On the Couch with Sarah Shahinian

Sarah Shahinian AAR On the Couch - photo by Belinda StrodderWho is Sarah Shahinian?
If only I knew… if you find out, can you let me in on the secret, please?

What would you do differently to what you do now?
If I wasn’t involved in the arts in some capacity, I think the only other life that would make me as equally happy would be working with animals. I love all kinds of animals, I’ve always wanted to do some sort of specialty training to work with them. I worked briefly with chimpanzees and tigers in California in my early 20s, that was life-changing! Unfortunately it’s about as consistent and lucrative as performing, so… the devil you know, I guess.

Who inspires you and why?
Tough one… I guess the simplest answer would be my grandfather. He passed away in 2005 and I still miss him every day. He was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and came to America with nothing. He was a fighter pilot in WWII, ran his own photoengraving business, put five children through college and advanced degrees. He was a violinist and an art collector, music was always a part of my life from a very young age because of him. He was an incredible man and true patriarch of our family who led our clan with love and fairness and generosity. The world was a better place with him in it. Or at least my world was.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I believe it’s the little things that can truly make a big difference, so I try to make small changes wherever I can. For example, I worked on a show with a girl who was big on environmental protection, so she gave out those little foldable fabric bags that scrunch up really small to everyone in the cast as an opening night gift. I still carry it with me in my purse so I don’t have to use a plastic bag from any store I happen to pop into, and it inspired me to give those out as little Christmas gifts that year as well, in a “pay it forward” sort of way. In the grand scheme of things, a thousand people making one small change has a much bigger impact than one person making a huge dramatic change. Another example: if everyone cut back to only eating meat three times a week rather than twice a day, that would make a much bigger impact on animal welfare and the health of the meat industry than five people becoming full vegetarians, does that make sense?

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I don’t think I have a specific one, as I rarely return to a holiday spot once I’ve been there. I just love to travel and explore in general and there’s too much else to see in the world. I love sunshine and outdoor activities. Anywhere I can hike and be out in nature and prehistoric beauty, I’m a happy gal. My partner and I just keep making lists of places we haven’t been yet and tick them off as we go! My favourite one from the past year would probably be Bryce Canyon in Utah. Google it, it’s breathtaking!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I’m a sucker for the Great Ocean Road, I think I’ve done it four times now in just the past five years… pretty much every time someone new comes to town. When you first round that corner and catch sight of those mammoth pillars, it feels other-worldly. Really puts things into perspective. I also always recommend the Healesville Animal Sanctuary, because it’s the best place to go see JUST Australian animals, which is of course what people want to see when they arrive from overseas… they’re not interested in elephants at the zoo, they want to see echidnas and wombats and dingos, oh my!

What are you currently reading?
I’m still trying to find a good new fiction piece that excites me, so I’m open to recommendations. Until someone offers a good one, I’m stuck re-reading Harry Potter again… not like I’ve had any time for reading the past few weeks anyway!!!

What are you currently listening to?
If I’m answering literally? my dog snoring… if you’re asking musically? I generally have something mellow and acoustic on in the background. I love good lyrics… it’s all about the storytelling, isn’t it? Some of my favs are Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, John Mayer, etc… I’m a little bit stuck in the past that way.

Happiness is?
Snuggles on the couch with my man and my doggo and a binge watch of a good drama series.

What does the future hold for you?
Hmmm… I could answer with what I WANT the future to hold, but the beauty and the bitch of it is I have no idea! I know what I want and am currently pursuing in my personal life, but the universe seems to continually have other plans for me, so I’m just along for the ride! Had you asked me this question ten years ago, I probably would have said I was a New Yorker for life. Now I’m living halfway across the world and I can’t see myself ever going back to the mayhem of Manhattan… case and point. The control freak in me is finally learning to let go, I think… maybe…

Sarah stars as Trina in StageArt’s production of Falsettos at Chapel Off Chapel until 11 February 2018. For more information, visit: www.stageart.com.au or www.chapeloffchapel.com.au for details.

Image: Sarah Shahinian – photo by Belinda Strodder