With a swaddled baby in her arms, the desperate woman asked Peggy Ward if it would be OK to bring a newborn to her show.
"I'm a new stay-at-home mom and I had to get out of the house," Ward says the woman told her. After the show, the young mom told her: "You just performed my life on stage. I'm not alone and I'm not crazy."
Ward wrote "Mamaphobia," a one-woman show that finds humor in the everyday struggles of motherhood, shortly after she became a stay-at-home mom herself. Like Seinfeld creator Larry David, Ward based her show on shared experiences.
Growing up in Wilmette, one of seven children, she honed her comedic skills at the dinner table. "You had to be witty, interesting and fast or they would move on," she says. Before she became a mom, Ward worked as an advertising copywriter and did stand-up.
She first performed "Mamaphobia" in 2003 at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. It grew wildly popular and landed at the Apollo Theater, where she performed three times a week for 17 weeks. But the time away from her husband John, a special education teacher, and their three young children became increasingly difficult.
For many years, Ward opened and closed the show. Last Mother's Day, she revived it at the Laughing Chameleon in Glenview with the intention of moving it forward. The original one-woman show now has three actors performing various roles.
Ward was at work on "Mamaphobia 2: The School Years" when Chicago Parent spoke with her about the show.
Why does "Mamaphobia" resonate with audiences? As mothers, oftentimes we feel like we're failing and other moms are doing it right. When you see a comedy about motherhood that is really honest and self-deprecating, it's like, OK, that mom understands.
What do men like about the show? They see the woman on stage calling her husband at work to ask if she should buy the ugly Halloween costume at Target and they feel less alone because they're fielding these phone calls from their wives.
What happens when the curtain comes down? People linger and start sharing things they may not have shared. They feel a connection to someone who lost their kid at the water park.
What surprised you most about being a mom? I didn't know how much angst I was going to feel when they're not happy. I didn't realize what an extension that children are of us.
What makes you laugh? When people act too seriously about life. Humor is never funny-driven. It's stressed-out-driven. When you take a step back from it, it's hilarious.