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Sarah Murr: "Just lil' ol' you"

At TheatreiNQ, The Bridge Project bond is very strong. As someone who has personally been a part of it for three years, I’ve certainly found my people or more accurately, my “wolf pack”. Through vulnerability, a strong connection forms - in an acting and learning sense that is quite literally the epitome of family. I’ve even experienced first hand how long this line of the “wolf pack” travels back in time. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to work with guest professionals (aka Bridge Alumni because they are THAT cool) it's been so easy to connect, create a relationship and soak up every nugget of wisdom and learning they can offer. Personally, researching and keeping up to date with what the amazing Bridge Alumni are doing for work, is one of my biggest motivations and inspirations. It's inspirational seeing people who have done the same foundational training as yourself kick goals and truly make a living in the arts, no matter where they are in the world.


But today I’d like to spotlight a member of the first official year of The Bridge Project in 2012. I was fortunate enough to be assigned by Terri to write a blog about the incredibly talented and hard-working Sarah Murr. For those of you who don't know, Sarah has been absolutely dominating the musical theatre stage for the last decade. Her standout career in Theatre has taken her all over the world. You only have to look at her CV to see just how remarkable Sarah is. For me, what I found the most intriguing and admirable is discovering that she works very long contracts and travels interstate and internationally for months on end. So, here is my catch up with Sarah Murr:



What has been the most influential performance opportunity to your career and why?

Personally, each contract has challenged and influenced me to upgrade my skills and craft along the way but I think Opening the Melbourne season of ‘& Juliet’ and going on to cover Casey Donovan for a preview is a performance that changed the game for me. Receiving a shout out in a review – which as an ensemble/cover rarely is the case. Being proud of my work but also getting the recognition and validation as a performer meant so much to me.

“At this preview performance, the absolute standout in a cast of standouts was Sarah Murr as Angélique, who is second cover for the role. Murr revealed herself as a master comedian with a killer voice who will no doubt be in demand from here on in”.


Pictured: Sarah Murr in three different roles in "& Juliet" (photo courtesy of Tirion Clothing Social Media)

 

From hearing praises of your breakout performance as Tracie in ‘Hairspray’, what were some takeaways you have kept with you?

Being so young when I played Tracey, and taking on the responsibility of the lead role taught me so much about integrity, ego, process, pace and longevity. I learnt the hard way that going 100% all the time leads to burn out – Pacing yourself and discipline as a performer is half the battle.  8 shows a week are no joke!

Pictured: Sarah Murr as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (produced by NQOMT 2012)

 

As a touring performing artist currently playing Lady Capulet/Nell in ‘& Juliet’ what are some of the challenges you face with your career constantly adapting?

It truly is the nature of the beast! In the early stages of my career the hustle was real and It was easier to tour around carefree. Now as I’m knocking on the door of my 30’s touring is a little harder. It’s so important to pack your comforts and to make the hotel and theatre feel as cosy as possible. As a Townsville girl – never in my wildest dreams did I ever think landing my dream career would also mean getting to travel. I have been to Dubai, London, Manila, Singapore, America and a whole cruise ship's worth of a European itinerary! All while working. Home sickness exists but your cast and crew assume the family role. All being in the same boat (while doing Priscilla, we were literally on a boat!) you make connections with these people over time and that helps with being away. As for the contract to contract work? I truly love the hustle of auditioning and setting goals and working as hard as I can until I secure the next show and seeing what life has for me in the in between!

 

What are some things you do to keep yourself grounded whilst on tour?

Self care is priority number one. I make sure I take my days off seriously and do what my body is telling me to do. That could be having a massage, steaming out at the sauna, a big walk in the sun, dinner with friends or just a day on the couch recharging. I pack my comfiest jumper and pyjamas so the down time feels like home. I also love going to the cinema and keeping up with the performances and stories being told – cinemas always feel familiar!


Surpassing 100 shows in ‘& Juliet’ what is your favourite part about your day to day life as a touring performer?

Everyday is different! The show must go on. Covers and swings get to flex their muscles. I cover 2 roles and play Lady Capulet/Nell. There was a week in Melbourne where I played Anne for 2 shows, Lady Capulet for 4 and the Nurse for 2 and that is where I come alive! It might be my adrenaline addiction but it is never boring. I promise you that! The challenge doesn’t end on opening night.


Pictured: Sarah Murr as Lady Capulet in '& Juliet" now playing in Sydney till July12.

 

 On tour, how do you keep yourself healthy and how do you work around the different environments affecting your vocals?

This is a perfect question after getting back from Singapore. While we were there the pollution levels were so high that people were getting respiratory infections. We have physio, mental health, GPs and vocal coaches available to us thanks to the brilliant Michael Cassel Group. Personally – I never sleep with the aircon on! It’s too risky and affects our sensitive instrument. Masks are truly heaven sent! Making sure to fuel my body with the right food and just having access to clean drinking water to stay hydrated. All these simple things I can control no matter where in the world I might be!

 

On tour overseas in ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ what key things you discovered about the work and yourself?

Touring overseas was just a once in a lifetime experience. Think of it as a little floating world. I discovered how I go on a long contract. It was 11 months away from the day I flew to Florida to the day I touched down home. That is a long time to be away from home and your loved ones. It made me miss Australia and the Australian audiences. Playing a diva in such an iconic Australian piece made me very proud and allowed me to lean into my Townsville twang.


Pictured: Sarah Murr as Lady Capulet in '& Juliet" now playing in Sydney till July12.


Your career so far has been amazing, when you’re not performing but auditioning, how do you deal with rejection and staying determined?

I am so lucky to have a close group of best friends that are also performers. We have each other's back always while going through it together. I have a process that I use now – that took me a while to learn when it comes to rejection/ not getting the job. I give myself 24 hours to mourn it, and then I move on to the next one. I always treat myself with something to reward my hard work and then I let it go. This took time so any young performers need to give themselves grace. There’s no nice way of putting it. Being told ‘no’ when making ourselves so vulnerable to share our talent is hard. But it does get easier when you zoom out and realise you’re just one piece of a very big puzzle. Just lil' ol' you. And sometimes your flavour just does not match the recipe. That doesn’t make you any less tasty, it just means you’re not right for this combination.

 

In one of your instagram posts and Townsville Bulletin articles you mention how far you’ve come since leaving Townsville. Has growing up in Townsville given you any benefits to your current professional career?

Townsville's theatre scene is thriving. Not only did I do the school musicals, dance at TAPA, acting at Murrels Academy of Drama, have multiple singing lessons a week but I also was a member of both NQOMT and The Choral Society. I had so many opportunities to perform in shows and learn from the older cast members. I also had the chance to try and fail in a safe space. There was no pressure or expectation – only passion. Passion sparks passion – and that is something that all of the mentors I was lucky to learn from had.

 

Do you have any advice to give to young people in Townsville wanting to pursue a career in the performing arts and what advice would you give your younger self ?

Take every opportunity you can! Experience is priceless and each time you get up on a stage you are slowly carving out the performer you’ll become. Be proactive and push yourself in a place that is safe with your family and peers to cheer you on or pick you back up. It’s available to you – go get it.

Pictured: Sarah Murr performing at the Townsville City Council Carols by Candlelight 2023

 

 

 

 

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