Summer Journeys: Sara Takanabe ’24, A Passion for Acting

Sara spent six weeks last summer learning, growing, and honing her skills as an actor in a program designed to prepare high school theater students for the college audition and interview process.

As a student in Carnegie Mellon’s Pre-College Drama Program, Sara Takanabe ’24 became accustomed to hearing a familiar refrain from her professors: Acting cannot be taught. And Sara agrees. It is, she says, an art you can continue to learn about and grow in; it is a craft to be honed, and a difficult one, at that. With support from a Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund grant*, Sara spent six weeks last summer learning, growing, and honing her skills in a program designed to prepare high school theater students for the college audition and interview process, while introducing them to the creative demands and rigors facing students studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts Drama curriculum.

“I had six hours of classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and eight hours on Tuesday and Thursday,” Sara explains. “It was intense, but I got a sense of how college life in a theater major would be, so the experience was very valuable. I also wanted to be in an environment where I was surrounded by people with the same passion and dreams and see how I would fit into that community and how I would be able to grow there.”

Over the course of the six-week program, Sara took eight different, intensive courses: Movement, Acting, Acting on Camera, Audition, Dramaturgy, Voice and Speech, Shakespeare, and Analyzing Text. She often supplemented her already full class days with optional evening programming.

“Evening workshops usually began around 7 and ran until around 10 pm,” Sara says. “These workshops covered a variety of topics; I attended the Meisner Technique, Active Analysis, Yoga for Actors, and Dialect workshops.”

At the heart of all her work was Sara’s desire to grow as an actor, and to acquire the perspective of an actor when looking at a script or a character.

“The whole program was focused on the process,” Sara notes, “not the result. That is why it did not have a final production, which other acting programs usually do. The focus on process and exploration gave me more freedom in the choices I made when working on a character or a monologue. Because the focus wasn’t on the results, I felt more at ease in trying whatever I thought to do, and it was great that I had a space where I felt safe to do so—the validation that I got from professionals and friends who had the same passion and interest was also very rewarding. Exploration can take a long time and can feel as though you’re traveling further way from the ‘answer.’ I think I learned that it's okay to take a longer way to find the character or a way to say a line that clicks; and also that everything I do along the way will be valuable in the end.”

And for Sara, that value is immeasurable.

“Although the program reminded me how hard the craft is, it also strengthened my love and passion for it. I have more confidence in my theatrical skills now, and I’m so excited to bring it back to Taft Theater. I’m so glad that I took a step to go and explore something that I love, and if anyone feels scared to step out of their comfort zone, I encourage them to build up the courage and take that step. That one step may change your world.”

*Established by John Kilbourne, Class of 1958, in memory of his parents Samuel W. and Evelyn S. Kilbourne, the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund provides students with opportunities in the summer to participate in enriching programs in the arts.


"My favorite production at Taft would be the 2023 Spring Musical Cabaret, and my role Fraulein Schneider. The amount of work and love we put in as an ensemble made it very special for me. The strong message the musical held also had a big impact on me, and I had a real-life experience of sending out a message through theater. Fraulein Schneider is a very sad character, but I love her so much because I worked with her for so long that she is now a part of me."

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