Breaking bread with artist family

I was up until 2 in the morning last night work shopping a friend’s theatrical piece in my living room. There were 10 of us total: a group of playwrights and actors, most of whom I’d never met. The actors read the play, and afterward, we all discussed.

Brian and I have been opening our home to artists a lot lately. We live in one of those urban myth rent-stabilized apartments on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and since cheap space is so difficult to come by in this town, this is one of the ways we try to give back to the artistic community.

I made bread for the occasion: caramelized onions and fresh oregano from my garden in the back yard. Maybe I get it from my mother, but I enjoy baking for guests. Hopefully it gives the feeling of hominess: mi casa es su casa.

After everyone left, Brian and I sat in the back yard, listened to the silence, and watched the last of the fireflies swoon in the patch of long grass we like to call my cat’s “jungle.” It always surprises me that more people don’t also utilize their outdoor space in our neighborhood. In a pit of dark holes, sectioned off by ten-foot tall brick walls, the red lanterns hanging from our birch tree is the only light most nights.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget we’re surrounded by millions of people.

“How much do you love our home?” Brian often asks me.

There are never enough words to explain.

Brian is the managing director of a respected off-Broadway theater downtown. Through him, I’ve met hundreds of artists in the two years we’ve been together. One of the most enjoyable experiences was attending auditions at Actors Equity in Times Square.

Over 200 women and men showed up that day, each one performing a two-minute monologue (they were auditioning for an upcoming performance at Brian’s theater). It was an elating, while simultaneously, exhausting experience; how does one choose a handful of people out of a lot of greatness?

Even though I was there to witness rather than partake, I kept my own notes, and was even allowed to keep the headshots and resumes of actors who were not chosen for a part. This was so I could contact them if I wanted to cast a play of my own. Indeed, this is how I met my friend from last night.

After Brian went to bed, I sat in the living room alone. The room seemed different to me. Not because of the empty wine glasses and beer bottles, or the rows of folding chairs. There was something different about the air. I felt similarly after the Actors Equity auditions.

Both rooms were buzzing, silently, like there was this inaudible static, this electricity. People had opened themselves up and poured themselves out. They had bared all in the hopes of delivering a bit of beauty, a bit of truth, and I was lucky enough to experience that, to prune in its afterglow.

An actor once told me that there is an intimacy involved in theater that sometimes lacks in other art forms. I get it. Because actors hear the audience’s response to their performance, it motivates them in what they’re doing. In this way, both sides of the stage affect each other.

Since entering the theater scene two year ago, I know I have been affected by the multitudes of talented, unfaltering people I’ve come across. They have inspired and encouraged me, helped me dig deeper, look harder, and it is an honor to bake and break bread with them. Artists are a family in that way. We’ve chosen the road less traveled by, and no matter the length of the journey, the blisters, the fatigue we help each other along, despite the odds.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to

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