by Rita Charleston
Growing up in Mt. Airy was a positive experience for Sarah Mitteldorf, who was brought here as a baby from China in 1986 and adopted by Mt. Airy educator Josh Mitteldorf and his wife, attorney Alice Ballard. (Josh has also frequently taught a course in yoga for Mt. Airy Learning Tree.) Now Sarah is back in the area, where she is directing the latest offering at Allens Lane Theater.
“I graduated from Springside School and, although they had an active theater department, I never really got involved,” Mitteldorf said. “In fact, even though there was a little spark I felt for the theater, I looked around for a good liberal arts college to investigate possibilities for my future.”
And so Mitteldorf, 28, decided on Reed College in Oregon, majoring in linguistics and literature. But meeting friends in the theater program, along with a push from the college to explore related fields, ultimately led Mitteldorf to decide on theater as a possible career.
“As a kid I was always reading scripts, and so I felt theater might very well fit into my plans. And it all just sort of snowballed from there.”
Today, moving back to the area and now living in East Falls, Mitteldorf is enjoying life as a playwright and director. Last year, she directed “Nobody But Somebody” at the Strawberry One-Act Festival in New York, where she was nominated for best director. She also co-wrote and directed two recent works in the Philly Fringe Festival, “Eurydice” and “Spill.”
Her newest directorial endeavor is “Polaroid Stories,” a drama at Allens Lane that ends this weekend, Dec. 6 and 7. (In last week’s Local, our reviewer of community theater, Hugh Hunter, wrote: “‘Polaroid’ is overly long, but the play never drags thanks to an abundance of acting talent, and the saving grace of this production is the terrific energy its high-spirited cast members bring to it.”)
Written by Naomi Iizuka, the play is based on real interviews the playwright conducted with kids living on the streets. It re-imagines classic Greek myths and others from Ovid’s “Metamorphosis” to explore the lives and dreams of those who often are forgotten.
Last year Mitteldorf stage-managed at Allens Lane, but this is her first time directing a show there. “Every director takes his or her responsibilities differently and has their own approach to each project. I see my major job as trying to bring out the best in everyone around me. I try to create support for them and maintain cohesion among a whole group of artists. That’s my major job.”
Although “Polaroid Stories” seema complicated at times, Mitteldorf says the playwright purposely decided to use mythology to try to help her audience better understand these kids who had endured horrific experiences. Even Mitteldorf admits the play felt a bit foreign to her in the beginning, but turned into a challenge she couldn’t pass up. So she began doing research on mythology and homelessness issues, and soon everything just fell into place.
“I also began to break down what issues the characters in the play were facing, issues like the relationship between drugs and homelessness, and soon found that the myths used in the play formed the backbone to help us tell the stories. Although it was a difficult and challenging piece to create for an audience, we have received good feedback. Mt. Airy audiences enjoy thinking, and that’s one of the things I respect and loved about growing up in Mt. Airy.”
For times and ticket information, call 215-248-0546.