Wyatt Earp Contemporary Image

Terry Earp: Playwright, Triathlete, Entrepreneur and, To her husband Wyatt Earp, “My Hero”

In the Phoenix theater scene she was that rare marvel, a local playwright who could sell out a house. But to her husband and sometime scene partner Wyatt Earp, the great-nephew of his namesake, she was “my hero”.
Terry Tafoya Earp, the Arizona playwright best known for chronicling the lives of legendary gunslingers, died in her Moon Valley home February 15, 2019 at age 69 after more than a decade of medical battles following an accident that left her quadriplegic. She was training for another triathlon when she was hit in 2006. Wyatt was bike riding with her when a red-light runner struck her. Terry was wearing a helmet, but the accident caused severe spinal injuries that required repeated surgeries, Wyatt Earp said.

They had been riding together for a long time. They met in 1978 while scuba diving, off the California coast and had bumped into each other at the downtown Phoenix YMCA. When a friend mentioned that Terry was now divorced, Wyatt asked her to a harmless breakfast, then mixed up his schedule and stood her up — twice. She got back at me. Taking over the date planning, Terry scheduled a morning bike ride to breakfast. She failed to mention it would be with the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association. All these people start showing up in fancy cycling clothes and high-tech gear, he recalled. Oh, and breakfast? It was 25 miles away, it about killed me, but I had to be macho and stay up with these guys, Wyatt said. And that night, Terry insisted they go dancing.

Born in Pueblo, Colorado, Terry Tafoya Earp served in the Army in the ’60s before moving to Arizona in 1970. She earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in public administration at Arizona State University, but in 1988 she decided to pursue writing plays. She had her first success two years later with “Skimpies”, a comedy about the goddess Aphrodite moonlighting as a lingerie pitchwoman. “We didn't expect it to be a hit, and it saved our theater, essentially, because we were hurting for cash flow, and all of a sudden that play came along and ran for three months or more,” said Raymond King Shurtz, founder of Playwright’s Workshop Theatre.

Terry went on to open her own venue, On the Spot Theater on Central Avenue, which ran off and on for about decade or so before closing in 2003. In addition to her own work, she promoted other playwrights, including Shurtz after his theater closed. Terry was so affable and so great to work with, he said. You could go and pitch an idea, and she was like, let’s do it.’ She wasn’t afraid of risks.

Wyatt Earp Contemporary Image

Terry was best known for the historical Bio-Drama “Wyatt Earp: A Life on the Frontier” It was originally written for the actor Hugh O' Brian who starred in the television series "Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp." Mr. O' Brian had other commitments and the starring role was turned over to Wyatt Earp. In 1998 Terry penned her next play "The Gentleman Doc Holliday" which is based on the book, "Doc Holliday - A Family Portrait", written by Karen Holliday Tanner, the closest living relative of Doc Holliday, both of which were produced while on tour. Since then Terry Tafoya Earp has written five more plays, with the last one being Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt Earp - The Sunset Years written in 2006 just before her accident and it's first performance was in May 2008 at Schieffelin Hall in Tombstone, Arizona very fitting location for the first performance of this play.

In addition to her fascination with Arizona history, she also explored, personal topics, such as her own mixed Anglo and Latino heritage in a comedy titled “A Touch of Tortilla,” another local hit. Terry’s 2006 accident was followed by a long, painful rehabilitation, but a year later she was attending theater openings in a wheelchair.

Wyatt Earp Contemporary Image

She returned to writing with shows such as “In My Humble Opinion,” another historical work about Jack Durant, the late proprietor of the local-legend eatery Durant’s. Adapted from the book written by Mable Leo, it in turn was adapted into the 2016 film “Durant’s Never Closes”.

In 2012 Terry wrote “Lark, A Cowboy Woman's Ride”. A cowboy woman relives her adventures in Arizona ranching over the years of her life. She runs cattle, bear hunting expeditions in Alaska and fights to prevent cultural extinction. The play written by Terry Earp is based on her 2004 documentary film titled "We Killed Our Own Snakes" The women in this documentary film was centered around the legendary Arizona Bells.Wyatt Earp Contemporary Image One of whom is retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. Lark tells the story of her life as a cowboy woman raising a son, herding cattle and training horses and mules. She also relates the adventures as she and her husband Joe, cowboyed from Mexico to Alaska and all points in between. Finally, she gives her views on ranch life and how it has changed, and what she and her friends are doing to preserve their part of Western history. Terry says; It is my hope that even though I can do nothing to save the cowboy or the ranches, I have at least attempted to capture the legacy of these women whose like we might never see again. Someone once said that "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, "What a ride!"

Terry also volunteered to help people facing life-changing injuries like her own make the transition to a new life, Wyatt Earp said. “She talked to them from the chair, so she was living testimony, and she said, ‘Now it’s your job to reinvent yourself.’ And really, isn’t that what we all have to do, all our lives? There are not many men you talk to who say their wife is their own hero.

One of Terry's last endeavors was her 2014 documentary film “Moving On Before and After Quadriplegia”. Wyatt Earp Contemporary ImageTerry Earp wrote, produced and is one of the six participants in this documentary film. Terry states "since I can no longer use a camera or edit, David Ice was brought in as the videographer and editor", he also earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the TV series M.A.S.H. The project "Before and after Quadriplegia" will help those who are new to a life on wheels, their families, caregivers and doctors. Through this documentary you will see six "Quads" in the Phoenix metro area of different sexes, ages, backgrounds and length of time in the chair. This is the story of six quadriplegics and how they've re-invented themselves to lead happy and productive lives. Most of all, when you see how these six people have successfully reinvented themselves it will change feelings of hopelessness into hope.

One of Terry’s favorite things to say was this;
What is is what ain't ain't and it ain't over till it's over. I'm just going to keep on Rollin...

In addition to her husband, Terry is survived by her sister, Gerri Siebenaller, as well as in-laws and, Wyatt Earp added, a cat named Josh, and two German Sheppard’s Zack, Xena and Terry’s personal nurse and friend, Danelle Gerischer, who shared caregiver work with him for more than 12 years.

Theresa (Terry/Tess) Earp Obituary

On February 15, 2019, Theresa (Terry/Tess) Earp left this life for one without the frustration of breathing and movement limitations. Her influence has been Wyatt Earp Contemporary Image powerful and entertaining. She wrote thirty-six plays that have been published and produced over thirty-five years. She was honored with the “Arizona Lifetime Achievement” award for theater as well as nine Zonies. From her own “On the Spot Theater” to a pilot’s license, triathlon, acting and competitive ballroom dancing, she was always ready for another adventure. Her writing took her to a global level. “Married to a God”, the life of Vaslov Nijinski, the father of modern dance, was produced in Budapest, Hungary, under her guidance.

Just this last August of 2018, in a Colorado Theater, she performed two sold-out shows of “Mrs. Wyatt Earp” from the power chair. She received explosive standing ovations. Terry is survived by her husband of 33 years, Wyatt; Sister Gerri Siebenaller and her husband Michael; nephews Bradley Siebenaller and his wife Rachel; Curtis Siebenaller and his wife Alyssa; two grand-nieces and two grand-nephews. She is further survived by her nurse, caregiver and friend Danelle Gerischer.