By Jordan Zeitler
“STIFF: A Fast-Paced Story About Moving Slow” uses both humor and heartbreak to craft a poignant piece of art.
In this one-woman show, Sherry Jo Ward plays the role of a lifetime: Herself. A woman who once had the whole world at her feet, she finds out her life has changed forever, in a matter of days, because of a devastating rare disease, Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS).
In 2015, Ward began having symptoms indicating something was wrong. After seeing numerous doctors and specialists, she was diagnosed with SPS, which impairs mobility and causes unexplained pain.
Once an actress who found joy and fulfillment on stage, she had to find ways to cope with her affliction but also still perform, forced to reassess her goals and ambition.
“STIFF” is written by and stars the award-winning Ward, who teamed up with Director Marianne Galloway and Risk Theater Initiative in Dallas. She takes you on a rollercoaster ride that’s emotionally drained but ultimately satisfying.
Local producer Robert Neblett brought this memorable show here through his Inevitable Theatre Company. He partnered with Paraquad, a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence, to bring the piece starring his friend Sherry Jo and her director Marianne.
The production draws one in immediately and makes it feel personal. Ward sits in a comfy chair on the stage, chatting with patrons as they arrive.
Sharing her life stories, with the help of visual aids, Ward takes you through her journey and how she eventually came to terms with what she was dealt.
A gifted comedienne, Ward’s ability to draw out people’s emotions quickly is admirable. In moments of heartbreaking sadness, she’ll relieve the pain with a joke that produces awkward laughter. She brings out a range of emotions.
You might be skeptical — but take a chance. Allow yourself to be captivated by the heart and humor of a talented lady who won’t be kept down by anything life throws at her. It’s an inspiring experience that will touch you deeply.
Make sure to stick around to get to know more about Ward during a talkback session after the performance.
STIFF plays this Thursday through Sunday at the Kranzberg Arts Center. For more information or tickets, visit www.inevitabletheatre.org.