Sarah Winstanley graduated with honours and as Valedictorian from the Academy of Acting College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Selected credits include Mabel in An Ideal Husband, Ilse in Spring Awakening: The Play and Caliban in The Tempest. You can find her around town doing character simulations at Ryerson University, dancing with the Army of Sass, or on stage every week as Princess Catalina at Medieval Times. If you can’t find her it’s because she’s binge watching Brooklyn Nine Nine in her leopard print onesie.
Phil Rickaby 0:04
Welcome to episode seven of the Stageworthy Podcast. I’m your host, Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy I interview people who make theatre actors, directors, playwrights and more. And talk to them about everything from why they chose the theatre to their work process and everything in between. You can find stage where they on Facebook and Twitter at stage where they pod and you can find the website at stage really podcast.com. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use and consider leaving a comment or rating. My guest is Sarah Winstanley, an actor from Winnipeg. Now we’re living and working in Toronto. Originally intending to follow an academic career, Sarah instead found the theatre. We’ll talk about that and more in just a minute.
Sarah Winstanley, thank you for for coming on. So you are sort of I hate to use the word transplant. But you’re sort of a you came to Toronto from Winnipeg, yes. What drew you from Winnipeg, to Toronto.
Sarah Winstanley 1:32
So I came here for acting. The industry is just larger here. In Winnipeg, there are a couple agents, but they’re sort of not necessary. The actors just communicate with the casting directors, casting director, sort of singular, there’s one. And then there’s the background casting. There’s a couple of them. But essentially, there’s one. So if you really wanted to take it seriously, which I did, and I still do, you sort of have to move to a place where there’s a market for it, which in Canada is Toronto, we were debating between because I moved with some girls from college, we were debating between Vancouver, and Toronto. And we’d sort of heard that if you go to Vancouver, you sort of get your rounds on the shows in your first two years, and then you can’t work. And that’s what I’ve heard a lot. And I knew there was more Theatre in Toronto, versus Vancouver. So that’s why we ultimately picked Toronto to move to was
Phil Rickaby 2:35
that was that a difficult choice? I mean, you say we there was a group of your all of you still here or is it.
Sarah Winstanley 2:41
So there was two of us that moved here together. And then four months later, another girl from college joined us. But it was essentially the two of us that made the decision together. So we graduated from college. And then we spent a year sort of working and doing small stuff in Winnipeg. And we’d heard people from our programme that had moved to Toronto previously have done it by themselves and some had moved back. And we just heard that it was really hard to do it by yourself. And that if you had a support system already out there, it would be a lot easier. So that’s what we did, and found that to be very true. I don’t think it would have worked as well if we’d done it alone. Yikes. Well, we got our first apartment together. We actually we lived on couches in Mississauga, for a few weeks before we sort of got our footing in Toronto. And we didn’t know the city, we didn’t know that Toronto was so elitist to the downtown core. We didn’t know that if you didn’t live in the core. People didn’t really care, which is what I found. So we got an apartment in North York, and didn’t realise how separated we were from the arts community in the court until we moved downtown. And it was like living in a completely different city. But that took us a long time to figure out
Phil Rickaby 4:01
what was I mean, being from Toronto, I know what the dirt like. Excuse me. I know that people were like, Oh, I don’t go north of Bloor or the furthest north algo is Eglinton you know, and they do that like once a year maybe. But did you find? So you found that like was that a barrier just to the social or was that a barrier to being a part of the community?
Sarah Winstanley 4:26
I think both definitely. My Social Life has grown exponentially since living downtown. And I guess I’m technically outside of the core, but I’m still close enough. We lived in an apartment building that was basically people over 40 in desk jobs and office jobs and didn’t realise what we were missing until we moved here. And for us in our early 20s. The nightlife the social life, even being around artists or own age was a crazy difference.
Phil Rickaby 5:02
I mean, the neighbourhood that you live in. Is I mean, it’s not downtown. Right. But I know people who will go east west, before they’ll go north south. Yeah, right. It’s a strange barrier. Yeah.
Sarah Winstanley 5:15
north door. It’s like, that’s savage country. And now I’m sort of like that two horse. Yeah. Because I’ve become accustomed to in like, North a blur, I guess. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 5:29
I’m coming from Winnipeg to Toronto. Aside from the fact that the industry is bigger here. What’s the biggest difference in terms of the the culture of theatre? Between the two?
