Playwright Profile

Sarah Cho

Sarah Cho

Developmental reading of stains by Sarah Cho on July 9 and 10, 2022

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Currently residing: I live in Los Angeles with my very professional copywriter husband and my very unprofessional cat, Butters.

Growing up
: I moved around all over Southern California. To give you an idea — I went to three high schools over a span of four years.

Creative beginnings
: I had no idea what theater was because it wasn’t accessible to me growing up. However, I always got into some trouble because I was the biggest class clown. I even got suspended from school. That was my early theater education. Oops.

I remember thinking I needed to do something that won’t get me into so much trouble all the time. I watched the movie Harriet the Spy (even though it’s about a girl getting into trouble) and it inspired me to get a composition notebook because Harriet made it look so cool to have one. I started to write down all my thoughts and observations. I discovered journaling this way and even got into writing some Anime fanfiction. I was so cool…

I am proud to say that I haven’t been suspended since. Cheers!

What nurtured your playwriting
: Every teacher, mentor, peer, comedian, theater artist, and creative thinker all nurtured and empowered my playwriting.

Every conversation I had and every question, thought, feedback, and note I received over the years helped me to write the next play and the next and the next. I always learned something new from artists of all backgrounds. I truly respect every single creative person who entered into my life.

Whether it’s an acquaintance or artists who have now become my closest best friends, I'm grateful for the people who continually uplift me and my work. My writing wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the abundance of creative thinking I’ve had access to all my life.

What's your writing process like
: In order for me to answer this question, I have to first tell you who I am as a person.

I am Type-A with capital ‘A’ anxiety (thanks Mom!). I get restless and depressed all at the same time.

My writing process typically involves me cleaning, organizing, more cleaning, and procrastinating until I give myself a writing deadline. Simultaneously, I need to let all my anxious energy out! I cook, bake, bike, hike, take long walks, learn calligraphy, yoga, and perform other extracurricular activities like producing a monthly comedy show, co-hosting a bi-monthly podcast, and saying yes to every fun opportunity that comes my way. I do all of this while working a day job as Program Coordinator where I help bring creative writing classes to juvenile halls.

It’s all about doing my best to live a healthy and productive life. Everything that I do is to keep my body busy so I can make space in my mind for when inspiration strikes. It might seem counterintuitive for some people, but it works the best for me.

I try not to obsess so much about what I’m not writing because I personally don’t think it’s healthy for my mental and physical well-being. Instead, I do my best to live purposefully, and writing adds meaning to my life.

What inspired stains
: My mom. It’s always my mom. I don’t want it to be but it is.

All my life, I watched my mom move through the world as a single parent, mother, sister, daughter, and an immigrant. I’ve witnessed her failures and her successes. I don’t think she knows how much she’s influenced my work and why I love writing female-centered stories. In fact, I don’t even think she knows this play exists! She’s not really on social media so I don’t blame her. Every play I’ve written was inspired by my mother, especially when we have opposing political views (how fun!).

My mother shaped me to be the person that I am today (please see previous answer on who I am as a person lol).

Favorite moment or line:

“Why would you get a bra from the backpack guy!”

Audience takeaways
: What I hope my audience will experience from my play is empathy. I know, I know— it’s such a basic cliché answer and I’m not the first one to say, but I believe it’s what theater does best. If we can first act with empathy, I believe it can inspire action.

I wrote stains as a way to understand my own childhood upbringing. I watched my mother work multiple part-time jobs. The hours were so long she was hardly ever home. My grandparents, who should have been retired, were taking on janitorial jobs so my siblings and I could have a roof over our heads. In our country, we witnessed a global pandemic that forced families to lose their jobs and homes. Families were going to food banks in droves so their children could eat. Inflation has skyrocketed and the income inequality is now greater than ever before. Theater has the ability to shorten that distance between “US” vs “THEM” in a matter of seconds.

Not everyone in the audience will be a Korean American teenage girl, but I think every audience member will connect with the idea of the American Dream. To quote the late George Carlin, “It's called the American Dream—because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

I would love for the day to come when I’m not constantly writing about the most pressing issues in the country because working class families are finally not living paycheck-to-paycheck, we are not shooting our children, and the climate crisis is over. But until then… I’ll keep exercising my free speech because only in America do I believe even the smallest fart joke can inspire the biggest movement (both bowel and political).

Most looking forward to at ANPF
: I am SOOOO excited to FINALLY meet the ANPF community IN PERSON! I have only known ANPF virtually since joining as Associate Artist. I’m really excited for the opportunity to collaborate with local theater artists in the area. I have never had my play performed in the great Pacific Northwest so this is going to be a first! Yay!!!

Bonus Question

I co-host a playwriting podcast called “Beckett’s Babies” with my fellow playwright  and friend, Sam Collier. We pose the following question to all our guests on the show so I would like to finally answer this fun question for myself right here.

If you were planning a dinner party and could invite any 3 playwrights, living or dead, who would they be? What would you eat?

I would invite Sarah Ruhl, Sam Shepard, and comedian Ali Wong.

I know Ali Wong is not a playwright and she would be very confused about why she was invited to this playwrights’ dinner party, but she is a writer. I think she would appreciate the delicious food and the hilarious conversations with Ruhl, Shepard, and of course--me!

The dinner would be a big “Shabu Shabu” Hot Pot party. It’s a fun, interactive way to eat food. I think we could all learn something about each other while laughing at Ali Wong’s jokes. That’s my dream dinner party!