Jim T. Gammill
Special to Valley News
Sarah Kristen Gibbon, Arts Council Menifee’s October Artist of the Month, was born and raised in Murrieta and discovered a love for theater while attending high school. Gibbon recalled how she came to be involved in theater.
“I had a fantastic theater teacher and I had so much fun in the after-school program, little did I know that theater would become my passion,” Gibbon said. “Theater programs and great teachers are so important, because, like many other kids, I didn’t have anything else in high school like sports or yearbook, and the program definitely made me feel like I was part of something great.”
Her educational journey resulted in her moving south to Escondido. While living in north San Diego County, Gibbon attended Palomar College and later California State University San Marcos, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in visual and performing arts with an emphasis in theater. After completing her coursework, Gibbon and her family moved to French Valley and settled in Menifee in 2017.
Gibbon devoted 19 years to theater and worked both onstage and behind the scenes as an actor, stage manager, director and producer. Gibbon is also an active producer and board member in Shakespeare in the Vines, Shakespearean theater troupe founded in 2005 by Sheila Ryle. The organization began putting on three to four shows per season, usually Shakespearean, and traveling from winery to winery in Temecula before finding a permanent home at Baily Winery.
Her recent projects include performing as King Lear in The Quarantined Theatre Company’s Zoom production of “King Lear;” playing Sylvia in Ophelia Jump’s Zoom production of “A Poison Squad of Whispering Women,” and directing Shakespeare in the Vines’ fundraising Zoom production of “Leading Ladies” by Ken Ludwig back in June.
2020 has been a challenging year for the theater arts, and the season, which was the first to be headed by artistic director Preston Helms, was put on hold. Taking the helm as director on “Leading Ladies” happened after she found confidence that she could create in the “digital world” after performing in King Lear, she said.
“It was such a great experience,” Gibbon said. “I got to work with several actors that I was familiar with and three new ones from Texas that I had never met. We held rehearsals via Zoom that would last between three to four hours before finally debuting for one performance on Facebook Live.”
Gibbon said she still wanted to get back on the physical stage, and she thinks often of some past projects like her experience acting in “Sense & Sensibility” under the direction of Eric Ruiter, founder of the Ophelia West Theater Company with a smile on her face.
“It is great to work with a fantastic director like Eric,” Gibbon said. “He has such a skill at pulling the best out of actors without being too overbearing. It is working with people like that that I miss the most.”
When she is not onstage, Gibbon can be found organizing children’s programs with her colleagues at Shakespeare in the Vines. The organization does a summer program every year and put on a virtual camp this year. The group is also planning on putting together a virtual improv camp later in 2020, so actors should be sure to keep an eye out on the Shakespeare in the Vines Facebook page or at their website located at http://www.shakespeareinthevines.org.
Gibbon resides in Menifee with her husband of nine years and their two children. Gibbon expressed thankfulness for her husband’s patience and her ability to pursue her passion even during these times of distance learning, children at home and other COVID-19 limitations.
“Sarah is a meticulous and supremely organized stage manager and director. She brings that level of thoroughness to all the roles she plays.” Monica Reichl, arts council trustee, said. “‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ at Shakespeare in the Vines, was the first time we got to be onstage together and she so completely impressed me with her talent, intelligence and commitment to be utterly ridiculous as Cecily to my Gwendolyn. Since then, she has done numerous shows in a variety of roles, and I know it will be an excellent show. Sarah directed my first-ever Zoom performance this summer and I have seen numerous before and since, and that one, that I came late to, was one of the most enjoyable I have seen.
“I can’t wait to get onstage with her again, whether my stage manager, fellow actress or director, she is such a joy to work with,” Reichl said.