Sarah Winstanley 5:50
Um, I think there’s a bigger divide here, just because there are more performers that the divide between union and non union is a lot clearer. Everyone doesn’t know you hear like, I guess once you really get into it, everyone sort of does know each other. But also not, if that makes sense. And Winnipeg, sort of everyone knows each other. And the people who do you know, the mainstage, shows the MTC and stuff has have also done shows with people who are just graduating and they’ve done community shows as well. And here, I find there’s a much bigger divide between the professional and non professional. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 6:32
I mean, I guess I might, I might use a different term in the professional in the end. Yeah, I think because there’s, there is, in my experience, or this this line of still professional but not like not one of the like not Terragen past Mirage, right, the established theatres, but something more like red sand castle, the storefront and smaller theatres like that. And I
Sarah Winstanley 7:02
even hate saying non professional, because I’ve done community there and the people I’ve worked with, are high calibre. Yeah. And I feel like I’m brought to a new level when I work with them. And just because it’s community theatre or not, you know, an A or D house. I still don’t like calling it non functional, but I don’t know how to word
Phil Rickaby 7:21
it. No, I and it’s, it is a difficult a difficult thing to express a lot of the time, like, what is the difference? I mean, there there are the paycheck. community theatres, right. Yeah. And they are, they are that they, you know, they they belong to the community theatre organisation under theatre Ontario, and they’re very open about the you know, they do things like you pay dues and things like that, but then there’s the other theatres which are you audition to get in just like you would for anything else. The only difference is that chances are that show is so indie you’re not going to see the paycheck, right. But in terms of of the Winnipeg scene, I mean, I know for myself I’ve done I’ve been to the Winnipeg fringe, but I don’t know anything about the theatre scene outside of fringe.
Sarah Winstanley 8:16
I’m I’m moved. Right, so I went to college when I was 17. I graduated when I was 18. And then I moved to Toronto when I was 19. So I didn’t actually stay there long enough to sort of get into the bigger shows there have done Winnipeg fringe, which is amazing, as you know. Yeah. So now I’m meeting people who in Toronto are coming from Winnipeg, like there’s a show at the Panasonic right now, where a lot of them are from Winnipeg, a lot of the crews from Winnipeg, who have done shows at MTC, Manitoba, Theatre Centre, and the warehouse and things like that. And now I sort of feel like I missed out on a chance of being a part of those moving away from a community where a few people did know who I was into a bigger pond where absolutely no one knew who I was,
Phil Rickaby 9:11
that’s difficult is difficult to go from from the small pond to a bigger one,
Sarah Winstanley 9:17
and I wasn’t by any means a big fish in a small pond at all. But I went to a college where people knew the graduates, people, I would say the name and they’d be like, Oh, okay, you know, so and so you’re connected that way. And I would immediately have a conversation with them, right? And here, I don’t have that. And the funny thing with my college which I’ve found to sort of be the bane of my existence here. It was recently bought out so I went to a media college they had a broadcasting programme, an acting programme and they were starting in Media Writing programme. And a few years after I graduated from the acting programme, it was bought out the whole school was bought out by another college And then they discontinued the acting programme. So now you can’t even look up where I went to college. No, which is insane. So I had met with someone once and she said, Yeah, I looked up the school you went to and I couldn’t find it. And they had to explain the whole thing to her. I was like, I swear to God says, Yeah, I have a student loan that proves that he says, it was, you know, sponsored by the government, I swear. But yeah, it’s hard to explain
Phil Rickaby 10:29
that that’s, it’s hard to explain, especially if that happens in like a cat in a casting directors office or in an audition situation. Yeah, like, never heard of your school can’t find it online. Is it a real thing? Yeah. What is it about theatre that drew you to it? When did you first know, theatre was something you loved. It was really
Sarah Winstanley 10:53
weird. So when it’s sort of film and theatre are mesh together for me, I always, I wish I shouldn’t say always, because I always wanted to be a marine biologist. And then I wanted to be a gym teacher. And I sort of always came back to acting even though I never really thought it was a viable career path or something that was realistic for my life. I think when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I was an extra on a film set. And I had never been I just saw an ad for it. I was like, that looks really fun. I should go. So I got my mom was a night shoot, I got my mom to drive me like 1130 into the downtown gross, dirty Winnipeg core, and dropped me off. And all I knew was that I was supposed to wear a red sweater. And that’s it. I had no idea what the movie was for. And then I saw, you know, the big lights on the streets, you know, the huge cranes, and I was just in awe, I was absolutely floored. It was just the lighting. But it was so impressive and so magical to me that I just knew I had to be a part of it. So from then I would sort of get my mom to drive me to random casting calls, we went to a few things that turned out to be like scams, but like I didn’t know, were just like you go to those open house things and you don’t know. And then I did shows in high school, and I loved it. But again, I never really thought it was something that was possible. And I was very academic as a kid, my whole family is very booksmart very academic. And I always thought if you didn’t go to college, get a proper four year degree and you know, math or science, engineering, something like that you were stupid. You’re never gonna go anywhere in life, because very academic and had very strong views about the path you should take in life. And then, when I was in grade 12, I veered very much in the opposite direction.
Phil Rickaby 12:51
Do you know what it was that that caused you to make that switch?
Sarah Winstanley 12:56
The thing is, it sounds crazy. Like I don’t know why I’m doing this was just something that was always in the back of my mind. And I, I there was not like a moment, which I mean, I wish there was but there really wasn’t. Because that would make me make it sound more impressive or something I don’t know. I think I just done books and academics for so long that I was bored of it. And I knew I was good at that. But it wasn’t exciting. And I think what was exciting was trying something that I maybe wouldn’t be good at, and trying something different. Like trying to create a path instead of continuing on an academic path that I was good at, but it didn’t excite me.
