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Sarah A. Sherman ’09

By April M. Van buren, Crimson Staff Writer

With a mother who teaches costume design and a former set designer for a father, Sarah A. Sherman ‘09 was probably always fated to be involved with the theater in some way. As one of this year’s recipients of the Jonathan Levy Award, which recognizes “the most promising actor or actress at the University,” it’s clear that her genetic predisposition for the stage paid off.

Growing up in New York City, Sherman would spend long hours after school with her mother in the costume shop. When she started high school at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn, she began taking acting classes and performing in shows.

When she got to Harvard, though, Sherman decided not to participate in the theater scene. She opted out of Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s Common Casting and spent her time with classes and adjusting to a new school. Worried about the shows’ intensive rehearsal schedules, Sherman says, “I didn’t think I’d have the time.”

She spent her freshman and sophomore years exploring other extracurriculars and interests, but she always felt that something was missing. Despite the great friends she had made, she says, “The search for the passion thing had been getting me down.”

It wasn’t until her junior fall that Sherman decided she would give acting a chance. She auditioned for Common Casting and was given the role of Jackie in “The Art Room,” a romantic comedy set inside of a mental hospital. “It’s a funny play, but it’s also poignant,” Sherman says of her first Harvard production.

Playing Jackie, a “particularly deranged woman,” was a struggle, but the experience was a rewarding one for Sherman. She finally felt that she had found her niche at Harvard. Her directors for the show, Julia L. Renaud ’09 and Renee Pastel ’09, were two of the reasons she felt so excited to be involved again. “If they hadn’t been these phenomenal women and phenomenal directors, I don’t know,” Sherman says, “I think things would have probably been different.”

After “The Art Room,” Sherman went on to have roles in “The Vagina Monologues,” “Cloud 9,” and “Henry V.” Her favorite role, though, was as Dora in HRDC’s 2008 Visiting Directors Project, “The Hyacinth Macaw.” Though a linguistically difficult role, Sherman counts it as her favorite production. “It was emotionally challenging for me,” she says, “and more than anything Marcus Stern is a totally incredible director.”

Sherman describes her time in Harvard theater as “hugely, hugely” influential on her overall college experience.

“It’s been a really important creative outlet and a space where it’s work and I take it really seriously, but it’s also a break.” A History major, the stage provided a welcome interruption from thick textbooks and the dusty stacks.

Most of all, though, theater was a chance to do something she really enjoyed. Though her parents occasionally worried about how much time she was spending on the stage rather than on homework, to Sherman, her time on the stage was definitely not a waste. “I would argue that that time is incredibly important to holistic well being, which is something that Harvard students forget about.”

—Staff writer April Van Buren can be reached at amvan@fas.harvard.edu.

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