Margo Martindale might be playing the role of Mattie Fae in the current film adaptation of August: Osage County, but Dallas audiences would be hard-pressed to forget Nancy Sherrard's take on the character. Her masterful dishing out of the woman's many rude and critical remarks, disguised with Southern sweetness, elicited mountains of laughter when WaterTower Theatre mounted the Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy in the spring of 2012.
Now Sherrard is switching gears from antagonizing to caring, assuming the roles of Aunt Polly and the Widow Douglas in WaterTower's regional premiere of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which opens January 27. Running concurrently is an education and outreach program called the Tom Sawyer Project, which gives Dallas County high school students a chance to mount two performances of their own production of the show. The professional actors and creative team also provide mentorship for the student actors.
Sherrard recently took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Nancy Sherrard
Role in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Aunt Polly/Widow Douglas, ensemble
Previous work in the DFW area: Most recent work includes Gita in Division Avenue at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, Mag in Beauty Queen of Leenane at Kitchen Dog Theater, Mattie Fae in August: Osage County at Watertower Theatre.
Where you currently reside: With my husband, David, and rescue cat, Lulu Louise, in Irving.
First theater role: The little witch in Witching Time at Dallas Theater Center’s summer acting program.
First stage show you ever saw: The one I most vividly remember was Sweet Charity at Dallas Summer Musicals with Juliet Prowse. It lead to many nights locked in my parents’ living room performing “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This,” starring me in all three parts.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: My mother tells me I told her I wanted to be an actress when I was 4. I don’t remember ever making a conscious career decision; it was just something I had to do.
Most challenging role you’ve played: Sister Aloysius in Doubt
Something you’re REALLY bad at: Math story problems. “If a train is going 30 mph ...” I can feel my brain scramble like an egg.
Current pop culture obsession: Lorde
Last book you read: Just Kids, autobiography by Patti Smith
Favorite movie(s): Tootsie, Wings of Desire, Henry and June, His Girl Friday, Metropolis
Favorite musician(s): I always turn up the volume for Stevie Ray Vaughan or Aretha Franklin.
Favorite song: “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” by Hurricane Smith. Dave’s and my “song.”
Dream role: The next one.
Favorite play(s): Don’t play favorites with plays. They will grow up resentful.
Favorite musical(s): I was studying in London in the ’80s when I saw the original cast of Les Miserables. I was completely undone. I will never forget that theater experience.
Favorite actors/actresses: Emma Thompson, Christopher Walken
Favorite comfort food: A grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup
Must-see TV show(s): Fargo, coming to FX with former DFW actress Allison Tolman
Something most people don’t know about you: I sang in a rock band in my youth.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: Florence, Italy
Pre-show warm-up: My own little ritual, preparation of the moment before.
Favorite part about your current role: Romping and creating like a kid.
Most challenging part about your current role: Romping and creating like a kid on stairs.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Missing an entrance cue and the audience hearing me run from the dressing room, across backstage and onto stage left. It was a musical.
Career you’d have if you weren’t a performer/playwright: Psychiatrist
Favorite post-show spot: Bryan Street Tavern
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: How it’s always changing and growing.
Most memorable theater moment: One of the most memorable was on opening night of August: Osage County. I spoke a line as Mattie Fae, and there was a communal explosion of laughter from the audience.
It was one of those moments you feel complete connection with your fellow actors on stage and the audience as one. Actors live for those moments, and they are what I like to hope is just a little glimpse of heaven.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer plays at WaterTower Theatre January 27 through February 16.