Phil Rickaby 13:41
How did your family react to that?
Sarah Winstanley 13:43
Um, my mom was supportive. She always says she tentative but supportive. And my dad would not a big talker. He still wants me to be a flight. What is it an air traffic controller. That’s my dad stream. So aviation sort of runs my family. My grandfather was the trained pilots for World War Two. My dad was in aviation his whole life now teaches aviation. So all he wants is for his kids to be pilots and his kids to be in aviation at some point, and he’s still to this day, I could be on Broadway, which my dad would still be like, so if you want to go and get a science degree, like it doesn’t, it’s just a language barrier. Yeah, creativity on that side of the family.
Phil Rickaby 14:39
Um Is it do you find I mean, that’s always that’s like one of those difficult moments with with parents do you? Have you gotten to the point where you’re just like smiling and nodding or have you ever come out and said, Dad, that’s not gonna happen.
Sarah Winstanley 14:56
I just smile and nod for the most part. We did that Actually, my dad and I took a trip together to New York for the first time. This past summer, we’d never done anything like that together. And New York, obviously the theatre mecca of the world. I think that was really eye opening for him to see, other people take seriously what I take seriously. And in theatre, or in New York, everyone is theatre seriously, they don’t give you a look of pity or that nice little smile, like, Oh, that’s nice. You want to be an actor, they immediately jump into a serious conversation about it. And for my dad to see, you know, men his own age, talk about it in that way, I think was really eye opening for him. And sort of gave me some credibility. So what I’m trying to do with my life, like Dad, I’m not the only one, I swear. Yeah. And we went on a walking tour. This was my favourite favourite thing that happened in New York. And I’d never been to New York before. So we went on a walking tour of Broadway, which is are led by actors in New York. And so we are at the meeting place in Times Square, and I saw a girl with the binders was like, hey, like, Are you the girl who was the sign in with? She was like, yeah, and she takes a step back. And she sort of looks at me and was like, Are you an actor? And I was, like, so taken aback. So thrown off. I was like, I’m like, yeah, and but you probably say that to everyone. And she was like, no, no, I don’t. And I was like, Oh, I was like, Well, yeah, she’s like, Yeah, I can tell. And then continue writing. And for me, that was a huge moment. And for my dad to see someone else recognise that in me, yeah, was very powerful. Someone born and raised in New York, in the theatre world, she’d been on Broadway. I didn’t ask her why she didn’t want to get into I feel like I don’t know. It might have been a rude question. I could look her up on line. I’ll find out. But for someone who’s in that environment, her whole life Born and raised knows actors knows theatre to see that in me. Upon a first impression was insane for me.
Phil Rickaby 17:07
Did you so it was your first trip to New York? Yeah. What did you What did you see?
Sarah Winstanley 17:13
So we saw the Lion King. There are so many things that I would have loved to seen, but only
Phil Rickaby 17:20
see so many things? Which is the problem, right? There’s only a finite amount of time is a finite amount of money.
Sarah Winstanley 17:27
Yes. Yes. And again, my dad being very conservative. We weren’t gonna walk into Kinky Boots. It’s just not his ballgame. And then we saw the blue Mac group, okay. Which was hilarious. Yeah. And I’ve never seen anything like that. Just what I took away from New York was excellence, like, everything is excellent there. Even the Blue Man Group, something so stupid as throwing marshmallows into your mouth across the stage. But they were excellent at it. It’s so absurd to be excellent at something so great, are so ridiculous. But everything was just of a higher calibre there. And it was really inspiring.
Phil Rickaby 18:15
Did you take what any of the things that you’ve learned in New York, would you brought you? I mean, you absorb them? Have you had the opportunity to, like put anything that you learned from your trip to New York into practice here?
Sarah Winstanley 18:27
Well, right before I went to New York, I got cast in an ideal husband with the Toronto Irish players. So that was really inspiring to know, I was coming back to a project and then take all that inspiration and put it into all my preparation for my role. I just knew that when I was on stage, I wanted to be as excellent as the people on stage in New York. And obviously, you’re like, I’m not trying to say I am. But just having that inspiration. Yeah. For my preparation was amazing.
Phil Rickaby 18:57
Yeah. That’s, that’s great. I mean, that’s obviously. I mean, what I don’t know what else you what you what you took from New York. I don’t know what else a lot of people would take, because that is like there’s a certain calibre of things. I think there were things in in I don’t know about other places, but in Toronto, we kind of let them slide. A certain sometimes I’ve seen a certain bit of sloppiness that we would permit here, because it’ll do that would never stand there. But I think part of the difference is I know in New York, they will workshop things for years. And we don’t workshop in Canada, not like they do in New York, we might do a workshop or we might do. Sometimes not even that and that we end up allowing a bit of sloppiness the that would never fly there. Yeah.
