Labeled a Triple Threat on Broadway, Rachelle "Sas" Rak, is known for her immeasurable talent in dance, singing, and acting. Rachelle was presented with the award for outstanding achievement in the world of dance from Dance Educators of America. She has made a huge impact on the Broadway and Musical Theatre community. Some of her Broadway credits include "Catch Me If You Can," "Cats," "Fosse," "Thou Shalt Not," "Oklahoma!," "The Look of Love," and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." Off-Broadway and on tour, Rachelle has delighted audiences in "Starlight Express," "West Side Story," "Smokey Joe’s Cafe, "Sessions," and "An Evening at the Carlyle." She has performed in numerous concerts and productions at New York City’s Town Hall, and has been a crowd favorite time and again in many City Center Encores Productions.
In addition to the stage, Rachelle can be found on screen in commercials for Ebay, a reoccurring role on the soap opera “Another World” as well as a feature in the documentary "Every Little Step." She can also be found performing on the 1999 seasons of "The Rosie O’Donnell Show" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." She is the spoke’s person for Pittsburgh Brewing Co’s I C Light and has had the honor of singing the National Anthem at an Orlando Magic NBA Basketball Game. Rachelle has the pleasure of serving as a teacher and judge for the L.A. Dance Explosion, the National Finals of Access Broadway, and DEA competitions.
Rachelle has lent her talents to many jobs behind the scenes, including the position of Dance Captain for Starlight Express America, Assistant Choreographer to critically acclaimed "On The Twentieth Century," choreographing the Fringe Festival show, "VOTE," "Evening at the Carlyle," and additional choreography for "Sessions."
Now Rachelle is taking everything she's experienced and learned along the way in the premiere of "I'M IN," at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City (158 Bleecker Street) on Sunday January 22 at 7pm and Monday, January 23 at 10:30pm. Produced by N&N Productions, "I’M IN" tells the truth about a Broadway gypsy's strength and survival. The road to Broadway takes everything; this is her story of how she got there, how she stays there, and her will to take it to the next level. Click here for tickets: Sunday, January 22nd at 7:00pm and Monday, January 23rd at 10:30pm
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom, Rosaline. My mother was my teacher since I was 2 1/2 when I started dancing. She was a performer and teacher at the Rosalene Kenneth Professional Dance Studio, in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. She was/is my everything. When I was 10 years old, my mom took me to New York to see the original "A Chorus Line" on Broadway because she had a student, Danny Herman, in it, but it was when I was 14, when my mom took me back to New York to see Liza Minnelli and that was it. I was in.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Sutton Foster.
3. What made you create "I'M IN"? What made me create "I'M IN" is kind of a long process. After I did "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and did not get a part in the revival of "A Chorus Line," I had a lot of time. I didn't do a Broadway show for five years. No one believed me. They're like "SAS, you're always working." But for five years, I felt like, I probably could have gotten arrested, but I definitely couldn't get hired. So, I went away and did a show in Japan, came back to New York and did an Off-Broadway show called "Sessions." While I was in "Sessions," I started to write some lyrics. I had no idea what I was doing. Do you ever have those moments where something is in you and it has to come out and you have no idea what you are going to do with it, but you just have to write down? Me: Yes. Rachelle: That was what was happening to me. So, I called my friend who was the musical director when I did "Starlight Express," and I said, "I have some lyrics and I have no idea what I'm doing, would you help me?" He said, "Yes." There's a time in your life where you don't get picked for things and it just seemed like this was that time for me, and, I felt I had to get motivated and do something for me and it didn't matter if anyone liked it or if I got picked for anything. So, Martin and I sat in his little studio and started to create music without worrying about anything. He taught me so much. That's where and when the idea started. Me: I think it means a lot that you want to do this show just because you love it. Rachelle: Yeah, there was a time in my life I was always doing things for the result, you knowing what show was I getting, who did I have to win over. It was so exhausting. My life was becoming valued by what show I was in and when you value your life like that, it takes you down a very slippery slope. For me, I think it was during that five year break where I realized I didn't have to do that. I learned how to bounce where I was making things out of nothing. There was one year where I was like, "I only work for free." Anytime anyone would ask me to do something, I would just do it because I had to change the energy. It's not going to be what I planned. It's not going to be how I see it, so let go of it. Then things just started happening. I started to do a little choreography and people are calling me to help with staging, like Cheyenne Jackson called me out of the blue to help him with some choreography for his recent Carnegie Hall concert.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "I'M IN"? Let me tell you about "I'M IN." So, it has stories mixed with music. Not all the stories are in order, but I connect everything from when I was 14 to when I was 17 to being in a show and a star is brought in to take over to help sell tickets and what happens to you. I try to keep it about the business, kind of sassy, but of course, have my heart in it because it is about the courage to continue. How many no's do you have to take in this world to get a yes and how worth it it is to keep plowing through. I hope the show has heart, I hope it has a lot of sass. I think it will just be a fun night out. Last year I did a little staging of it at Therapy in Hell's Kitchen where I sang songs, showed some music videos I made, and put those songs on a mini-cd. This year, I'm going to be using a 5 piece band which I'm really excited about.
5. Since you did make reference to this in your answer, I did want to ask you, How did you get the nickname "Sas"? I wish it was a really fascinating story, but it literally comes from something I'm trying to work on. I was on the road with "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and we were always changing cities and you meet a bunch of new people every week and I could never remember anyone's name. It became part of my language. I would always be like, "Sas, what are you doing tonight." Then some random crew guy finally said to me, "You know what, you're the Sas" and then it just took.
