Sari Bobbin first became passionate about acting when she got pushed on stage as a student at Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, and 20 years later the long love affair remains as strong as ever.
“I always knew I wanted to act when I was younger, but it took me until I was 19 to really try it,” said Bobbin. She plays Cynthia in the Home Made Theater production of Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound,” opening Friday night at 8:15 at the Spa Little Theater, paired with another one-act play, “The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet,” by the same playwright.
“I took an acting class at ACC and when one of the girls in the play broke her wrist they asked me to take over. So, I got thrown on stage, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
As much as she loves being on stage, Bobbin never had any higher aspirations. She might dream about turning her avocation into a profession, but she always stopped short of actually doing it.
“I decided a long time ago my personality was not cut out for that much rejection,” said Bobbin, a Glens Falls native who works as a hairdresser in Queensbury and is the younger sister of WNYT, Channel 13, film/television critic Jay Bobbin.
“I’m also very close to my family, and I couldn’t see my living that lifestyle; living on hope and waiting on tables in New York. I have a lot of faith in my talent, but so much of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time. I decided to keep acting a hobby and I’m very happy with that decision. I have friends who are actors in New York and Los Angeles and when it’s your job and you have to rely on it to make a living, it’s not that much fun anymore. I love it so much, I would hate to feel that pressure.”
Play within play
In “The Real Inspector Hound,” Bobbin’s character is an actress, and the play is actually a play within a play. Two film critics, played by Stephen Davis and J.J. Buechner, are reviewing a murder mystery and become involved in a situation that mirrors what’s happening on stage.
“I read the script and I really liked it,” said Bobbin. “It’s a little bit scary, because in the play within a play, my character is a little over the top. So I’m worried that people are going to think I’m a bad actor. I’m playing that style that’s melodramatic and silly, but I’m playing a bad actress. So hopefully people will realize that. It’s a fine line for me as an actress, but it’s all very funny. I really like Stoppard.”
Terry Rabine, who is directing “The Real Inspector Hound,” says of Bobbin: “She plays Cynthia, the grand dame that everyone falls in love with, and I’ve worked with Sari before so I know she loves melodrama, and that she has a great sense of humor.”
The director added: “She understands that 1940s acting style where every thing is a little over the top. She knows the stylistic requirements for the role, and physically she’s perfect for the part. She’s an attractive woman and you could imagine all men falling in love with her.”
That wasn’t always the case. In fact, Bobbin had a weight problem through most of her pre-adult life that kept her off the stage.
“I was overweight as a teen, and I kept on saying to myself, ‘some day I’m going to lose all this weight and audition for a part,’ ” said Bobbin. “I had this revelation when I was 19 that I might not lose the weight, and then I would never do this thing that I wanted to do.”
Inspired by teacher
Her acting class and a talk with her professor changed all that.
“I asked my teacher, ‘tell me the truth, am I good enough to go to New York and do this?’ ” remembered Bobbin. “She told me I was good enough, but I had the face of an ingenue and the body of the best friend or the neighbor. She didn't hurt my feelings. She inspired me. It took a couple of years, but I lost about 70 pounds.”
Despite the weight loss and the compliment from Rabine, Bobbin still thinks of herself as a character actor.
“I never tend to see myself as the leading lady type,” she said. “I guess I can do that role and I have a number of times, but I’ve always been attracted to the character parts. They’re more fun to play. When I was overweight, I wanted to play the ingenue and be the cute young thing, but I found out it’s a lot more fun being the alcoholic neighbor. Those are the parts I look for now.”
When she initially went to the audition for “The Real Inspector Hound,” Bobbin had an eye on the part of Mrs. Drudge, played by Winnie Bowen.
“I could see there were two female parts I had a shot at, and the role of Mrs. Drudge really cracked me up,” said Bobbin. “I kind of had that role in my mind, but Winnie got it and she’s just hysterical.”
As much as she’s in love with performing and maintaining a busy acting schedule, Bobbin is more selective about the roles she takes these days.
“When I was younger, I would just audition like crazy and wouldn’t even read the script,” she said. “Then, it would end up being a show that I hated. Well, I got smart and started reading the play before I auditioned to find out if it was something I really wanted to invest all that time in.”
Along with her portrayal of Cynthia in “The Real Inspector Hound,” Bobbin will also play a character in “The Fifteen Minute Hamlet,” a short Shakespearean comedy by Stoppard that will be performed at the conclusion of the main production.
“This play is frequently paired with ‘The Real Inspector Hound,’ and it’s basically people running around on the stage stabbing each other,” said Rabine. “It’s another Stoppard work that’s pretty farcical, and it includes a five-minute ‘Hamlet’ that just gets funnier and funnier.”
Stoppard, a British playwright, won his first Tony Award for Best Play in 1968 with “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” and 39 years later won his second Tony last year for Best Play with “The Coast of Utopia.” He wrote “The Real Inspector Hound” in 1961 and while the play enjoyed some success in Great Britain, it only lasted three months on Broadway in 1992. It was also paired with “The Fifteen Minute Hamlet” for its short New York run.
‘The Real Inspector Hound’ and ‘The Fifteen Minute Hamlet’
WHERE: The Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8:15 p.m. Feb. 15-16, 2 p.m. Feb. 17, 8:15 p.m. Feb. 22-23 and 2 p.m. Feb. 24
HOW MUCH: $22 and $19
MORE INFO: 587-4427