Sarah Winstanley 19:57
Yeah. And that reminds me not laughing. sloppiness the so we took a tour of the Lincoln centre. So the ballet met and the Philharmonic. And they were saying how they rebuilt the Philharmonic house, I think three times until the sound inside was absolutely perfect. And the first and second time they built it, it sounded amazing. But it wasn’t perfect. So they redid it. It was absolutely perfect. Which Yeah, we don’t take the time to always do here until things are absolutely perfect. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 20:35
Yeah. When you, okay, you were talking about the school that you went to, and the change that that happened there? And how you came to Toronto with a with a group of friends? Did you guys have a plan? When for when you got here? Or did you come completely? Like we’ll get there, we’ll figure it out.
Sarah Winstanley 20:59
It’s sort of yeah, we’ll get there. I’m very responsible and sort of the grounded one of my girlfriends. So I had a job in Winnipeg, that was able to transfer me to a location in Mississauga. So I had an income when I came here, which was very important. I don’t know if I would have moved if I wasn’t sure of an income just to live off of, regardless of the creative side of why it was moving. So I think I did that in a really responsible and smart way. But other than that, we had no idea. Just like we’ll come. We’ll get agents. We’ll I don’t know what we thought it was kind of irresponsible in a way. Like we definitely didn’t come with enough money that we need it. But we were just at a point where I think we thought if we didn’t do this, now, we weren’t going to do it. We’re going to be one of those people that say we’re going to move away say we’re gonna move to the big city and never do it,
Phil Rickaby 21:59
sir. A lot of that in Winnipeg.
Sarah Winstanley 22:00
Yeah. There’s a lot of people that say they want to do things and then don’t, which is very sad. And you see people who for years say, Oh, I’m going to do that. And we’ll get to it like, of course, but you know, if you don’t do it now when you’re going to do it, yeah. Yeah. So
Phil Rickaby 22:21
when, when you got here, what were the first lessons you learned about Toronto theatre?
Sarah Winstanley 22:30
The first lessons I learned about trying to theatre um, I think the first things I saw were Mirvish shows so I was blown away, and very intimidated. I don’t know if that’s a lesson per se. But I just knew that I had to step up my game if I wanted to be a part of this Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 22:55
How did you how did you see yourself stepping up? Like what what was your plan for stepping up your game?
Sarah Winstanley 23:01
I just classes and workshops and you know, taking care of myself physically. And again, that was hard and even is hard. So now because those classes cost money. And those I think that’s always the thing with independent performers for lack of a better word. You are always wanting to take classes get new headshots update your love but all those things cost money and if you’re not getting paid from theatre, how do you balance it
Phil Rickaby 23:31
most expensive profession in the world because you are always taking classes and you’re always you know, gym membership for this that and the other thing need headshots need this need that. It’s it’s like there’s always something else to spend money on.
Sarah Winstanley 23:49
Yes, problem. And I think when I first moved here, it took me a while to really dive into it. Like I’m right now having just done that show in the fall. And I just did a show this weekend. Not theatre, per se, but a dancer this week, and I think right now is the most in theatre community. I’ve been since moving here, which is great now, but it took a while to get there. Just because I was so worried about everything else. Like I’d never lived on my own before. I never paid bills before. My mom’s house across the country. Okay, so yeah, it was a lot of life lessons. Yeah. For me a lot of firsts. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 24:33
Yeah. Um, in terms of becoming, I mean, the theatre committee, there’s so many different levels to the theatre community in Toronto and so many different spots to go there isn’t really a theatre community. You talked about you know, you did the show with the Toronto Irish players. And now, dance. Are there a lot of people in the dance group that you’re with or a lot of theatre people or is it like people from all over? Are,
Sarah Winstanley 25:00
it’s really people from all over. So, at the beginner levels, it’s a lot of people just doing this, you know, when they come home from work is something fun. For me, it was something that I could add to my special skills at the bottom of my resume. And the higher levels are performers. Whether it be I don’t know if a lot of them are actors, but they’re professional dancers that, you know, when shows come through, they’re the backup dancers on stage behind, you know, Lady Gaga or whoever. But yeah, the beginner it’s a lot of, you know, like, if you take an entry level class at Second City, it’s just people who want to get out of their shells right now after their day job. Yeah. But it does give you a chance to get on stage and be in front of people, which is what I love.
Phil Rickaby 25:50
Did you find a difference in the way that you had? Like, for yourself? It’s one thing to me, it for me, it’s one thing for to get up and do theatre? I have I do not feel confident about my dance. Did you find it different to be up there? Dancing? than in theatre?
