A Conversation with Sarah Benson and Meropi Peponides
This is Meropi and Sarah, writing to you with our last fundraising request ever at Soho Rep! It will be fun, we promise.
Since literally everything artistic at Soho Rep is a collaborative conversation, Meropi had the idea to make this a dialogue, so here is a bit about why we care about Soho Rep and are asking you to shower our beloved theater! Support us now to embolden the incoming artistic leaders of Soho Rep who we know are going to make phenomenal work which you are going to want to see (we know we do!)
SB: So, what has Soho Rep meant to you? Or, erm, worst and best days ever at Soho Rep?
MP: Oooof that one’s like, a lot. I was going to say share your first day in leadership at Soho Rep. Or, erm, what is something you’ll remember from working here in like 10 years? Or if you had to pick three words to characterize the entirety of Soho Rep’s work that has occurred since you’ve been here, what would you say?
[Meropi’s landline rings]
SB: I love that your landline is actually plugged in. I never got back around to that since Covid, everyone just calls me on my cell.
MP: I call people from this number when I don’t want them to have my cell, is that terrible?
Do you want to go first or shall I?
SB: You go.
MP: Audacious. Unlikely. Idiosyncratic. That last one can be seen in a positive or a negative light. I see that in a very positive light.
SB: Same. Ok, my three: Wild. That feels important somehow. Chaotic. Both amazing and a challenge. Trust. In terms of what we’re trying to transmit to artists.
MP: Ok, so first day.
SB: I think my first day, when I officially had to make decisions, was Adam Bock’s The Thugs directed by Annie Kauffman, which was programmed by the amazing Daniel Aukin before me. It was already in performances and I just remember Alex Conley, our brilliant ED at the time, turning to me and saying “Well, are we extending or not?” I was initially totally stumped and paranoid I was going to make the wrong call and that we’d financially crash and burn. I agonized but finally we went ahead with the extension and I went around personally stickering the show. It was set in an office so we had a post-it sticker marketing campaign and I remember putting post-its everywhere I went, in elevators, on bathroom doors. Anyway, it turned out great, the show sold incredibly, the artists all felt amazing. But it was that first moment of realizing, oh I have to make the call here. What’s a moment you remember in the transition into leadership?
MP: I can speak to something that relates to a show coming up. I remember we were talking about the arc of creative planning and at one point I remember asking: “How do we more fully get behind people’s true passion projects? The ones they maybe never imagine as the main event so-to-speak.” We had been talking to this artist for a while about making a piece and we started to imagine the possibility of their passion project as a mainstage show. We were all obsessed with it, but this artist expressed that they could never find a way or place to do it, so we were like, what if that was a Soho Rep Mainstage show? What if we put all our creative energy behind that? That felt like an amazing moment of realizing: “Oh I get to ask those questions. And we can change the frame of how we’re thinking about programming.”
SB: So a decade from now what do you feel you’re going to carry forward from Soho Rep?
MP: I think for me I’ll remember the feeling of getting past the seemingly impossible thing. The flood of relief and euphoria when you realize you have solved this really intense seemingly impossible thorny problem. The number of times that has happened in the context of Soho Rep is vast and too many to count but truly that feeling is so powerful.
SB: That feels so related to what’s coming up for me, which is trusting the feeling of not knowing. Whether it’s in the rehearsal room, or a producing challenge, or an organizational question. The feeling of relishing being in a space of experiencing the awe of, “This is too big for me to figure out alone!” or “It’s beyond what I can currently imagine!” I don’t know of another company where I would have had so much space for that feeling to live.
MP: Ok, what about how you think you’re going to feel on your last day?
SB: I mean, I’m sure, all the feelings, but mostly, that I care so much about this theater and I feel genuinely thrilled to see a version that I couldn’t imagine. I can’t wait to come back and see shows. I do feel like Soho Rep will continue to be my favorite theater in New York City, even when I’m not working here.
MP: Not that we’re biased or anything!
SB: I feel excited to be a gleeful audience member. I know I’ll come back and wonder “Wow, how did they do that? We could never have done that.” How about you?
MP: Same. I feel so certain that Soho Rep will creatively thrive and it will just be exciting to see how. Nothing excites me more than the idea of walking into the theater and being fully surprised.
SB: Surprise feels like a big part of the material we work with, in so many aspects. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MP: Erm, yes! Give us money everyone, so that the next artistic leaders can continue to surprise you! I have full confidence that that will happen. And that takes resources.
Please make a gift today to help us reach our goal of $150K. By contributing to this campaign you will be recognizing our collective work for a combined 25 years at Soho Rep and, most importantly, propelling incoming leaders into a new phase of artistic imagination.
Soho Rep is a company that thrives on creative synergy and change. There has never been a more important moment to show that you also care about this theater and its future, as we do. Are you in?
Sarah & Meropi
Soho Rep is a civic theater that produces ambitious, innovative new works by radical theater makers that go on to future productions around the world.