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Q&A with Undergrad Playwright About Her First Production

Nicole Zimmerer (BFA ’17) discusses the family dynamics that inspired her darkly comedic play “Thicker Than Honey.”

Every year, the UH School of Theatre and Dance handpicks an outstanding student play to produce and stage at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. This year, Director Rob Shimko selected “Thicker Than Honey,” a complicated, dark family comedy written by undergraduate Nicole Zimmerer (BFA 2017).

“Thicker Than Honey,” which ran from November 18-20, unfolds around Addison Fletcher as she returns to her small hometown in Tennessee for her grandmother’s funeral. While there, she is reunited with her siblings, along with other faces from her past. The comfort of being home doesn't last long as old grudges, new secrets, and repressed feelings start bubbling to the surface, taking the term "sibling rivalry" to a whole new level.

Learn more about what inspired Zimmerer to write this play and what she learned in the process in the interview by fellow UH student Jeana Magallon below!

What sparked the idea for “Thicker Than Honey”?

I am a part of a very large family, so that’s where the inspiration came from. I’m very interested in family as an infrastructure because family members aren’t the people you choose but they’re who you have. I also wanted this work to be a family reunion play because I love them and they usually center on a wedding or a funeral.

How would you describe the world of your play?

The world is a very small town. The characters have known each other their whole lives and know everyone else’s business. It’s like one big family, which can get complicated.

What are the driving forces behind these characters?

The all have different drives but together all these people want to be respected and appreciated. I’ve noticed I tend to write characters that feel underappreciated.

Your play deals with some pretty serious situations yet there is still great humor. How did you strike that balance?

It came very naturally, actually. I tend to deal with hard situations with humor in my own life. There are two very distinct ways to deal with hardships: you can either laugh about it or not—and the second option seems a lot less enjoyable.

Earlier versions of the play were much more comedy driven, and the first ending was very different from the current one. How did you get from one point to another?

That was a very weird journey. One of the biggest notes I got from my professors was that the original ending was too clean. It needed to be messier. So, I sat myself down and asked what might happen in real life. Things got more dramatic from there, sometimes taking darker turns.

When discussing his Pulitzer-Prize-winning black comedy August Osage County, Tracy Letts asked, “When does your responsibility to your family end, and when should your responsibility to yourself take over?” Can you talk about family responsibilities and how far you think they should go?

I’m the kind of person who always puts family first. My family is my life and my foundation. They are so incredibly supportive of me and I really credit them with my success.

In regards to the play, some characters take this idea to an extreme. They have similar values to me, but they cling to these ideas a bit too hard. I do think there’s a line where you need to take a step back.

What’s the biggest thing you learned while working on this play?

Theatre is truly a collaborative process. I can write a play in my room—and it can even be a pretty good play—but it’s due to the work of the actors, the director, the designers, and the dramaturg that it all comes together. This show really blossomed into something I could have never imagined. I’m such a different person than I was when I wrote the first draft a year ago. I may have more grey hairs but I came out tougher. In this business, if you don’t believe in yourself you won’t make it. I believe in myself, so here’s hoping!