Sarah Winstanley 26:12
Yes. Um, because I think you’re more worried about how you look, when you’re dancing. When I’m acting in a play, I’m not worried about how I look like if my hair is done, right. And my costume is done, right? That someone else’s job that I know, they’ve made me look good. So I don’t have to worry about that. On stage in a dance setting, I’m worried about what every inch of my body is doing. At all times. I’m very aware of that sentence, and I don’t have to worry about what’s going on in my brain so much. Yeah, so the physical aspect, I think, is the huge difference. Like you do, of course, have your blocking and your choreography and a play. But that’s not what you’re focused on, you’re focused on, you know, what’s going on between you in your scene because
Phil Rickaby 27:06
a little more freedom in a play of freedom of movement, freedom of interpretation, freedom of, of, and you can’t deviate from choreography, right? Because it looks like garbage when you do.
Sarah Winstanley 27:17
Yeah. If you deviate, it just doesn’t make sense. And then you’re not, you’re screwing up someone else. I think with actors, if you even say a line differently, or sir or you move to a different spot, the other actor will go with it. Yeah, the other actor will adapt, because that’s what actors do they adapt. Dancers, especially if they’re not professional dancers. If you screw up, you’re screwing everyone else up, not just yourself. And so that’s a lot of responsibility. Yeah. Which is great, because that makes you feel like you’re a part of something, but at the same time, don’t screw it up for anyone else. So that’s,
Phil Rickaby 27:59
I mean, that’s the that’s always that’s the thing about like, you know, in dance, when you screw it up for everybody else, either they have to figure out how to cover if possible, or to fill in the spot that you’re in to somebody has to be there. And so it’s it’s like a completely different thing where it’s on stage, if you do a different if you move differently, say aligned differently, that your your acting partner will just be like, Oh, okay, that’s neat. Yeah, no, which is a completely different thing. Yeah. Did you ever see yourself as a dancer? Before you did this?
Sarah Winstanley 28:31
No, no, like, I’ve taken classes in high school on and off. And I did like gymnastics and ballet when I was very, very young. But I never thought of myself as a dancer until I started. And I still wouldn’t even classify myself as a dancer, which is kind of weird, because I’ve done three shows now, three different shows, sets of shows, I guess. So now I’m definitely more confident in that way. But no, I never saw myself as a dancer.
Phil Rickaby 29:02
And was it just to get that extra special skill on your resume? Or was there something else that sort of drew you to to this?
Sarah Winstanley 29:11
I think that’s what it started, as was something else, you know? And again, going back to upping your game? Yeah, yeah, you know, having different skills that maybe not everyone else in the casting room has. That’s what it started as. And then when I started the programme, it became so much more than that. It’s, this might sound cheesy, but it really is a community and the woman who created this programme is all about female empowerment and sisterhood. And, you know, even those words coming out of my mouth sound a little cheesy, but in reality, it’s a very strong feeling to be in a room with that many women feeling confident, and feeling beautiful and feeling powerful, is moving. Yeah. And so yeah, it started as that and then it sort of became Something a lot
Phil Rickaby 30:00
cheaper. Yeah, it’s funny because you talk about you’re talking about how saying things like empowerment and this sort of thing sounds cheesy,
Sarah Winstanley 30:08
but when it shouldn’t, when it sure does. What Why do
Phil Rickaby 30:12
you think that is? I mean, deviating from talk of theatre. But why do you think that you find it? Like, cheesy when you when when you use those phrases?
Sarah Winstanley 30:22
I think society just has put all these restrictions on women. And, you know, you even say the word feminists and people get defensive people get aggressive, when it shouldn’t be an aggressive word. No, it’s there’s this social, political and economic equality that shouldn’t be offensive. No, it
Phil Rickaby 30:45
shouldn’t. But there’s people who react poorly to it. Yeah, you know, it’s people who react almost violently to yeah, this thing that shouldn’t.
Sarah Winstanley 30:53
So I think it’s not threatening, but it’s just ingrained in me that I shouldn’t say those words that I shouldn’t be confident saying those words, which is stupid.
Phil Rickaby 31:02
Sort of why I guess you need like, it’s helpful to do this. Do you want to I mean, we haven’t talked about what it is army of SAS is the group that you dance with? Yeah. And like, I took a look at the website. They’re like, okay, so what is this thing? And it seems to be that’s the primary thing is empowerment and sort of like a woman’s community sort of thing. Yeah. Which, you know, we need more of in this world. You so now now you’ve got the extra thing on your on your resume, you have dancer do have dance on there, as your as the special scaler is there,
Sarah Winstanley 31:47
I put specifically that it’s the army of SAS and the level I’m in. Because surprisingly, a tonne of people know what this is, like, I’ve met people for the first time and started to explain it to them and then be like, Oh, I’m gonna tell it’s like, totally know what that is. And so I put it specifically on there, but it has characters or whoever asks, you know, they can look it up. I can pull up videos in two seconds and show them what you do. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 32:16
And that’s not something that you ever saw yourself doing before?
Sarah Winstanley 32:19
No, not at all. I was looking, I was looking at classes because I knew I wanted to do something. So I was looking at like circus classes and silks classes, and different dance classes, because I know some girls that do sell, and they just look so cool. Yeah. And then I just decided on this one actually decide on this one because I at the very beginning. I know a girl, I did a film with a girl who used to teach. So that’s how I sort of was introduced to it.
