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Profile: Actor/Writer/Educator Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward | Actor/Writer/Educator | Stated Magazine Interview


Raised in Nashville, Thomas Ward grew up surrounded by arts and education. His father, himself a one-time thespian, worked in Christian radio, his mother taught high school theatre, his older brother is a conductor and music professor, and his wife Sherry Jo Ward is an accomplished actress and writer. So it was no surprise for Thomas to end up not only an actor, but also a writer and theatre professor on the faculty of Baylor University.

His plays have been produced at theatres across the country including Atlanta, Dallas, and New York, and his screenplay for Sironia, which he co-wrote with composer/star Wes Cunningham and director Brandon Dickerson, premiered last fall at the Austin Film Festival. As an actor, recent work includes The Unseen Off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre, Humble Boy at WaterTower Theatre in Dallas, and God of Carnage at the Zachary Scott Theatre in Austin.

We caught up with him in preparation for his newest play, International Falls, which will premiere this spring at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in Dallas.


Watching, listening, and filtering what you see and hear into something that makes some kind of sense.

(with Wes Cunningham, star and composer of Sironia)


Preparing a new play titled International Falls for the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in Dallas, TX. It’s about a burnt-out stand-up comic having a one-night stand with a hotel desk clerk whose marriage is on the rocks. It will be the first play that I both write and perform in. We’d like to take the play to fringe festivals, including New York. Also writing a new screenplay with Brandon Dickerson (director of Sironiathat is tentatively scheduled to shoot this summer. Teaching at Baylor University, where one of my short plays, Aftermath, will be premiered in March.


(with wife, writer/actress Sherry Jo Ward, with whom Thomas co-wrote their play, Going with Jenny)


Character. I’m an actor first, so I think that continues to be a heavy influence on my writing. I write character studies. I think of characters before I think of stories or settings. I’m inspired by my family and friends and students—by all of the people around me. The question of spirituality also finds its way into much of what I write. As an actor, I’m inspired by the live experience of theatre and the unpredictable nature of audiences. Somehow an audience becomes one personality and they’re never the same twice. Dabbling in film has given me whole new appreciation and gratitude for working in theatre.


(Humble Boy, WaterTower Theatre, Dallas, TX, 2009)


The play that I’m working now, International Falls. I’m quite proud of it. It’s the most honest thing I’ve written so far, but it’s not an autobiography in any sense. I also feel that it’s unique to my voice, which is honestly the first time I can say that and know what it means. My other plays have been influenced heavily by other writers. While I know this one has some of those same influences, it feels like the first thing I’ve written that I can say is “me.” These are the most nuanced characters I’ve created and I’m excited to see where it goes with an audience.


I want to write, star in, and direct a film. I want to be Billy Bob Thornton doing Sling Blade. I’ve written and directed a short (In the Middle) that was screened at a few festivals, including the Austin Film Fest, so I’m hopefully on my way to understanding the directing side more. The script is written. It’s called Right Hand Man. That’s my dream gig if anyone is interested in funding it. I would also enjoy writing on a good television show someday, but I have no immediate plans on moving to L.A., so I’ll probably stick to shorts and web videos.


(with composer/star Wes Cunningham during shooting for Sironia)


As a writer, I’m a huge fan of Craig Wright at the moment. I was in his play, The Unseen, Off-Broadway and I’ve grown to love his work. His ability to use the aesthetic of theatre in an exciting way while writing crisp, poetic, and believable dialogue with grounded characters is enviable. He also wrote on a few Six Feet Under episodes and that’s my favorite show of all time. As an actor, I’m still heavily influenced by two men I had in grad school: John Preston and Ray Chambers. I might have been too influenced by them, because for years I could feel myself mimicking them. I think I’m finding my own approach and delivery now. I hope. Who knows.


(in Craig Wright’s The Unseen at The Cherry Lane Theatre, NYC, 2009)


That’s tough. I don’t know. I like New York and Los Angeles, but I like them as a tourist. I grew up in the suburbs and I’m not bitter about it one bit. I’ve always been intrigued by Chicago.


(getting prepped for a shot in Sironia)


I worked for a week at Eddie Bauer in a mall in Nashville. Folding t-shirts. I had to wear Eddie Bauer clothes on the job but they didn’t have anything big enough that fit me. I quit after a week.


Ambition and laziness. Bad combo. But I have both in abundance and they make for a lot of sleepless nights.


(Working on Sironia with composer/star Wes Cunningham, and director Brandon Dickerson)


One of my two sons. Usually the six-year-old.

(Sironia. Thomas, composer/star Wes Cunningham, and director Brandon Dickerson)


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