Spotlight on Sarah Zematis

by admin on April 26, 2013

SarahHeadshotSome people are just naturally funny. Sometimes, you meet someone and you instantly think “Damn. That is one funny mother.” That is Sarah Zematis. And here she is…

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What led you to writing for Listen To Your Mother Chicago?

 I learned about the show last year through a friend and was so disappointed that I couldn’t audition. Well, I could have auditioned but I had a conflict – I birthed my 3rd child on the day of the performance! So Listen to your Mother had to be put on hold while I became a Mom again. This year, it nearly passed under my radar, being a busy mom of 3 but my friend and last year’s cast member, Megan Stielstra, pushed me to submit a story and I am thrilled that she did! I feel it is very important to have an outlet for myself that is just for me. It preserves my sanity and shows my kids that Mom is more than a chef and a chauffeur. And I am thrilled to be linked to this vibrant clan of women. I foresee some real lasting relationships and tons of inspiration coming out of my association with this group of ladies!

How do you feel about the show in general?

Warm and fuzzy.

  How long have you been writing?

 I have my BFA and have been performing and directing around Chicago since graduating from undergrad, many moons ago. But, when my 2nd child was born, I had no energy or brain space for my theatrical projects, which mostly took place in the evening. (the need for sleep won out over my creative needs temporarily). When #2 turned 2, I really felt the void and turned to writing  as I could do that on my timeline. And stories seemed like a natural outlet, as I have a ton of stories to tell. I auditioned for 2nd Story and was accepted into their collective. I fell madly in love with their style and their mission to create community through stories. I love writing the “what happened” of my stories but also being challenged to dig deeper for the “what is it really about”, aka what is the universal truth or lesson of this specific story.

 What do you typically write about?

 I write personal narratives – the kind of stories you would tell a friend over a glass of wine. My goal is to elicit a “that reminds me of the time I ____” response, hence giving you the opportunity to share YOUR story – the 2nd story!

 Where do you write?

 I have a podcast of a performance at 2nd Story.com. It is entitled “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” .

 Have you ever performed on stage before?

 Since this is my wheelhouse, I have countless tales on this subject.

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My earliest theatrical memories are of seeing the Broadway tour of Annie and immediately heading home and casting it with neighborhood kids for a backyard production. It was epic! As my father would tell you, I have been performing, both on and off stage my entire life. (personally I think he is the dramatic one!) I received my theatre degree down in the cornfields at Illinois Wesleyan and moved up here to the big city. Some of the most memorable and fun times include my summers during college, performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire and fronting a big band, singing the music of the Andrews Sisters at Green Dolphin Street.

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The real job of an actor is to audition but sometimes just getting into the audition is a ton of work. Like this one time, back when the musical Rent was a big deal, they were coming to Chicago to find their Broadway replacements. I knew this audition was going to be a mob scene since they didn’t take any appointments. (they do this sometimes to also create media buzz, like “look how many people showed up – it must be a big deal!”) But it was March in Chicago and COLD and I knew they were going to make us wait outside, which would be no good for my pipes. So I concocted a plan. I printed up a sign-up sheet and went to the audition spot at midnight. I had put my name and a few friends because I couldn’t leave them standing out on the tundra. And then I went home to sleep. I swung back by around 6am, just to see if my diabolical plan was working and, sure enough, there were at least 30 huddled masses out there waiting and they had all signed up. Perfect! Back home to my warm bed.

Skip to 10am, when the auditions were to begin. One of the auditors came out and screamed, “This list means NOTHING! The list means NOTHING!!!”. My friends began to sweat – “What if we get in trouble? Maybe they won’t let s audition at all!’

But I remained calm until the same woman stepped back out and called my name. It felt like going to the principal’s office! I tried to remain calm and look hip (this was RENT, after all). She escorted me into a hall and suddenly I realized, “Oh, I’m auditioning now. Awesome!”

In the end, I did my best but I am really not edgy enough for Rent. Or perhaps not hungry enough. But, at least on this one occasion, I didn’t have to suffer for my art.

 The last time I was on this stage at the Athenaeum, I was portraying the beloved Winnie The Pooh for a packed crowd of kiddos. It was an amazingly fun show!

  Where do you come from?

 I am from Milwaukee, WI. I received my BFA at Illinois Wesleyan University and then moved to Chicago to pursue my theatrical career.

 Favorite places to frequent with family in the Chicagoland area?

 I am a bit of a homebody so I would have to say our favorite place is our kitchen to create something yummy together. But when pressed to go out and about, we love to go for walks or bike through the sculpture garden along McCormick Blvd. Last year, over President’s Day weekend, we had a “staycation”, where we booked a hotel downtown and acted like we were tourists here in our own city. We purchased the city pass and did it all: the Hancock, Sears…er, Willis Tower, Shedd aquarium, Field Museum, Art Institute, the Children’s Museum & Museum of Science and Industry. To top it off, it was restaurant week, so we ate the most exquisite and decadent meals morning, noon and night. It was heaven and we all had a ball. It reminded us that this isn’t only where we live, it is where we love to live!

  What trait is your “signature” trait with family and friends?

 I am told that I have a knack for making even the most mundane things feel fun. Like, “Hey, I have a great idea. If we each grab a bag of trash, we can have a parade to the bins outside!” (my way of quick & easy party clean-up. I think my kids may catch on one day though…)

  If you were stranded on Lake Shore Drive in the worst traffic jam in history, what 3 items would you want to have with you and why?

 1. For medicinal purposes – Chocolate, specifically thin mints, reese’s valentine hearts and cadbury creme eggs. I must have vitamin CH when stressful situations arise.

 2. Tons of water for my children because I always seem to be out when they are “dying” from thirst!

 3. Music. Probably musicals to keep us all singing and laughing as we creep along. We are particularly fond of Music Man & Guys and Dolls.

  Chocolate or Licorice?

 Chocolate.

 Coffee or Tea?

 Strong coffee with plenty of cream. I didn’t drink it until I had my 2nd child and now I cannot live without it. Although my husband says I put so much creamer in it, it is more like cream with coffee instead of the reverse.

  Any famous words you live by?

 Words I live by? All of my mom’s phrases pop into my head, like “Girls who whine need naps.” And, like my Mother, I make up a ton of words. Piffle, Schmuffaputta, Snigglefritz, to name a few that are in common usage in my home. I am currently working on a dictionary of my Mom’s language, called Judy-isms. Sure to be a best seller…if I sell it to my siblings!

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Trust me when I say this: She will make you LAUGH on May 5th. I have read her piece repeatedly and heard it several times and every single time I find myself genuinely laughing that belly-aching laugh. Every time.

Tickets for the show are on sale but time is running out! Stop waiting and pick yours up today for the May 5th show at the Athenaeum. Remember to stick around after the show and eat dinner with the entire cast and family and friends at the Diag Bar & Grill. You will save 20% off of your food purchases when you bring your ticket stub that night!!

Marianne April 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

LOVED the Rent story – BEST MUSICAL EVER. And I think you would have been brilliant in it!

Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy April 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I find it ironic (but common) that those artistic, seemingly outgoing people are the ones who are admittedly more homebodies than those of us who are a little less versed in performance (possibly just as loud though) I don’t like to be home (unless we’re with friends) for more than a little while before we get stir crazy

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