Phil Rickaby 32:47
I wondered because there’s, there’s I mean, there’s always a like a gateway person for something like that. Whether it’s I knew somebody who did silks or went into silk or something like that. I wondered if what your entry into army of SAS? Well, yeah,
Sarah Winstanley 33:00
so I did a movie in 2013. And one of the girls was a dancer who was sort of doing the opposite, trying to transition from dance into more acting. And then I met her and then she would post about how she teaches these great classes. And then so I sort of stopped the whole programme online for about six months, and watch the different teachers and watch their videos. I was like, I don’t know if I can do this. Like, I don’t know if it’s for me. I don’t know if I’m that confident. And then I decided that was a stupid train of thought. And I joined
Phil Rickaby 33:35
what was there anything that put you off at the edge to actually doing it? Or was it just that you finally decided it was time to get off your butt and do it?
Sarah Winstanley 33:43
I think a little bit of that and a little bit of seeing over those six months when I was being a creep online. Seeing how much of a family that they really did seem like like they would go out together. They would socialise together. And I think that was a huge selling point for me. Cool. Cool. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 34:01
Um, so we’ve talked a lot about, you know, talked a bit about the dance and then and, you know, the, this sudden shift in grade 12 towards acting. If you hadn’t taken that turn into acting and you’ve been on this academic path. What line of academia Do you think you would have pursued?
Sarah Winstanley 34:28
I think I would have gone into journalism. If I hadn’t gone into acting, and I remember looking at programmes I think I was looking at Ryerson. I don’t know. I feel like there was some Canadian universities sort of within our that had the best journalism programme, and I’m now I can’t remember. But I think that’s the path I would have gone.
Phil Rickaby 34:53
If I didn’t, if you didn’t take that turn. Um, did you did you You find, I mean, you You’ve definitely like, you’ve made that that switch from Winnipeg to to Toronto do because I know I’ve been to the, you know Winnipeg fringe which is second biggest fringe in Canada. It’s huge. But of course, I don’t know anything about the theatre community outside of fringe. But I do. I mean, you’ve talked about the, the warehouse and the MTC and other spots there. As somebody who was growing up in Winnipeg, did you find that? That there were opportunities to see theatre? Or was it just because of the you know, you did the movie thing? And then if for a lot of people that’s, you know, theatre comfortable for movie or you do theatre because it’s a little more accessible than the movies did you? Did you have the opportunity in Winnipeg to see much theatre?
Sarah Winstanley 36:02
Growing up? I don’t remember seeing a lot. I know, my mom would take me to some things. But I don’t really remember. I think I just blacked out my entire childhood. But I know the first Broadway show I ever saw, it’s the tour came through the tour of wicked came through Winnipeg, and I was maybe 15 or 16. And I sort of knew the story. So I bought my mom and I front row tickets, which were absurdly expensive, but I was like, No, Mom, we have to like it’s apparently the greatest thing ever. And I remember watching the entire show through clouded eyes, because I was basically just in tears for the entire performance. From the time the curtains open till the end.
Phil Rickaby 36:53
What do you think it was that? I mean, I know. I know, there later scenes in that that could like the justify that. But what was it about like, from curtain open? That really
Sarah Winstanley 37:04
isn’t so insane. I almost can’t describe it. It’s just the curtain opening, and I knew that something magical was gonna happen. I don’t know how I knew it. I don’t know why it affected me so much. But it did. And I wish I had a label for this indescribable feeling of seeing that and I still get it. When I see a curtain open on a show. I still get it when I walk into a magnificent theatre that had never been in before. And maybe that maybe that is it. The fact that I can’t describe it. Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know. I just, it was so powerful. Yeah, that this world was being presented to me that I wasn’t a part of, but part of me was like, maybe I could be a part of that. And it was just until my mind kept leaning over me like, Okay, are you okay? Watching magic. But,
Phil Rickaby 38:03
and so that was like your first big show, because the first
Sarah Winstanley 38:05
show I ever saw, yeah. Which is really late in life to be 15 or 16. And maybe, I don’t know,
Phil Rickaby 38:12
it’s funny, because I, you know, talking, talking to a few people, and there are people who they can remember, like that moment when they were kids the first day that they ever saw change their life. And that was the thing they wanted to do. You know, they remember that moment. And then there are other people who don’t have a defining moment. They just sort of, like found themselves in theatre, sometimes by accident, and found they liked it.
Sarah Winstanley 38:39
Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was an accident. For me, I think just from that, seeing that first set of lights, it was always in the back of my mind, but I would always shut it down. And then I think when I decided to go to college for it, that was when I decided that I needed to stop shoving it to the back of my mind. Because if it had been there for you know, five or six years, maybe it actually did mean something. So stop shutting it down.
Phil Rickaby 39:05
Did you find that a difficult like you were talking about, you know, just that left turn when you were in grade 12 But all of a sudden to go from the academic to enter theatre. Did you? Like did you struggle with yourself on that? Or did you just go?
