Even though Kyle Jarrow and Lauren Worsham both went to Yale, they didn’t meet until years after graduating. A fundraising party for a now-defunct theatre company brought the two together.
“I was doing my roommate’s makeup, who was performing in drag,” Worsham recalls. “And Kyle was hoping to get with this other cute girl.”
“Not true!” he declares, with well-practiced cheer.
Two and a half years later, the two got married and Worsham’s former roommate officiated—in full drag, of course.
Jarrow and Worsham, who both have robust theatre careers, hadn’t considered working together until an out-of-town engagement put them side by side in a car for a long drive. Soon lighthearted jabs turned into fruitful art-making ideas.
“I made a remark about how Kyle was a songwriter and not a composer,” says Worsham.
“And then I said something along the lines of, ‘Well, you don’t sing pop-style music,’” adds Jarrow. Worsham, who was Tony-nominated for her role in Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and also has a thriving career in opera, admits that the origin of the dispute may have been her feeling miffed over not being on a casting list for an upcoming show Jarrow was doing.
Says Jarrow: “She was like, ‘I can totally sing pop, why does no one know that?’ And around that time, my band was breaking up, so I was already thinking of starting a new rock band. I told her, ‘Well, now you can prove that you sing rock-style music.’”
Initially the idea was to create an alt-country band—Worsham hails from Austin—and the group was to be called Biblical Sky, but the name prompted folks to ask if the music was Christian rock (it wasn’t). What’s more, it became clear that alt-country wasn’t in the couple’s wheelhouse.
So they called their new band Sky Pony, and, while it has managed to prove their mettle as rockers, it almost inevitably evolved into something more. “The band was just a one-off thing at first,” says Jarrow, “but then it made sense to see what the band would feel like in a more theatrical setting.”
That setting is Ars Nova, where Sky-Pony‘s The Wildness is running, in collaboration with the Play Company, through March 26. In the show, a group of friends gather together for a sort of fairy tale ritual, and the lines between reality and fiction are blurred.
The music for The Wildness, in which both Jarrow and Worsham perform, is very much the product of their partnership. “We generally write alone and then edit each other’s work,” explains Worsham, who also points out the ways The Wildness has forced each of them to explore what the other person does.
“I am not used to performing in a theatre piece every night,” says Jarrow. “I feel like I really understand being a professional performer way better than I did before this process.”
“He has decided to never do it again!” says Worsham.
The biggest difficulty in staging the show has been working around their own personal clocks.
“Kyle is a morning person,” Worsham explains.
“Not Lauren,” Jarrow says, jumping in. “Right after a preview she would want to go home and make changes but I would need to sleep.”
As with many couples, conflicts often center around balancing their careers and finding time to spend together. Work is one way to solve the latter problem: As Jarrow puts it, “Having Sky-Pony has been great, because we get to work together for a change.”
Both Jarrow and Worsham stress the importance of not bringing relationship drama into the rehearsal room. “If you show up to a band rehearsal annoyed at each other about some unrelated thing, it’s a bummer for everyone and it will make the song crappier,” says Jarrow. “When you’re discussing an artistic choice, you want to get to a place of clarity, so it’s important to not let emotional stuff cloud it.”
The couple’s next collaboration is a baby (their first child), due to arrive in June—right around the time Jarrow will be opening the SpongeBob Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago (he’s writing the book for the show).
“Basically I will be checking in with him every day and letting him know when I have contractions so that he can get on a plane and get over here,” says Worsham with a mix of excitement and optimism.
Jarrow turns serious. “I’m really excited to be a parent, but definitely scared about how to integrate a baby into being with two people who work in the arts.”
Well, the kid can always ride shotgun—and eventually join the band.