Upon entering the theater for “we were promised honey!”, the audience hears the sounds of an air traffic control call and sees Sam Ward sitting in the house. The play begins with Ward telling the story of a man who stole a plane from an airport in Washington and flew it successfully with no real piloting experience. This was the air traffic call heard at the top of the show. Ward then steps into the playing space and informs the audience the play is a story about us, about everyone in the room; he informs us that there is no happy ending. Ward gives the audience the choice to not proceed with the story now that we know things don’t end well for us. Throughout the show, Ward reminds us of our inevitable demise and creates opportunities for us to opt out of the telling of the play. He repeats the same phrasing, saying if we want the story to go on someone has to raise their hand and say “I would like to know what happens next” and only then will the show continue. As the play progresses those who raise their hands are folded into the batter of the story, the story of our future.
Sam’s innovative script makes for a play, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Equal parts poetic and dramatic; poignant and clever, the show encompasses the human experience. Ward highlights how we are all connected and the ways storytelling is baked into our lives. In sharing our futures and inviting audience participation Ward illustrates the universality of the human experience. We can all relate to heartbreak, loneliness and fear of the unknown. Alongside all these existential threads, Wards weaves the story of the man who hijacked the plane in Washington. He manages to connect this hyper-specific occurrence with a generalized experience of what is to happen after this play ends. We are all acutely aware of our mortality at all times. We all know how the story ends and yet time and time again people from the audience say, “I would like to know what happens next”.
In addition to Ward’s powerful performance and writing, the tech of the show helped in creating this immersive world. The lighting design by David Doyle helps to sell the story of the plane hijacking, shifting blue and casting shadows in the space as if in flight. The sound design by Carmel Smickersgill involves not only the air traffic control call but several songs that elevate the theatricality of the show. In fact, the play ends with “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver playing while Ward invites the audience to join in singing along. This powerful unifying experience really brings home the themes of interconnected living. After the show ended, many members of the audience who began as strangers now started up conversations. I even heard one person say, “I feel like I know everyone here now”. If this was Ward’s goal (as I suspect it was) he achieved what he set out to do.
“we were promised honey!” Written and Performed by Sam Ward Produced by YESYESNONO Productions 59E59 Theaters 59 E 59th Street, NY, NY https://www.59e59.org/shows/show-detail/we-were-promised-honey/ https://www.yesyesnono.org/
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info