDPS Undergraduate Welcome last fall. Sarah says, “We sat on the floor of the Playhouse and ate popsicles and met everyone, and at some point Amara Tabor-Smith [a TDPS lecturer] told us to ‘look around you. You are seen and you see.’ That was the start,” Sarah recalls. She and Lara then discovered they had two classes together in the fall: directing and Performance and Culture, taught by Sima Belmar. “The class we had with Sima was great because it got us thinking about our lives through the lens of performance, but there was so much more we wanted to explore. We decided to create Politics of Spectatorship so that we could look closer at how we are seen and how we see others in society.”
Politics of Spectatorship is a work in progress. “Thanks to TDPS, we have three weeks to develop the piece, 7 cast members, and a space,” Sarah explains. Lara is interested in exploring how people are seen and see through the lens of gender, while Sarah is interested in how people seen and see through technology, and together they have discovered overlaps between those two frames. The two aren’t sure what the final product will look like yet, but they are clear that it will be a performance piece and not a play. They plan to refine the rest of the piece in rehearsals through the use of exercises, free writing, physical movement, memories, focused people-watching and sharing experiences with their cast. “Right now,” says Sarah, “we’re focusing on finding the right lens. We don’t want to get lost in possibilities, even though there are many, many questions.”
The workshop Politics of Spectatorship performs March 16-17 in Zellerbach 170. Admission is free, but capacity is limited.