All in the Family

All in the Family

Father/daughter team pairs up to produce one-act.

Father/daughter relationships can manifest themselves through hobbies or just being together. For Sarah Thomas of Vienna, her relationship with her father has strengthened through a one-act play that she directed and her father wrote.

"I think it's brought us together even more, which sounds cliché, but we've had great conversations about writing, about directing," said the James Madison High School senior.

Sarah Thomas just finished directing "Nothing To It," a one-act comedy written by her father, Herb Thomas of Baltimore. Sarah Thomas' one-act was one of several one-acts performed during Madison's one-act play festival last weekend.

"I've liked being able to refer back to him, asking him questions about it," said Sarah Thomas. "Plus the fact that he wrote it — there's a connection. That in and of itself is a beautiful thing."

Her father, meanwhile, insists that Sarah was at the helm for the one-act's success.

"She really did it on her own with this cast," Herb Thomas said.

Although Sarah Thomas had been involved in Madison's acting program for her four years at the school, she decided to direct a one-act, a choice given to seniors for the annual event.

When her father heard about her decision, he wanted to write a one-act for her. His first novel, "The Superlative Man," was published in 1997, and he has written several plays since then.

Herb Thomas woke up one day with the plot line in his head, wrote it out, and took it up to Vermont with him. In 10 days, he had written the one-act.

"The thing kind of wrote itself," Herb Thomas said.

The story, which takes place at a high school, is about a principal with good intentions who copes with everyday student antics.

"The way it's written and the way it's come out is good. And the humor is refreshing, I think," Sarah Thomas said.

ON RECEIVING her father's play, Sarah Thomas rehearsed with her cast of 12 students. She worked on yoga and voice and speech techniques with her actors and appreciated the opportunity to ask her father about the characters.

"Out of all my experiences in theater, [directing] has been the most rewarding," said Sarah Thomas.

Her father appeared at a rehearsal once and answered questions from the actors.

"He was smiling, and his face looked so pleased," Sarah Thomas said.

Herb Thomas responded that the play's success was due to his daughter and the actors.

"She just did a wonderful job with it. It was very funny, the cast was terrific, and I was very proud of her," Herb Thomas said.

Although the play is finished, their collaboration may continue. Sarah Thomas will go to Sarah Lawrence College in the fall, while Herb Thomas, a former corporate lawyer, is finishing his second novel. Thomas also serves as executive director for the Baltimore Curriculum Project, a nonprofit that runs four inner-city Baltimore schools.

"It was such a wonderful experience to watch what she did with this, that I'm very interested in writing more for her," Herb Thomas said. "I know that with this experience, she's gotten the bug."

Sarah Thomas said she's just pleased with the new experiences of being a director and working with her father.

"It's turned out to be so much fun," she said.