Actress right at home in ‘Seascape’
Johnny Carson loved Sarah Kennedy Roth.Roth was a tiny, blonde sitcom and cartoon actress in the ’70s and early ’80s, with a funny voice and good sense of humor. She was a regular on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” made appearances on “Barney Miller and Laverne & Shirley,” and did the voice for a high school-aged rescuer in the cartoon “Emergency Plus Four.”Roth sat on Johnny Carson’s famous “Tonight Show” couch nine times during her career. “Johnny just always liked me and invited me back,” she said. And during an interview before her rehearsal for Thunder River Theatre Company’s “Seascape” at the Waldorf School, it was easy to see why he did. Roth pulled up a minute or two late in a giant Ford Expedition. Where most people would have been rushed and frantic, Roth bounded smiling around the back of her vehicle to shake hands and introduce herself to a reporter. An incredibly friendly personality burst from her small frame through a voice that sometimes squeaked when she spoke.Roth began to explain a bit about her career, how she was on “Laugh-In” and “Barney Miller.””I went to New York after college,” she said innocently and smiling, “and I was in TV right away.” Roth had never acted before she arrived in New York – at least officially. She’d never done live theater before: not in college, not in high school. Not ever. In fact, Roth may never have become an actress at all had it not been for a job still seems perfect for her today. In high school she was a cheerleader and was asked to teach for the National Cheerleading Association of America. She traveled the country giving clinics to cheerleaders and putting on demonstrations. Sometimes, Roth and the other instructors would put on skits, and “everybody would laugh when I would do stuff.” “Well, maybe I’ll try to be an actress,” she thought, and that’s when she decided to move to New York. When she arrived she was “discovered really quickly,” and had an agent, TV and film roles in no time. “(Theater) just didn’t come up for me,” she said. “There’s really no rhyme or reason why things happen … that’s just kind of the way my career fell into place.” Roth’s last TV appearance was on Barney Miller in 1981, just before she was married and decided to retire. “Seascape” is not only Roth’s first work in theater, but also her first time performing in 22 years (unless you count her volunteer work reading to third graders).And live theater is presenting some new challenges for her – memorizing entire scripts, learning staging tricks, and remembering that she is performing for a live audience instead of a camera. “The (studio) audience would love it when we would goof,” she said. Theater audiences aren’t likely to be so forgiving, however. There are no second takes, and no editing.”You’re really out there,” she said.Dan Thomas 9/29/04 Despite the learning curve in the transition from the screen to live theater, Roth’s performance in “Seascape” should be great. “When you’re a professional performer, you’re a professional performer,” said “Seascape” director Lon Winston. “Her work ethic is incredible.”A lot of movie actors are terrified to be on a stage,” he said. “Your actor is vulnerable in time and space, that’s the magic of live theater.”How is Roth handling her new role?”I get nerves when I tell stories to my third-graders,” she said. “I can’t even imagine the nerves I’ll have on Friday night.” ‘Seascape’Roth – who has been a Thunder River Theatre Company member for four years, but never performed – could not have chosen a better play to start with.”Seascape” is one of three Pulitzer Prize-winning plays by Edward Albee. (1966’s “A Delicate Balance,” and 1994’s “Three Tall Women” were the others.)”Unlike a lot of (Albee’s) plays, ‘Seascape’ is charming,” Winston said. “It’s funny, it’s much more eloquent.”The humor comes easily, with two middle-aged empty-nesters sitting around on a beach deciding what to do with the rest of their lives. Nancy (Roth) wants to travel and adventure through the world. Husband Charlie (Richard Lyon) wants to sit on the beach and relax. As Nancy and Charlie discuss their future, two lizards, Leslie and Sarah (Michael Miller and Valerie Haugen), waddle out of the sea to help the couple out.”When you say, ‘There’s these two lizards in it,’ it changes the dynamic,” Winston said. “But they’re there for a specific purpose. Trying to explain the simplest thing becomes very difficult because there’s no frame of reference, so it becomes very funny.” In the end though, “(‘Seascape’) is really about how we react to those things we don’t know,” Winston said. “I think its pretty significant given the diversity of our valley,” he said, which is important to what Thunder River Theatre Company does.”I sit down every year … and put a season together,” he said. “There’s a lot of drama out there. It’s not easy to comb through drama literature and find the plays that reflect the pulse of the community … We’re not the nightly news, but we do like to find plays that reach out and touch people.” “Seascape” opens the 10th season for Thunder River Theatre Company.
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