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Not my Day Job: Saran Goldie-Anderson

24 Apr 2017
Swing-dance teacher by day, stand-up comedian by night, we chat to Saran Goldie-Anderson about juggling multiple creative gigs and her experience signing for deaf theatre audiences.

Saran Goldie-Anderson is a swing-dance teacher by day (and evening) and a stand-up comedian by night. She is also a qualified NZ Sign Language Interpreter, and over the past eight years has worked alongside accessible theatre and comedy, providing interpreted performances. Saran talks to The Big Idea about her many hats as professional swing dancer, stand-up comedian and her experiences interpreting for deaf audiences in theatre and comedy.

Saran has been a dancer since she was young and took over the role as Director of Full Swing Dance Company in 2014 “because I couldn’t imagine not doing it, and I was determined to do whatever it took to be able to dance every day forever.”  Full Swing is a dance company in Wellington that offers courses in a wide range of swing era dances from the Charleston to the Blues. She says that taking on the role as Director has been “a super big ride” and the hours are long, more often than not seeping into her evenings and weekends, “but I don’t regret it, because even when I’m living on coffee and hummus I get to wiggle my butt and do some flips and those things always put you in a good mood.”

By night, Saran has found herself getting deeper into the world of stand-up comedy, which it seems happened almost without her realising. “I always thought comedy was the scariest thing I could do, so I was sure I’d never do it!” Her foray into stand-up comedy all began with an idea for a “fundraiser with a twist” for the Christchurch Earthquake appeal. The fundraiser was a music gig (she also has jazz musician as one of her hats) and the twist was called ‘Song Sale’: “as well as playing our music, audiences could make an extra donation, give us a title, and we’d write and perform them a brand new song on the spot.” The Song Sale went so well that they continued running them as fundraisers for over a year. And this set the ball rolling. “I got a lot of practice writing funny songs really fast, and because we shared venues comedians started asking me to close out comedy shows with silly musical sets. Once people saw me doing that they thought I was a comedian doing music rather than the other way around, and I realised if I was going to keep doing these gigs under false pretenses I should probably learn how to talk in between songs! It’s the long con, and no one suspects a thing.” Saran now performs alongside Anya Rzhevitskaya as part of 'Saranya Asks' and the duo will be performing as part of the 2017 New Zealand International Comedy Festival.

Juggling both of these roles is both a blessing and a curse. The freedom to define her own hours and organise her schedule around projects and performances is the blessing. The curse, (with both day job and night job based in the arts), is that she “can guarantee that six different funding applications will always end up due in the same week.” Both roles demand a lot of her evenings and it is not unusual to find Saran finishing teaching a dance class at 8.30pm and on the stage beginning a stand-up show by 9pm. Weekends are a rarity and music is often written at odd times in the morning. It really is a juggling act but it seems that the love of both things, with the addition of a 100% coffee addiction, keep her energies high.

For the last eight years, Saran has also provided interpreted performances for deaf audiences in theatre and comedy. As a theatre interpreter she would work closely with the script, cast and director in the lead up to the show so that when it came to perform the production, she could interpret to match simultaneously what was happening on stage. “A theatre interpreter needs to learn the whole script by heart and essentially operate as one of the  performers - but doing every role not just one!” Interpreting comedy adds an extra layer of demand, and Saran says that “you need to be quick on your feet (hands?) and have a good sense of humour, as anything could happen.”

Through her interpretation, Saran says that she has learned a lot “working with people who might have really different languages, egos, worldviews, creative perspectives and goals to build something really cool that everyone can be part of. In the end, we all want the same thing - for more people to feel welcome in the arts and enjoy them,  whether as participants or audiences.” This is knowledge that she has fed into her work as a performer as well, always working to make work that people can connect with “figuring out how to bridge various divides to make that happen collaboratively in new and unexpected ways.” She has recently stopped working as an interpreter in performances but remains involved behind the scenes as one of the directors of Odd Socks Productions which provides consultation and arts interpretation services to arts organisations on how to make their theatre and comedy more accessible to deaf audiences.

When asked what advice she would give others who have dreams of creative endeavours, Saran says, “Get up every day and do the thing. Do the thing you dream of doing regardless of whether it’s in your own bedroom in your pyjamas or on a huge stage in front of zillions of people, because if you do it every day you’re, a) already achieving your dreams - you’re doing the thing! and, b) you’ll find out what happens if you keep doing the thing.” She doesn’t deny that it is really hard work and there are lots of days in the middle where you won’t want to get up and do it despite the fact that you know it’s your dream, but she urges people to do it on those days too “even if you’re doing it in a huff for five minutes in between angrily doing the dishes and grumpily walking the dog … Do your emails, write your plans, but do the thing. Success, fame, fortune (hahahahaha) are not guaranteed … but if you do the thing, you are winning: you are doing the thing.”

If you're interested in seeing more of what Saran gets up to, be sure to check out:

The Menagerie, a deaf accessible variety show with NZSL interpreters for all language dependant acts, at Fringe Bar, Wellington on April 29th

Saran and Anya will be performing at this year's NZ Comedy Festival with their show, Saranya asks: Still a F*ckwit?, in Auckland May 9-13, Cellar at Q and Wellington May 16-20, Cavern Club

Saranya asks: Still a fuckwit? , The Menagerie: A deaf accessible show, Full Swing Dance Company