There's a bit of life-imitating-art happening at Island Players.
Herbert Stump, who's been a Players regular for 10 years, both as an actor and as a board member, will be leaving the company and the state at the end of this month. He wants to spend time with his father in Pennsylvania, who is in good health but aging.
Just by coincidence, his last role with the Island Players will be the lead character in "Tribute," a play about an adult son who visits his father toward the end of the father's life.
It opens today for a two-week run at the theater on Anna Maria Island.
Stump, who plays the unsuccessful but likeable wise-cracking screenwriter Scottie Templeton in "Tribute," said that there are limits to the parallels with the fictional plot and his own life story. He and his dad get along great, he said. Scottie's son can't say the same thing.
"He hates his father," Stump said of his character's son. "He's only there because his father is dying."
"Tribute" is a 1978 play by Bernard Slade. He's best known in the theater world for "Same Time, Next Year," but his more high-profile work has been in television sitcoms. He wrote for "Bewitched," and he was the creator of "The Flying Nun," "The Partridge Family" and several lesser-known shows.
Stump said "Tribute" has a depth that wasn't apparent to him at first glance.
"I'm on the play-selection committee and what appealed to us at first was the comedy," he said. "It's full of great one-liners."
But Stump said that the more he worked on the show with his castmates and director Gareth Gibbs, the more it seemed like a drama with comedic elements.
"It has a lot of what I think of as New York humor, these one-liners delivered with such aplomb by Herb Stump," Gibbs said. "But it's really a play about this man and his son forging a relationship."
Whether it's due to the cats or the script or both, Stump said "Tribute' will offer an emotional ride for audiences.
"I guarantee that there will be laughs," he said, "and that there will be tears, actual tears, in the theater."
Details: Oct. 9-19, Island Players, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. Show times: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $20. Information: 941-778-5755, theislandplayers.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.