Sawyer Spielberg studied acting at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City and is now a Founding Member of the Where Are They Going Theatre Company based in New York. Sawyers theatre full production credits include Herman Howard in the production of Hello Herman at Edgemar theatre in Venice Beach, California. Peter Van Daan in Bay Street Theatre of Sag Harbor 2013 production of Ann Frank and Bay Streets 2015 production of Of Mice and Men playing Whit. Sawyer performed in Guild Hall of East Hampton's 2014 production of Hamlet playing Guildenstern and Fransisco and in 2017 returned to Guild Hall to play Finn in a production of Extinction. Charles Darwin in The Parrish Art Museum Production of Galapagos. Memory Angel and the Evil Burgomaster in The Neo-Political Cowgirls production of the Greek Tragedy Andromeda at Montauk County Park. Off Broadway Sawyer has performed at the East 4th St Theatre playing Micha in a production of the Belgrade Trilogy. Kostya in a Production of The Seagull at TheatreLab. Kill The Bid Production playing Taylor at TheatreRow. Played Wallace in a production of Woman and Wallace at 2nd Stage Atlantic Theatre. Played Philip in a production of Safe at the 14th St. Y. Van in a production of Clover by Erik Ehn at La Mama. Will in a production of Freeway by Jennifer Rudin at Theatre 54. Sawyer Spielberg's Film Credits include War Protestor in 2017 film The Post, Jet in Eli Linnetz Film Afterglow, Lisa Robertson Film Commerce playing Peter and Guest Stared in the Network TV show Red Band Society playing Dave. Sawyer Spielberg is also a proud board member of the Anthology Film Archives in New York City.
WATG: You are one of the founding members of Where Are They Going Theatre Company. Can you tell us a little about how this little but mighty theatre company come to be? How did you meet your partners in crime Raye Levine (playing Jessica), Eric Svendsen (playing Robert) and Brynne Kraynak? What kind of work does WATG produce?
Sawyer: I was taking a Monday night acting class in the basement of a small off-Broadway theatre in downtown Manhattan, which seemed to me at the time a hidden gem filled with a small group of some of the most talented hard working actors and playwrights I've met here in New York. It was a master class on scene study run by the playwright Lyle Kessler and his trusty right hand man Mike Keller. Eric Svendsen, who was a member of the class, came up to me after an evening of fun and asked if we could get together, read some plays and work on a scene. We became best friends in this process and discovered a play called “Extinction” written by Gabe McKinley. After working on it in the class for a few months we then put her up as a full production at Guild Hall of East Hampton with Raye Levine and Brynne Kraynak playing opposite Eric and me. It was an opportunity to work behind the scenes of the theatre too and learn other trades. Raye did a beautiful job designing the set, Eric mastered the sound and Brynne worked on the wardrobe. Our friend Josh Gladstone, who is the Artistic Director of Guild Hall, directed and his team at Guild Hall really helped us make this happen. Out of this production the Where Are They Going Theatre Company organically developed with a simple mission statement of producing raw, dangerous and challenging new plays!! Now a year later we are onto Mandi Riggi’s wild new play “Leviticus” with three shows in Manhattan and over 24 shows in Scotland. Having this company really is an amazing privilege, because we are meeting so many new artists here in New York that we are working with in developing these plays. Scotland is going to be fucking mental!!
WATG: You were born and raised in Southern California, but now you’re an actor based out of New York City. What drew you to the Big Apple? Do you miss LA? What excites you about the acting scene in NYC?
Sawyer: I’ve been acting in New York for the past 8 years now. I moved here in 2010 and enrolled into the Atlantic School of Acting. I wanted a change from California. I became so used to it over there and I wanted more experience. New York felt like the right move and now I live full time in Brooklyn, NY.
WATG: You’ve got a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, right? How long have you been practicing? What drew you to it? Also, word on the street is you had to use this training in real life on a guy who threw a Christmas Tree at your car and then took a swing at you. OMG - We need details. Spill!
I’ve got a white belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I’ve been studying the art for a few years now and it’s a long journey to Black belt. Jiu-jistu to me is a lifestyle no different then surfing, yoga or rock-climbing. I do it because I love it and I can't imagine my life without it. I just joined a new gym that I'm very happy with in midtown called Unity. I have a gym in California and in London that I go to when I travel there as well. Jiu-jitsu is also a form of self-defense and yes I had to use it. It was an unfortunate event here in New York and I’m happy I had the right training to help deescalate the situation.
