Actor Sarah Beth Tanner Gets Cookin’

Actor and virtual chef, Sarah Beth Tanner, talks about playing Patsy Cline and how teaching the culinary arts feeds her soul and creativity.

What do you like about acting/singing the most?

  Storytelling through acting and music is the most basic of human art forms, and I love knowing that I am a part of an ancient transformational tradition. Acting – especially in the immediacy of live theatre – helps expand human empathy by challenging the audience’s perception of the world. We are able to get to know characters, hear conversations, and witness situations that we might not be privy to in our real lives. At its best, it’s more than entertainment – it’s a chance to learn and grow.

Can you introduce yourself to our audience?

I’m Sarah Beth – I’m originally from a small town in north Alabama, and I moved to Chicago in 2013 after working for regional theatres across the country. I was looking for a place to settle in after years of bouncing from contract to contract, and Chicago was the perfect fit.

Did you take up any training?

I hold a BA in Musical Theatre from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. These days, I try to take at least one acting class a year (many great options in Chicago!), and I regularly work with several vocal coaches.

When did you start acting?

I started acting in high school. ‘Drama Class’ was a natural fit for me, and I had the great fortune of having a dedicated, dynamic teacher who recognized and cultivated my passion for the work we were doing. Thanks, Mrs. McClung!

 What do you love about this character?

Patsy Cline died young, but she was not an overnight success by any stretch. She battled through so many various obstacles throughout her life and career – abusive relationships, tragedy and injury, and rampant sexism to name a few. I admire her tenacious grit in a huge way, but she was also known as a big-hearted and fiercely loyal friend. I love that combo.

What is the first thing you do to research and approach a role?

Every role is different, but I’m a big reader and a proud nerd about details. For this role, I dug into every biography and documentary I could find. I was cast in this role pre-COVID, so I’ve probably had too much time to research! I even made an impromptu pilgrimage to the Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville last summer after a camping trip in the Ozarks. I saw her iconic costumes and her personal handwriting on many of the letters she’d written friends and fans. It was an extremely memorable day for me, and I highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in Nashville!

 What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?

This script is unique in that it’s extremely one-sided. Louise has the vast majority of words to say, and Patsy is somewhat limited to telling her story through her songs. Kevin (our fabulous director) and I have worked hard to bring depth and detail to these songs – especially the ones we’ve all heard many times before.

Why did you want to be involved in this production?

I’ve known I would play this role one day since I saw a production of this show when I was 15. I loved it so much and the pull it had over me solidified my dream of being a professional storyteller and actor-musician.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

We’ve added so many new ideas to this production – this is going to be unlike any other Always, Patsy Cline you’ve ever seen! I’m so excited for folks to see what we’ve been crafting!

  Besides this one, what’s your favorite stage show?

I’m a serious musical theatre lover, so it’s hard to pick a favorite! I enjoy different shows from different eras, but I always love a folksy vibe with lots of heart. Right now, I’m stuck on Come From Away. I also love the show In the Heights, and I’ve been on a fresh ITH kick since the movie came out last year!

What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?

I’m a Culinary Creative and professional food lover! I work as a recipe developer, food stylist, and content creator, and you can find more about that at sbtcooks.com. I’m also a nature lover and always looking for a chance to get out of the city for some camping or hiking. In the last few years, I’ve gotten into gardening, so in Spring and Summer, you’ll find me working in a city fire escape container garden.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?

I take deep breaths and remind myself to trust the good work we put in while preparing and rehearsing. I try to find a reverent, meditative mindset and focus on telling the story instead of worrying about myself. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s what I strive for!

This experience was the carrot on the end of my personal pandemic stick, and I’m just so grateful to finally be living this part of the story.

Photos by Todd Heintz Photography: (Pictured) Cast members Sarah Beth Tanner and Michelle Tibble rehearse with director Kevin Wiczer and music director Jason Hartge. 

See Sarah Beth Tanner as Patsy Cline in Raue Center’s musical production of “Always…Patsy Cline,” March 19 – April 16, 2022. Tickets at rauecenter.org.

Bake for the Arts! Join Sarah Beth Tanner for a virtual Buttermilk Biscuit Class, on April 30, 2022, at 10 am.
Proceeds benefit Raue Center and its educational programs, Mission Imagination and Raue Center School For The Arts. To sign up for this scrumptious online baking class visit sbtcooks.com