Special Reports

Broadway Shockers 2022: Sara Porkalob of 1776 Gives Honest Answers to a Reporter

Sit down, John, and read about the most talked-about interview of 2022.

Sara Porkalob plays Edward Rutledge in the American Repertory Theatre / Roundabout Theatre production of 1776.
Sara Porkalob plays Edward Rutledge in the American Repertory Theatre / Roundabout Theatre production of 1776.
(© Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

As 2022 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most controversial stories of the year.

Sara Porkalob plays Edward Rutledge in the Broadway revival of 1776, which features a cast of female and nonbinary actors portraying America's Founding Fathers. She delivers a searing rendition of the second act number "Molasses to Rum," which nearly stops the show. It had everyone wondering about this Broadway newcomer with the big pipes.

Jason P. Frank at Vulture contacted Porkalob to find out more, and what resulted was the most candid Broadway interview in recent memory.

Self-describing as a "multi-hyphenate," Porkalob is a writer-director-performer previously best known for her Dragon Cycle trilogy of solo musicals. She has some thoughts about 1776, which she refers to as "a relic" and "a dusty, old thing." She questions some of the staging choices made by directors Diane Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page, calling the decision to have the actors gaze out at the audience during one passage "cringey." She admits that she is not artistically fulfilled by 1776, but she has clear expectation of what she wants from her Broadway debut: "A Tony nomination, good reviews, and a smart, personable, hard-working agency that's ready to rep me." She also wants more Instagram followers.

Porkalob's unfiltered honesty is rare in an industry that carefully stage-manages every interaction with the press. The interview is a fascinating peek behind the curtain of a currently running Broadway production, something we usually only ever encounter in books published years after the final performance. When reading it, I was most troubled to learn how the trappings of corporate HR — sensitivity workshops, consultants, "affinity groups" — have infiltrated the creative process, something that seems to portend a future of fearful, liability-conscious theater.

The line that received the most chatter was the last one in the interview, when Porkalob discusses her level of commitment to 1776: "I'm giving 75 percent. When I do 'Molasses to Rum,' I'm giving 90 percent." This is a comment that is bound to trigger anyone who gives 110 percent in everything yet cannot seem to make it into the Equity lounge. In an industry that cranks out 100 theater majors for every available job, that has the potential to cause a firestorm.

The backlash was immediate and furious, including from director Jeffrey L. Page, who wrote in a thinly veiled Facebook missive, "You are fake-woke, rotten to the core, and stuck in the Matrix; I hope that you get the increased IG followers that you so desperately thirst." He later removed the post.

Porkalob defended the interview in the following Twitter post, which is still visible as of publication:

According to the New York Times, Porkalob later sent an apology e-mail to the company of 1776, writing, "I see how my opinions and the tone of the article have hurt, offended and upset some of the folks internal to this process. I'm sorry for that."

While her online rhetoric is something that is more expected from an MMA fighter than a Broadway starlet, the truth is that Porkalob's performance is pretty good. I highly doubt it will earn her a Tony nomination at this point, but she's clearly a talent who deserves space on the American stage — even if she's not a perfect fit for Broadway. As Porkalob is surely thinking, It's Broadway's loss.

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Closed: January 8, 2023