WATG: In addition to being a martial arts bad ass, you like to challenge yourself in other ways too. You, Raye and Bryan Hamilton (playing Sinead) will be participating in the Long Island Tough Mudder this July. For those who don’t know about the Tough Mudder, it’s an intense obstacle course full of mud, ice, fire and electric shocks - OH MY! Give us all the dirty details about what you're looking forward to about this adventure.
Sawyer: It’s 13 miles of 30 obstacles. I did it last summer and wanted to do it again. It’s not as tough as I thought. More fun with the right friends. At the end of it all they give you a beer and a bandanna. Then you just sit back and do nothing. Just smile covered in sweat and Mud!!
WATG: You took a Clowning Class recently. Was the class a real barrel of laughs or did you have to tap into some more vulnerable parts of yourself? What were your favorite takeaways from class?
Sawyer: Raye and I took a clown class led by a very intelligent teacher named Christopher Bayes. I took this course about 5 years ago and wanted to take it again, curious to see what I would take from it this time around and to see how my perspectives have changed. It turns out I haven't changed a bit. It’s just as fun as I remembered!! We did an exercise where someone comes up to you and then compliments you and all your allowed to say is "thanks." This was the most important lesson that I took from this course, because it is hard for me to take compliments. I tend to want to give back. There’s a lot of rejection in this business, so you might as well take the compliments when they come your way. It’s also a craft that helps free you from your mind and helps get you into your physicality. I look forward to taking the course again soon. Definitely don't want to wait 5 years.
WATG: Speaking of tapping into your vulnerability, the character you play in the show (Austin) is confronted with a lot of tough issues such as shame, denial, deceit, and faith. He’s pretty good at keeping secrets too. Can you share with us a little about your process of how you tackle these deep emotions throughout the play? And don't worry, your secrets are safe with us ;)
Sawyer: There are so many layers to Austin and it’s been very challenging for me to find these moments, but we are getting there little by little. One layer at a time with help from our team and director Abigail Zealey Bess. Each scene gets broken up into many different beats. I play one beat at a time and pay attention to the details of what my character needs in each beat and who my character is communicating these needs to. I’m finding more and more of Austin’s needs now that we are almost off-book and how he goes about getting what he wants. When you ask about secrets I find that there’s a lot going on in him that he doesn't show but expresses in other ways. It’s been a pleasure playing around with this character and I am finding so much joy in discovering him every day. I would find it so boring if I had to play an uncomplicated person with nothing at stake or I’d hate to play a "Nice Guy." Austin allows me to be the nightmare that I am. I was afraid of him at first to tell you the truth but now I just love him.
WATG: Austin plays a lot of games in the show. Games that often get him into trouble. You're a bit of a prankster yourself. Have any of your games ended badly like Austin's? How have you used that experience to inform your performance?
Sawyer: I love games. I love playing sports, but even more I love to instigate. I’ve tamed myself a lot over the years because I’ve caused people to get wound up in the past and had to calm down on the instigating. Sometimes I can't help myself I just love getting reactions out of people. With Austin he gets to do this with almost every line so I'm having the time of my life playing this guy!! He's a riot. Underneath all this instigating is love and a pure heart of course and there’s moments in the play where he shows this honesty. Finding the moments of where he's being sincerer and where he's not has been a rewarding challenge.
WATG: As soon as you get back from Scotland, you’re starting rehearsal for a new film project. Can you tell us a few details about it?
Sawyer: I'm starring in a really clever horror movie/physiological thriller this September. I can't give too much away just yet, but I read the latest draft the other day and it’s terrifying. It’s a real mind fuck. I may not be able to watch it. My sister Sasha Loves these kinds of movies, so I’d be curious to hear what she thinks...
Keep up with Sawyer online:
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - @watgnyc
Performances July 17-19 of “Leviticus” in New York City at 59E59 are SOLD OUT, but keep an eye on our Facebook page for possible opening tickets.
But come see us in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Aug 3-27 at 12pm (except for Tuesdays). Buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/leviticus