by Rita Charleston
Both her parents were professors, and today her siblings are also involved in academia, so when Sarah Labov moved to Powelton Village from Northern New Jersey, it was expected that she would be just like other family members. “In our home, academics and music were stressed,” Labov remembers. “When we moved here, I attended Overbrook High Magnet School for music and academics.”
But while there, sitting in the orchestra pit playing the French horn (at Settlement Music School she learned to play several instruments), Labov looked up at some actors on stage and thought she could do just as well, if not better, than they did. In fact, during her first role as Daisy Mae in “Lil’ Abner,” she was hooked.
It took some time, however, including working for 18 years as an elementary school teacher, before she could fully realize her dreams. But today, she has done just that, and is currently appearing at Allens Lane Theater in Melanie Marnich’s comedy, “Quake,” running on weekends through Oct, 11.
According to the play’s director, Sarah Mitteldorf, the plot basically follows Lucy, a young woman in a cross-country mission, looking for the love of her life. When her quest becomes intertwined with that of a quirky female serial killer who is also an astrophysicist, played by Labov, the landscape changes once again as they cross state lines and fault lines, exploring the geography of the human heart.
“This is a quirky, funny and fabulous play,” said Labov, “and the first time I read the script, I was enchanted. And my role is very rewarding artistically. That Woman, the name of the character I play, is the anti-hero. Like Lucy, she is looking for a man, but unlike Lucy, when she’s done with him, she kills him.”
In attempting to relate to her role, Labov says although she knows very little if anything about astrophysics (and she’s certainly not a killer), she can easily relate to the politics of the academic world and how this woman could have gone so far off-track. “At my age, which is 58, I do have a couple of regrets, including some men I do miss. So when my character is talking about her frustrations and search for something, I can relate.”
Some of Labov’s frustrations include her late start in theater. She first attended Vassar College as a theater major and stuck it out for two years but ended up performing with their dance company because dancing was her strong suit. “So I decided to leave and start pursuing acting for real. Over the course of several years, I moved from New York City back to Philadelphia, back to New York City and finally back to Philly when my daughter, Jamie, was an infant.”
In New York, Labov received a BFA in Drama from NYU while studying with many notables, including David Mamet. She also attended the New Actors’ Workshop and studied with Mike Nichols, Paul Sills and others.
But recently retiring from teaching, Labov made a conscious decision to finally pursue her dream of acting full-time. She made peace with her life as it was, but when her daughter moved out on her own, Labov decided it was her time. And now that she’s back on the boards, she says she’s loving every minute of it.
“I’ve committed 100% of my time and money toward my goal of being an actress. I used to be afraid to do this full-time, but now I’ve jumped back into it with both feet. This time around I’ve been able to be much more brave and actually show up to audition for roles. I know this is what I was meant to do.
“In teaching, my contribution to society was by helping to educate. It’s not unlike what I’m doing now. I accept the fact that I’m not doing theater for my ego, but I am comfortable to be able to express things up on stage that others might be able to relate to.”
For tickets to “Quake,” call 215-248-0546 or visit www.allenslane.org.