KEN SAWYER // artist profile
Photo by Peter Konerko

All Photos by Peter Konerko for @ This Stage Magazine

What energizes you as an artist?

Travel and art. Whether it’s seeing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime or Fun Home in NYC, or a dance company do interpretations of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage in an airplane hanger in Sweden, or just walking the streets of Venice… I always return home from a trip inspired to create more in my own community.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

In an odd way… my dog. She is 14 and blind and almost deaf. And yet she pushes on with her furry head held high. And still looks like a million bucks.

“If I wasn’t an artist…”

…I’d be dead. I mean, no matter what you do there is an art to doing it well, right? And for me if you can’t find the art in what you do… whatever you do… life’s kind of pointless.

“As a child, I was…”

…a geek with big glasses. My mom used to say I holed up in my room when I was around nine years old, reading Stephen King novels and listening to the Star Wars soundtrack, and emerged several years later as this person who suddenly wanted to be a director and audition for plays and go to performing arts high school. Also I went to the movies… a lot. Not much has changed. Still a geek… only now with reading glasses.

Who are your artist allies?

For the last four years I have worked for Jon Imparato and the LA LGBT Center. It started with Deathtrap. And then Jon said, “You know people around town think of you as the guy who only does horror plays. And I think there is more to you than that.” And so he has guided me to direct material that has pushed my boundaries, opened me up to the power theatre can have on a community, to embrace activism… Jon and the entire staff at the LGBT Center have stuck by me and supported my visions. It is inspiring to have an artistic ally that is also doing so much for the community.

Photo by Peter KonerkoWho are your artistic heroes?

My friends. I have a close circle of friends who are my rock. They are all busy artists. One is starring in a show in Vegas, another is producer and star of a web series, another production designed a little movie called Furious 7, and the other is currently opening a show at The Road Theatre. And yet we always find time to see each other’s work in progress, support each other, and stay up to all hours at some diner trying to solve the problems of the universe… or the play at hand.

What’s your favorite (or go-to) LA “spot?”

Runyon Canyon. I live a block away (impossible to park otherwise). I get tons of ideas for staging while running with my music blasting. Ha! Lots of eye candy too.

Okay. Define art. Go!

Art illuminates the details in life that speak to the soul. Entertainment elicits a surface response. Art triggers something deeper… often unconscious. I remember seeing Michelangelo’s David. We’ve all seen replicas. I thought, “Eh, I’ll see this because it’s expected.” But entering that room. The way the light hits the stone. It had an attention to detail that not only speaks of the subject matter but also the soul of the artist interpreting it. Art is also that woman who climbed the pole at the South Carolina capital to take down the Confederate flag. Expression that comes from the heart — that is art to me.

What are you currently working on?

Ike Holter’s Hit the Wall. It’s about the night in 1969 that riots broke out in response to a raid at the NYC gay bar The Stonewall Inn. It’s a stunningly visceral play that was brought to the LA LGBT center by Adam Silver. The cast and designers are some of the finest I have ever worked with. And my buddies from Lovelace: The Rock Opera (Anna Waronker and Charlotte Caffey) are writing some original music for it. So excited!

What’s your creative goal for the next year?

A film. A film. Everyone says I should direct a short film. And I should. Scripts anyone?