Theatre professor Mariah Sage steps into the limelight for “Salvage”

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications on April 27, 2012

Assistant professor Mariah Sage’s pre-tenure leave from the Theatre Department at Fairfield University paid off in more ways than one. Salvage, a new play commissioned by her company Theatre 4 and written by George Brant, is currently being shown in New Haven, Conn., and has recently been selected for inclusion at the prestigious and highly competitive NYC International Fringe Festival. The play, which runs from April 19 to May 6, will have an additional two-week run in August at the New York City festival and be shown along with other new and exciting performances. 

Salvage is a play about obsession, ownership, and responsibility to family. Directed by Maryna Harrison, it stars Theatre 4’s founding members: Sage, Janie Tamarkin, and Rebecka Jones. In it, Danny, a 40-year-old record shop employee has died in a car accident and his mother and sister (Tamarkin and Sage) go into their basement (where Danny lived) to go through his possessions before they are lost to an oncoming storm and likely flood. An old high school girlfriend (Jones) of Danny’s shows up as well. She has become rich and famous for writing a book about their relationship and might have returned for more than mere condolences.

Sage, Tamarkin, and Jones founded Theatre 4 in 2007 and it has become known as a progressive theatre, which produces plays that are innovative and inspire thoughtful discussion. Sage herself is an actor by trade (she received an MFA in acting from Brown University and a BFA from New York University) but noted that starting a theatre company, which requires her to take on many different roles in the production of a play, has been challenging in the best way possible. “In acting you tend to be at the whim of others and take what roles you’re given,” she explained. “So starting a theatre company was empowering.”

She took a pre-tenure leave in Spring 2012 to dedicate her time to commission, produce, and perform in Salvage, all of which has been a rewarding time for Sage. While taking a leave from Fairfield made it possible for her to focus her energies on Theatre 4, she noted that she missed teaching theatre to students who come to her from every academic discipline.

Mariah Sage, assistant professor of theatre, took pre-tenure leave to work on the production of "Salvage" a new play which she and her Theatre 4 colleagues commissioned.

When it came time to commission the play, it wasn’t difficult for Sage and her Theatre 4 partners to choose whom to approach for a play featuring the three actresses. “We immediately went to George [Brant],” said Sage. “He’s right on the cusp of exploding and brings a lot of worth to his characters by combining humor and warmth in dark places.”

The Cleveland, Ohio, playwright, who has won several awards for his work, had one stipulation to follow for the new play: there needed to be a role for three actresses, aged approximately 30, 40, and 60. “It was daunting, but exciting,” Sage said. “We had complete trust in him for the play.”

Salvagehas received positive reviews, particularly for playing to the strengths and talents of all three actresses. Sage, who noted that theatre is an exercise in empathy, said, “Audiences consistently respond that this new play is ‘compelling’ and ‘deeply moving.’ They enjoy being surprised by the plot twists and turns.  Critic Bonnie Goldberg wrote, ‘Wow’ is too small a word.’”

(l-r) The founding members of Theatre 4: Mariah Sage, Janie Tamarkin, and Rebecka Jones

Salvage will have more opportunities to intrigue and entertain audiences during the NYC International Fringe Festival. For details visit www.fringenyc.org.

For tickets to Salvage, in New Haven, visit www.t4ct.org or call (203) 654-7711.

Salvage is performed at The Gallery at UpCrown Studios, 216 Crown Street, Floor 2, New Haven, Conn. SALVAGE is performed Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 6.

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