Addison — Thomas and Sherry Jo Ward have performed together several times in their 20-plus years of marriage, notably in Thomas' play Intertnational Falls, which debuted at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in 2012, and has been performed elsewhere, including Stage West. Their lives changed when Sherry Jo was diagnosed with the rare Stiff Person's Syndrome, but it hasn't kept her from doing what she loves.
We talked to Thomas and Sherry Jo about their latest project, I Love You Honey Bunny, debuting Thursday at the 2016 Out of the Loop fest.
TheaterJones: You're married. This play is about a married couple. Is there a specific incident that inspired this play?
The Wards: The play is mostly fiction, fortunately, but like the characters we have been together for over 20 years and did see a wonderful marriage therapist and many of the therapist's questions were pulled from our sessions.
We do remember periods where lack of funds prevented us from going out, which is hard, and hard times lead to comedy, right?
What’s the process of writing a play together?
Really, we easily slashed each other's words with no hard feelings at all.
The three of us (with director Nic McMinn) agreed on a loose structure then Sherry took a first pass at writing scenes. We'd read it aloud and then Thomas would make changes and add scenes and we tossed it back and forth so much that we've lost track of who wrote what.
How are you handling Sherry's diagnosis of Stiff Person's Syndrome in this production?
We handle the disease in the play the same way we handle it in real life—with a sick sense of humor. The disability plays a minor role, no name, no backstory, mostly just setting up punchlines.
We wrote a play that I [Sherry] could do physically. I'm sitting most of the time with things moving around me. We wrote in a bed and Thomas and our two invaluable crew girls are right there to help me navigate the stage.
As my stamina is also limited, the play is a fast-paced 50 minutes.
You both performed in Thomas’ play International Falls. As you create work together, how important is it for you to bring in an outside director?
We have always had a director for our plays. We have done International Falls now with three directors. While we like to think we can do it all on our own, the directors always make it better.
Also, Nic created the spark that got us moving on this project. He approached Thomas months ago about creating an original piece, and we entered in not exactly sure what the outcome would be, but we love our play.
What are your plans for this show after Loop?
It's really producible, and should be relatively easy to recreate. We have no immediate plans, but we would love to find other venues for it, perhaps coupled with stand-up comedy or an improv show. With several moments left open to improv, it's a different show each time we do it.
Performances are in the Studio Theatre:
- 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25
- 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2
- 2 p.m. Saturday, March 5