It is not hard to find a therapist in the city, but it is hard to find a good match–someone to help you drop your guard and pinpoint what’s bothering you.
Enter Sherapy: A character therapist, Sherry, in a roaming retro truck, who gives free, on-the-spot sessions to anyone curious enough to walk inside her domain, which she describes as safe and “elegant trashy,” not kitschy bad taste.
“I think she is so absurd and so specific that people don’t feel threatened by her,” said Ann Liv Young, the 34-year-old who began playing Sherry in 2007. “They sit down and make eye contact, and they don’t know where she lives or where she’s from or how much money she makes. It enables people to let go of judgments, almost feel like they are on another planet.”
To be clear, Young is not a licensed therapist, but Sherry tells her clients she is, if they ask. What she does have—more importantly–is a no-nonsense personality that she uses on her patients to find out what is going on with them as quickly possible. Where a shrink will encourage you to talk through a thought, Sherry will end a ramble. “If you’re not getting anywhere, I have no qualms about interrupting, and I will redirect,” said Sherry. “Therapists often abide by social rules. Sherry doesn’t adhere to any of them.”
True of Sherry, but also of her creator; Ann Liv Young went to an arts high school in North Carolina, studied composition in London (as in, the composition of performance art) and, finally, textile design and choreography at Hollins University in Raonoke, Virginia—just the bag of tricks she needed for a career in performance art. Young started touring Europe, initially, with her show. But the work was precarious. Sometimes there were a lot of resources, and sometimes there was none. “I was really frustrated that you could show up to a venue and have money and support and next time have nothing,” said Young. So she decided to create a character that was almost indestructible: Sherry. With Sherry, the show would go on, no matter the obstacle.
Beyond being thought provoking, Young had another incentive to make her performances more stable; she was pregnant with her first child, Lovey. “[Sherry] was for Lovey, to make my work become more financially sustainable, and to tour more easily and cheaply,” said Young. “And the truck was also like, let’s take work to another level for Akiko,” her second child with Michael Guerrero, who drives the truck they purchased off Craigslist in 2012 and who doubles as Sherry’s straight man assistant, Thomas. Lovey, now almost eight, makes appearances as Rainbow Dash, a manicurist whose work will cost you five dollars.
Sherry doesn’t like to over-plan where her truck will park. These days, it often follows her kids. On Saturday, Sherapy will set up shop in Manhattan to accommodate a play date; on Sunday, the kids will visit friends in Brooklyn, and Sherapy will follow.
Sherapy truck sessions are free–sort of. Sherry, Thomas, and their note-taker, Lynn (an actual licensed therapist who recaps conversations at the end of a session) push Sherry schwag—anything from Sherry’s world that she has collected on tour or used in a show. Maybe you’d like a pair of vintage shoes, one of Sherry’s used bubble gum wrappers, or her first wedding ring.
“We insinuate that’s how we’re able to give free sessions,” says Sherry. “Some people are struggling and have no money so it’s case by case—sometimes we give it away for free.” Sherry also does sessions on Skype, which are not free.
You can find your first Sherapy session in Brooklyn this weekend by following the truck on Twitter, @Sherry_Truck. If that’s not your speed, you can indulge in all that is elegant and trashy on her Instagram account, @AnnLivYounger.