The Helpman and Green Room Award winning Sarah Ward spoke to us about how she ended up traveling to perform as both herself and her character, Yana Alana.
How would you describe yourself as a performer (or Yana Alana as a character)?
Its difficult to describe myself as a performer, it’s actually easier to describe my character Yana, I seem to be performing more as her than myself. What an odd thing to write, it’s a strange thing an alter ego, because of course I’m myself, but when I step into Yana I become the narcissistic, courages, charismatic, inappropriate, diva version of myself. I know I like to create deeply personal work, I use my character as a vehicle to express the personal as universal, to explore social and political issues through the eyes of this character who is not afraid to say what she thinks. I use clowning and satire to ease people into the content and make them feel safe, this invites them in rather than making them defensive. I like to think I create inclusive work, the more diverse the audience, the happier I am. Yana is big, bold, brave and unapologetic and a wonderful reprieve from my insecurities.
What made you decide to devoting your life to entertaining others?
I know it wasn’t for the money or the stability. I was a State gymnast when I was younger, when it got scary, I decided to quit, but I realised I loved the audience, I loved entertaining, so I decided to perform. I pushed myself in high school to do public speaking. I am an extravert and I love talking, so some people may find this hard to believe but I found that incredibly difficult, the shakes, the nausea, the constant need to wee, I couldn’t even see or hear. Later I would learn that I was having mild panic attacks, anxiety is something I keep at bay as best I can, it’s sort of followed me. I found I enjoyed the stage best when i was being a character, like when I played the lion from the Wizard Of Oz in year 10. It was after that show that I realised how I could effect people, move them, give them joy and hope. My parents didn’t try to stop me, more the opposite, so I set off to be a performing artists. It’s been up and down but mostly magical. I now find myself in cabaret, the perfect artform for me.
What was your ‘big break’?
Mmm, I’m not sure I’ve had a big break, that may come. I suppose the big moments are co-creating Sista She and performing in major Arts Centres, on tele and getting a lot of radio play. Then getting into Circus Oz and touring around the world as their ringmistress. Most recently being asked to perform in La Soiree and Finucane and Smith’s Glory box felt like a break as they are highly successful touring companies and I’ve always admired their work.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I go swimming, I read books, I have hot baths, I catch up with friends, I see theatre or dance or music, I write lists and cross things off, I meditate, I go through the record collection, read books, eat yummy food and I dance in the dining room. I mostly do these things with my partner Bec, we also dream up new shows.
When you left high school, is this where you imagined your life would lead?
Yes, but I also imagined children and a house and a husband. I’d still like to own a house, but that might come later, if I’m lucky. Children? mmm we’ll see, it’s certainly not going to happen accidentally so I’ll have to be sure. A husband is not on the cards, I’m in love with a woman, I never would have guessed that and marriage, even if it becomes legal for Bec and I, we’ve made a commitment never to get married but to grow old together just the same. I’m really proud of my life, I’ve had some pretty serious obstacles like mental health issues and cancer, but I’ve also had some pretty incredible opportunities. The thing I most take stock of is that I live in a time and in a country where I as a woman could carve out my own destiny, my path has largely been my choice and for that I am grateful.
photo credit: Her facebook