As I was sitting in the studio at PBS Channel 39 last week, waiting to be part of an Arts Weekly interview (that link will take you to the whole show, of which I am the first six minutes–there will be a quicker YouTube link soon)…I looked over at John O’Connell’s list of questions for me and near the top I could see, “WHO ARE SAM AND SARA WARD?”
Wow, I thought. Great question.
I didn’t let him ask it. I answered it without prompting.
Who are Sam and Sara Ward? They are:
Husband and wife,
Pastor and wife,
Parents of Eliana and Silas,
Passionate about redeeming the arts,
I don’t have their biographies for the program yet, but I did come up with some questions to ask them. Their answers will give you a little more insight into what is so special about this couple.
afO: What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
SARA: My character is such a talker! So memorization has been huge for me. I work on memorizing the lines usually several hours a day or as much time as I can fit in. As the Grandmother in the play says, “When one is being an actress, one has not time to be anything else!” I agree with that. There is so much work the audience doesn’t see that happens in the six weeks leading up to the show. But it’s fun work. Truly.
SAM: I’ve found one of the most challenging aspects of this role is finding actions for my character on stage that don’t detract from Sara.
afO: How is this role different from other roles you’ve played?
SARA: I become ten characters in the play. Typically, I only play one character in a show. This has required so much work in terms of thinking about how to make the characters different: voice, accent, body movement and character traits.
SAM: I rarely played the normal, good-looking leading man before! When I have played the lead, it’s always been as a character. Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof is one example.
afO: What is your favorite thing about this role/show?
SARA: Acting with my husband is a special treat. It’s great to work with such a talented man! We met doing a traveling summer theatre show and it’s fun to be on stage with him again.
SAM: Acting with my wife on stage again. I mean it’s ok in our living room at home, but it’s more fun with an audience watching!
afO: What do you hope the audience takes away with them?
SARA: Those relationships that develop “by accident” can be powerful and impacting.
SAM: There is hope even when your dreams die. “You can outlive your dreams.” Many times the message we hear from people around us is “follow your dreams”. This is probably part of the “Disney-effect” in our culture, but for many of us our reality is much different.
afO: Have you had any new spiritual insights as a result of preparing for this role?
SARA: We are stronger when we go through trials. This isn’t a new insight, but one of my favorite parts of the show. Grandmother has just been through a great disappointment and grief. Grandfather says she will “learn to outlive her dreams.” He goes on to say, “When you know that, and you know that you know that, you can live all your life and you’re strong.” In other words, there is life past our trials. There is joy and goodness too. We can let the disappointments of life defeat us or we can become stronger. Faith helps us see the bigger picture. Mainly, this life is a temporary place until we reach eternity.
SAM: Both Sara and I have been shaped by crisis in our lives. First through living through my cancer diagnosis and then through the death of our son, Silas. We have found that because of those experiences, we have a new love and empathy for others who, by the grace of God, have survived their own crisis. When we share our stories, it gives permission for others to share their stories and that, in turn, gives us a chance to talk about God. So, my spiritual insight is the way God works through our life stories.
afO: Have you brought your own spirituality to bear on this character?
SARA: My character, Lenore, is not a believer. Through her relationship with Allan she starts to become open to thinking about faith and about God. Since I am a believer, it is hard to relate to Lenore because I connect more with Allan. However, it puts me into the shoes of someone who does not have faith and deal with the doubts she might have.
SAM: Yeah. My character, Alan, is searching for a new life in the play after surviving a life crisis. He doesn’t understand why God does the things he does, but he has decided to trust no matter what. Even when he doesn’t understand, he holds onto the love of God. No matter what. I have tried to bring my own belief to that. God is good and his love endures. His always and forever…never giving up…always chasing us love…endures.
afO: Favorite snack food?
SARA: Chocolate is my great weakness.
SAM: Chips and salsa.
afO: Favorite mystery writer?
SARA: I have taught a detective fiction class in the past and I always loved reading and teaching the great Agatha Christie, specifically her Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot stories. A new favorite series: the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.
SAM: I think I have to go back to the classics of Agatha Christie. Although, I do have to mention that Masterpiece Mystery on PBS is my favorite show on television!
afO: Favorite play of all time?
SARA: One of my favorite comedies is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. My favorite drama is The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
SAM: All time? Seriously?
afO: Dream role?
SARA: Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing or The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
SAM: I recently played Jesus in the Emmanuel Theatre Co’s production of The Mark Drama and it’s hard to top that.