Lights, Camera, Sadie

Sadie Abernathy ’19 explores her passion for directing through unique position of Assistant Director of Upper School theater productions


As we sat down outside the Martha Bennett Art Gallery and started talking, it was immediately clear why Sadie Abernathy ‘19 was personally selected by Theater Teacher Diane Landis to be Assistant Director for the past two and a half years of play and musical productions. Charismatic and charming, Abernathy frequently paused to say hello to friends in the hallway and chat with teachers as they headed down the staircase.

“I’ve learned a lot about how to be a leader and how to, like, assert control without feeling guilty about it,”

Abernathy says to describe her role as Assistant Director. Abernathy first got involved in the upper school theater program her freshman year, working on crew. Then, in her sophomore year, she auditioned for the play Is He Dead? but unfortunately wasn’t casted. However, Abernathy recounts how Diane approached her with a unique opportunity she was bringing back especially for her, saying “…Diane was like, “Hey, this is a special role, and I’ll let ya do it” and I was like ‘Great. Perfect.’”

Abernathy officially started out as Assistant to the Director, acting as a general stage manager while doing additional in-school work for Landis. Then, her junior year, for the musical Once on This Island, Abernathy was promoted to Assistant Director. For the upcoming production Fiddler on the Roof, which contains multiple set pieces and props, Abernathy explains, “Right now a big part of my job is figuring out who can move each set piece…Which is kind of a lot of work because people are switching roles.

“I also do a lot of paperwork and stuff that people don’t even know exits.” But, her role extends beyond just paperwork and logistics. As assistant director, Aberna- thy holds enormous responsibility in the theater program as well. She shares, “I know a lot about the theater department that people might not know… can’t really share any of it though.”

Abernathy also helps to run technology during assembles as part of assembly tech crew.

Looking to the future, Abernathy hopes to pursue play and screenwriting and directing at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

She excitedly shares her favorite movies and directors, “My favorite movie is La La Land because of the director, Damien Chazelle.

“A lot of people don’t like his movie because they’re like ‘Ahh, white people save jazz ’but it’s more about, I like him because he brought back the classic musical like Hollywood musical…The way he deals with time is really interesting,” as well as her goals as an aspiring director: “I want to create sci-fi movies. But not, like, CGI-heavy sci- fi films. I want it to be more about the concepts and it’s like exploring how humans react in different situations.”

And while Abernathy is passionate about theater and film, she does recount her least favorite moment as a director when she was doing her own Student Directed Play, Brain Suckers. She says, “It was the first time I was really on my own directing and it’s really hard to direct your peers especially when they have the tendency to fight with each other.”

Regardless, Abernathy remains outgoing and enthusiastic about her role within the theater department. While much of her work happens behind the scenes, Abernathy sees this as optimal, and the best way to show that she is fulfilling her duty as Assistant Director. As she explains, thanks to her hard work and organization, transitions and scene slipups become “Just little things that you wouldn’t have to think about when you’re watching a play.”