We’ve all had to endure our fair share of pivoting throughout the COVID-19. Large or small, the ways in which our day-to-day has shifted is staggering. Chickadee sat down with one of the fiercest females we know, Sarah Kleist, who went from Performing Artist to a multi-hyphenate seemingly overnight. So what has she been up to and how has it fueled her creative energy during such a draining time? Let’s dive in, shall we?
CC: Where are you pouring your creative energy into during this time? Was this established pre-COVID?
SK: I’ve pivoted full-time into web design and branding; which was completely new to me when the pandemic started. Back in March 2020, I had just booked a DREAM show (Kinky Boots) that inevitably got cancelled, I was performing weekly in composer concerts, and I was getting all sorts of callbacks for things that I adored. It really felt like I had started gaining some actual momentum in the theatre world. However, I had also been working in the same restaurant for six years and had already been thinking, “What else can I be doing to sustain myself financially?”
CC: How has this time of standing still nurtured pivoting into design and branding?
SK: I am not someone who can just sit down and chill… I’m always experimenting with new ideas, new ways to be creative, etc. etc. So when we were all forced to put our lives on hold, I started paying attention to things I was drawn to. Design was one of them. Then, one day, I was re-doing my muggle resumé and gave myself permission to make it as #aesthetic as possible. I had SO much fun with it that I started doing it for my friends. And then my friend’s friends. But then I realized… I could be doing this same thing on websites. And MANY beta clients, learning curves, and hard lessons later, here we are! I’m so proud to say that I am fully booked months in advance. The best part is that, through all of it, I’ve figured out that my special sauce is working with multi-hyphenates, personal brands, and creatives who don’t fit into one square box. Kinda like me. 🙂
CC: Is this just a COVID relationship or do you think you’re in this for the long haul?
SK: I am definitely in this for the foreseeable future. There is nothing like the feeling of watching someone go from, “I’m probably not qualified,” to, “Holy crap, I look LEGIT.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting, it’s that there is such power in the way we present ourselves online, and most of the time, it’s just about the formatting.
CC: What tools has your artistry in performing given to this newfound parallel career?
SK: I really don’t think I could do this without my background in theatre. I use storytelling every damn day on websites– not only telling the story of the person whose website it is, but making sure the story is clear for the viewer. I think this is why I love working with multi-passionate people; it’s more of a challenge to tell a story that says, “Hey, I’m this human, but I do all these things, here’s how you can hire me for all of them”, but it’s a challenge I’m up for. Someone also recently said to me that when I’m designing, it’s almost like I’m taking someone’s lived experiences and aesthetic and creating a performance out of it — which is basically acting! That blew my mind.
CC: Have there been any obstacles or setbacks to overcome?
SK: Oh definitely. With any new skill, it takes time to learn. I look back at some of those first sites I created and I know I could do waaaaay better now. I’m also way faster — it was not uncommon in 2020 for me to be working 14 hours a day in order to meet a site deadline. I’m glad to have those days behind me but now I have so many learnings to look back on.
CC: Any words of wisdom for those embarking on a similar endeavor?
SK: Yes! Stay curious. We are often told in this industry that if we’d rather do anything else, that we should go ahead and do that instead. I think that’s BS. The pandemic, while absolutely catastrophic on a grand scale, has proven to be a great time to try out new things, get to know ourselves better, and see past the scope of the lives we lived before it.
A note from the Editor
I met Sarah one afternoon in the tucked-away oasis that is Bosie Tea Parlor in the West Village. We very rapidly commiserated over our shared struggles of breaking into the industry and I will never forget going home that day, looking her up on Facebook, and seeing a video of her singing that nearly blew my mind (watch here to be gagged) . She’s so staggeringly talented. I’m not shocked in the least that she’s taken this time to creatively thrive – she’s a true star.