Sarah Winstanley 39:19
No, I am sort of a deep end person. Like I jump into the deep end when I try new things. So I probably should have been more nervous than I was. Just like blind step. Blind jump. I don’t know. went for it. Yeah. And I think this might sound terrible, but I’ve always been good at things. I’ve been good at sports. I’ve been good at academics. And those were the things my life revolved around so I wasn’t scared of trying something new, which turned out to be a great positive Yeah. I still don’t think I’m great or anything, but I love trying
Phil Rickaby 40:03
what was the I mean, if you go from an academic ideal and you find yourself in a performing arts environment, sometimes I could I could see that being a bit of a shock. Did you find the, like the shift into? Like being in the performing arts programme? And it kind of was a culture shock. Was there anything like that when you went in?
Sarah Winstanley 40:25
I’m like, Yes. And no, it was a lot more personal, which I think was the biggest shock was having to be vulnerable in front of people having to share with people answers that didn’t come from a textbook. If it comes from a textbook, I can spit it out, of course. But if it comes from inside, I have a harder time getting that out. Yeah. And I think that was the the hardest transition for me was to, because that’s a language in itself, dealing with emotions, and dealing with what you think about things on a deeper level. Dealing with that, instead of dealing with facts and numbers, is a whole different language.
Phil Rickaby 41:16
So that I mean, that’s, that’s a huge difference. What’s the core? What was the course? Like? Was it like a conservatory course? Or?
Sarah Winstanley 41:24
Yeah, one year conservatory. So we were there every day. I think there were 17 of us, or we ended with 17 started, I don’t know, roughly that many. So we got very close very quickly. But even then, I still took an academic approach to it. And I still do take an academic approach to the arts. Like I go through everything I write down, like I have a binder stacked with notes for every show that I’ve done. And other people didn’t do that. And that seemed to work for them. I didn’t understand how it worked if you didn’t write everything out. But and then someone once said that Meryl Streep brings a binder of notes to her sets. So I was like, You know what, and Meryl Streep writes out a binder, I read it in a binder too. It’s just fine.
Phil Rickaby 42:15
It’s it’s funny, because when I was in theatre school, one of the things they people always said was write it down, write it down, at the end of the day, write it down everything, write it down. About 50% of us, maybe less actually took that advice. But I wish now I kind of wish I had, because I don’t remember all of the ideas that I had or things like that. I can’t look back on those
Sarah Winstanley 42:40
things. And there’s things that I wrote down that I didn’t know why I was writing them down. And I didn’t understand them. And I didn’t even know that I didn’t understand them. But now I go back and I look at those ideas and those notes. I’m like, oh, okay, now I get what that means.
Phil Rickaby 42:57
Do you go back regularly, not regularly.
Sarah Winstanley 42:59
But every once in a while, like before show, if I’m stuck on something, you know, I’ll go back and flip through things. Just get an idea. And then I’ll just get into something that is totally off the tangent of what I’m preparing for. But it’ll be like now, I understand that. Like I knew what the teacher was saying at the time, but now I understand it. And it’s that sort of difference. So I am glad that I did was obsessive about
Phil Rickaby 43:29
writing everything. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Do you give anything coming up? That you’re planning on? Like you’re working on? What
Sarah Winstanley 43:37
is it? I don’t have anything coming up right now unfortunately, other than mediaeval times, which I’m always there. Yeah, that’s
Phil Rickaby 43:45
let’s let’s let’s talk about mediaeval times, because this is one of those things that I mean, actors have jobs that they like, there’s things that you have to do to pay the bills. Yes. Some people wait tables, right. Some people become princesses. Yes. Can you talk about how you became a princess?
Sarah Winstanley 44:04
Yes. So I This is so fun. I just light up anytime anyone asked me about it. So I saw the audition. Notice on casting workbook submitted, I got lost on my way to the audition. I’ve never been late for an audition before in my life other than this one. It seems rather absurd that you would miss a giant castle with nights in photographs on the sides of the building. But I had no idea what it was. I had no idea my way around the exhibition grounds so I wandering around and walked into Liberty grand asking for the auditions when some lady snapped at me. Anyways, I found the office profusely apologise for being late tried to assure them that I’ve never done that before, which sounds like an excuse, of course. Yeah. Anyways. Yeah, this one went really well. And then a week went by, and I hadn’t heard anything. And I try Not to get my hopes up after auditions,
Phil Rickaby 45:02
because that will drive you insane. So hard. So hard, though, right? Yeah.
Sarah Winstanley 45:05
Especially when you feel like an audition is gone. Well, yeah. It’s hard to forget about it. But you have to Yeah, yeah. Otherwise they’ll go mad. And I was just I remember standing behind a desk at my horrible retail job being like, Oh, what if I could be a princess or just be perfect? Then I wouldn’t have to work here anymore. And a week went by Mr. Kay, I’ll just send a thank you letter. short, quick, like Thanks for seeing me. And then I don’t know what they said. They gave me some answer. Like, they were still deciding or something. I don’t know. Anyways, I think a month went by before I got hired. And I’ve completely for given up at that point. And then I got an email like, hey, so we made a decision. Like, would you like to come on board? Of course.