6. What excites you about performing at Le Poisson Rouge and how did you choose that venue over another one like Joe's Pub? Well, Joe's Pub was going under major renovations at the time I was looking. Natalie and Nikole (N&N Productions), who are the producers of the event, took me to a few different places. They saw my show at Therapy and we talked about what I wanted to do here and they said Le Poisson Rouge because it has a stage big enough for a 5-piece band. I need room to dance. I finally get to dance on something bigger than a tiny box. Le Poisson Rouge has a great energy. I'm really excited about it.
7. Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I've used Roy Arias Studios a lot because it's just a black box. It's very simple. I call it cheap and cheerful...hahaha. In the times I was not working and I wanted space, where can I go that's affordable and they were very good to me.
8. You've been very involved with Broadway Bares. What made you want to get involved with them and what made you continue to stay so involved? At the time, I was in "Fosse" on Broadway and the year was 1999. I was a newbie to the scene and I just met Sergio Trujillo and Jerry Mitchell and didn't know anything about Broadway Bares, but I signed up. I was an "Elf" and I was real sassy in rehearsal. I was like, "I'm going to live my life." Then it was the night of the show and they put me in a green bob. . I was nobody sassy then, I was not Rachelle, I was not Sas, I was a girl in a green bob with green feathered eyebrows and I cried. I actually was the first person to cry at Broadway Bares, I think. That's when they were just getting to know me and they were laughing and said I could take the green eyebrows off. So my first Broadway Bares, I was a diva...haha. I cried...haha. Then I went back to do it again the following year and I always say you have to pay your dues at Broadway Bares, just like this town. So, the second year, I was bumped up to featured girl with the ladies of Broadway and that was a big deal. Then I finally pitched myself for a few things to Jerry and let me say, I was pitching myself for a benefit, where you take your clothes off, for a great cause. It was really the "Amelia Earhart" number that made me have a stamp on Broadway Bares. That was because my pastie fell off. So, I did this number I was living and loving and I jumped really high up and my arms were way out along with my tits and teeth and I come down and they cover me up with a shawl and I have both hands on my chest and I feel there's one really nice pastie and then there's nothing. I had to make that decision of "Now, what do I do?" Instead of the obvious which might be to cover yourself, I grab the other pastie and throw it at the audience and apparantley that was a big crowd pleaser. So, now that's what I'm known for and now every year I find some way to give the people what they want.
Broadway Cares for the cause, for what we do, you give so much time, as a performer, and now as a choreographer, I've learned you give quadruple the amount of time. Your in meetings from January right through to the event. The best part about Broadway Bares is in deciding what we are going to do, you're sitting around with ten choreographers, talking about ideas of what you want to do. It's a very creative room to be in. Everyone wants to be there because they care. After all these months of work, we pick our dancers, and then in June we get to see all our hard work come to life. This past year was special for me because I kind of passed the torch to Kristen Piro, who I met doing a show in Japan and she was a swing in "Catch Me If You Can," and I gave her a featured strip in Broadway Bares of the Mona Lisa and she was just ready. I felt just as good sitting out in the audience watching her do it as I did doing it myself. I love being part of it and I'll stay for as long as they'll have me.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? From my mother and it's one simple word, Adjust. I have it written in many different places. My mother was never the kind of person to say, "You can't do this. It was always just of course you can." For instance, if I wanted to dance in high heels on cement and it wasn't working, adjust to make it work. Learning that at young age, helped me lose well too. I had a mother who kept me grounded. She taught me to do the work and maybe the result will be this, but maybe it will be this, and you might not always get picked and you're not always going to be the best. I was just Rachelle and that was enough.When you teach a kid that they're enough, then that doesn't mean they're going to get everything, it's just means they are enough. There's a certain thing that you carry with you and I felt like it kept my wall strong and people have been trying to crack it down for years.
With me, there's one level, 1000%. My friend Brad, who was my dance captain and now is my costume designer, used to say to me, "Rachelle, let the audience come to you." Sergio said to me yesterday, "Draw them in Sas." I'm usually like right at ya because that's my instinct. l've also had to learn how to pull back and go from stillness. Fosse taught me to trust the stillness. I finally learned about dynamics in performing and not letting every emotion out.
I've also learned showing your vulnerability is a great strength and it's trusting that, especially for me. I know that I am powerhouse and I will fight to the end, but there have been some really hard moments that lasted for a long time where doubt, fear, not relating what you have accomplished and you can easily get lost and think maybe I'm done. Maybe they're right. I did 10 years on Broadway and luckily, I met some wonderful people, like Daniel Robinson, who asked me if he could do my performance reel because of "I Gotcha" (he reminded me, this young man, of a different generation, that the effect of watching "I Gotcha" had on him. I've met more gay men in the 5th grade who've watched "I Gotcha" than I ever imagined) and he really came through for me, big time. If you hear no enough and beat yourself up enough and you don't fill yourself with people who believe in you, you can't do it. I did not do this alone. I feel like I am having a major Rak comeback because I stopped doing it for the result.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I dream about the people I'm going to meet, who are younger than me, that I can hopefully inspire what's great in them and that they can look in the mirror and like themselves for what they have.
I know that my sound self-centered, but for so long I lived for what can I be, how am I ever going to become someone, but then you get to a place where you go, I'm really grateful for my life and I don't want to keep reaching for what ifs. I want to teach that to people.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Mani/Pedi/Eyebrow/Lip.
12. Favorite way to stay in shape? To teach my Sas class. When I teach, I have the most energy.
13. Favorite skin care product? Mario Badescu.
14. Superman or Wonder Woman? Oh, who do you think? Me: Wonder Woman? Rachelle: Wonder Woman!