Sarah Wayne Callies ’95 and Jason Tam ’01 Join Musical Theatre Class

Actors Sarah Wayne Callies ’95 and Jason Tam ’01 joined a Webex with sixth graders in John Roberts’ Musical Theatre class Tuesday, sharing their career journeys, answering questions and encouraging students to nurture their talents.

Callies currently stars in the NBC series, “Council of Dads,” and is known for her roles in “The Walking Dead” and “Colony.” The multi-talented alumna also sang in a recent Punahou Sessions with Curtis Kamiya ’95, that was shot at Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood. Callies posted it on her Instagram account, garnering nearly 83,000 views.

Tam most recently appeared in the off-Broadway and Broadway phenomenon, “Be More Chill,” and in John Legend’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He also played Paul in the recent Broadway revival and film, “A Chorus Line.” And like Callies, he was featured in a 2016 Punahou Sessions, performing “Honolulu City Lights.” with Aaron Komo ’09 and Allen Murabayashi ’90.

Callies and Tam, who both entered Punahou in kindergarten, appeared in many School theatre productions before beginning their professional careers. For Tam, that came at age 11, when he played Gavroche in the national company of “Les Miserables.” After Punahou he continued to NYU, and although he was initially obsessed with marine biology and astronomy, he realized that he was more in love with astronomy than being an astronomer. Theatre was his first love, and he couldn’t picture himself being happy doing anything else.

Jason Tam ’01 during the Webex session in faculty member John Robert’s class.

When Callies went to Dartmouth, she majored in feminist theory and even designed her own major in Hawaiian mythology. But during her senior year, she realized academic tasks felt lonely, and that she missed the “‘ohana feeling of being in a community of creative people and feeling responsible to them.” After Dartmouth, she went on to earn her MFA at the National Theatre Conservatory. (She was Tam’s teacher in summer theatre camp.)

Both actors embrace the idea of being a part of a team, a family, a community, an ‘ohana, and as part of that community, to create an environment where all performers can succeed, even when you don’t have the biggest role. Making two interlocking circles with her hands, Callies described a Venn diagram between your character and your heart. “If you find the truth in yourself that connects with the truth in your character … that’s how I support my acting partners so that they can do their best work,” she said.

Tam, who is Chinese, Hawaiian and Caucasian, said there are now more opportunities for Asian-American actors, with more varied and emotionally complex roles. “I’m excited for what’s in store for you,” Tam told the students.

As part of the virtual session, the sixth graders had many questions for the actiors, including how they manage to memorize lines. “Memorizing is like a muscle – the more you do it, the easier it gets,” Tam said. “But if you can step back and see what is happening in the scene, it makes it easier.”

When asked what motivated her, Callies said she reads plays, learn monologues and writes. “I wish that message had sunk in sooner – that you can just jump in,” she said. “I was shy in sixth grade. Sometimes you’re afraid to take up space or that you might fail or that you might even shine too brightly. Don’t wait until tomorrow to spread your wings. Do it today … Remember that there is only one of you, and you will be better at being you than anybody else.”

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