Phil Rickaby 45:56
So describe what it is that you do.
Sarah Winstanley 45:59
Okay. So mediaeval times, is roughly 1300 seat arena. I call cm type seating arena with a huge sandpit in the middle. We have an it’s a mediaeval jousting tournament. So we’ve got 24 horses, I think we have three or four, we have three different breeds of horses, for sure. I think there’s some mixed breeds in there as well. And we have Falcons. So there’s a falcon show that demonstrates the art of falconry, and the Knights. So we have six knights in a show. And we have a bad guy who comes to try and steal the princess away. Yeah, so the Knights gels, they do tournament games. And it’s very interactive with the audience. And the king and the princess are up on a Deus on top of the arena. And we sit there and we watch over our loyal minions. For the like, it’s just under two hours the show, I think. And so we have two different scripts, we have the regular show, which is the evening afternoon weekend show. And then we have an educational show. So great forest learn about mediaeval history. So we get a lot of great for field trips coming and then you do the educational show for them, which is a lot more explaining the history of, you know, the mediaeval weapons and that time period. And then the Knights walk them through choreography and show them how the show works. With the choreography and the weapons.
Phil Rickaby 47:34
It’s your favourite part of being a princess.
Sarah Winstanley 47:36
My favourite part of being a princess is after the show when I go out and talk to people to actually talk to guests before and after the show. But before the show people can be really tentative, they don’t know what they’re walking into, especially if they’ve never been there before. So they’re weirded out by these weirdos in these huge costumes in this huge castle. But after the show, everyone is excited. Everyone wants to talk to me about it, they want to talk to you, they want to talk to the Knights. And that is really rewarding to get to talk to people who are excited about the show that you just put on for them. Especially grade fours. Audiences are the best because 10 year olds love kings and princesses. So sometimes we have like nine to 1200 kids in the audience. So to have that many kids coming up to you running up to you asking you questions. You know, complimenting you to the roof flies up is it’s a biggie. Being honest, is a huge ego boost. And it’s so fun and they’re so genuine because they really believe in magic. They believe that we’re kings and princesses. There’s no doubt in their mind that we’re, you know, these characters and that’s so cool to see. Little kids who are still believe in the magic.
Phil Rickaby 49:04
They were if you ever done Children’s Theatre? No,
Sarah Winstanley 49:07
I haven’t. But I imagine that it’s much of the same.
Phil Rickaby 49:13
There’s a lot of that to Children’s Theatre, like, first off children are closer to their imaginations. Yeah. So so they will just go with pretty much anything. Yeah, it’s only as they get older that they started saying no to things that they see on stage or that’s not how it works. Funny how that changes, but thinking you would find that probably really, really interesting to do as well. Similar to what you’re doing there.
Sarah Winstanley 49:42
Every once in a while you get that one kid who’s like yeah, act.
Phil Rickaby 49:46
Yes. And you’re just Yeah, yeah, tell the others don’t ruin it for everybody else. Because always that there’s always that one kid. Like it’s not real. Yeah.
Sarah Winstanley 49:55
But you know, and then you and then I just look at the king and he bangs his sword on the ground. And then the kids sort of gets wide eyed when they see that the sword is real
Phil Rickaby 50:08
are you on social media at all? Aside from you know, everybody has their own Facebook page, but
Sarah Winstanley 50:12
do you have I am on Twitter, it’s at Sarah underscore C underscore W and Facebook is just my name. So when Stanley I do not have Instagram
Phil Rickaby 50:24
I was You seem to be saying that with a certain amount of
Sarah Winstanley 50:27
this. I try not to know, I was on enough Instagram for a while. And I became sort of obsessed with it. Obsessed with notifications obsessed with posting obsessed with liking every single picture. And I was like this is unhealthy. I look at it. Before I go to bed. I look at it when I wake up in the morning. And you know when I’m at work and like, what’s happening on Instagram? Like I was like, this is not healthy for me as an individual. Other people seem to handle it. Well. I did not. And so I just decided on Facebook for now.
Phil Rickaby 51:04
What do you think that that says about you that the Instagram obsession?
Sarah Winstanley 51:09
I’m that I’m a narcissist. Honest? Yeah, I didn’t know. To two apps to check is enough for me. And I don’t have Snapchat. I’m just like, No, I can’t get a cat me. Yeah, social media. And part of me is like I should because I’m an actor, and I need to promote myself in that way. But at the end of the day, I’m like, I don’t care.
Phil Rickaby 51:35
I mean, that’s probably a little bit healthy too. Because you know, you shouldn’t be spending all of your time on social media. You should be spending more of your time. Yeah, you know, doing things. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for talking with me.
Sarah Winstanley 51:49
Thanks for having me. I was very excited. Thank you.