Talkin' Relationships! with Eric and Andy
Sometimes, being an actor is hard on a relationship. You usually have a day job, and then add 40 hours a week of another job on top of it, and it can make things stressful for your love life, because you spend so much time apart. Eric and Andy decided to investigate how hard it is when BOTH partners are well-known actors in Chicago and ask how they deal with these sorts of things.
Jon Steinhagen is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, an ensemble member at Signal Theatre Company, and long time favorite of the Jeff Committee. Hell in a Handbag Theatre Company member Brigitte Ditmars is a wonderful performer and choreographer and might just be the next big thing! They seemed like the perfect couple to show Chicago Theatre professionals how it's done!
Eric and Andy met them at St. Barnaby's Church for a Saturday morning bake sale.
Good morning Jon and Brigitte! Thanks for meeting us at this Church Bake Sale!
Brigitte: No problem, I'm here every Saturday anyway. Those nuns make tasty brownies, you know.
Jon & Brigitte, let's get it ON! OK, you both are in the Chicago storefront scene. Jon, you are a member of Chicago Dramatists, am I right? How long have you worked with them?
Jon: I've been a resident playwright since September 2008.
And Brigitte? Are you a playwright too?
Brigitte: No, I'm an actor and a choreographer here in Chicago.
Jon: Don't forget "blogger," too, dearie.
Brigitte: Yes, that's right. This year, I'm going on first dates with all of my Facebook friends.
Now, tell me what it's like at home with you guys. Do you get to spend a lot of time together, or is it sort of, in and out, so to speak.
Jon: Very in and out. More out than in, actually. I live on the other side of the world, practically - takes a good 40 minutes or so to drive from my place to Chez Ditmars. We see each other - oh - maybe once a week? Twice, if we're lucky.
Does being a performer make it easier or put a strain on your relationship?
Brigitte: Both. In some ways , we understand the demands that the other has. But in other ways, we can't operate like "normal" people.
Jon: That's true. I don't have my operator's license. Actually, if she spent more time with me, she'd probably stab me.
Brigitte: That's true too. Being an amateur chef, I have a variety of knives to choose from.
Jon: She might be an amateur chef, but she's a professional diner. I have the receipts to prove it.
Brigitte: Except you use them as tax deductions.
Andy: (to Eric in a whisper) What the hell are these people talking about?
Eric: (to Andy in a whisper) Did he just call his girlfriend "dearie"?
Andy: (to Eric in a whisper) I don't know man, I quit listening when they showed up.
Eric: (to Andy in a loud voice) ASK THEM ABOUT THE MARSHMALLOW SQUARES AND LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!!
Did you guys try these marshmallow squares?
Jon: The ones shaped like baby Jesus? They're too chewy for my taste.
Brigitte: I've already done recon on this sale.
So...let's get to the heart of the story. When you are both playing in different shows and say, one of you is getting great reviews and the other is not as happy with their project, is there ever any animosity? Is jealousy an issue that you deal with as a couple that both perform so much?
Jon: Not at all. It's important that we each become good listeners at any given moment, I believe. Sounding boards. We're here to provide an absorbent pad. (Sorry, Miss Brigitte) to our various woes as well as our joys. There's no jealousy, as Miss Brigitte is female (very!) and I'm a manatee, so we certainly don't compete for the same roles. Although Miss Brigitte was a little pissed that SHE wasn't cast as Big Daddy. So that was a rocky moment.
Brigitte: It also helps that neither of us actually read our own reviews. We may read the other's and let them know if they can show their face on the streets of Chicago again, but we both subscribe to the thought of doing what you need to do as an actor. Jon's opinion matters,to me. And I think my opinion matters to him. Plus, I deal with my jealousy the old fashioned way, a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the dark.
Jon: "A" pint, you hussy? Seriously, she's absolutely correct. She'll tell me the truth and I'll tell her the truth. Or something that equates the truth. Approximates the truth? You know what I mean. Miss B was fantastic in TRUST - well, in everything she does, really - not so much as Willy Loman, though, in DEATH OF A SALESMAN. But I supported her choices.
So, as for projects, let's talk about what gets you revved up as performers. Jon, what is your preference...writing or acting?
Jon: Now THAT'S a tough question. I don't think I could survive without writing. As writing is what brought me to the theater as a teenager and has stuck with me so long, I'd have to list my preference for the writing hat. Acting, however, is a fantastic experience and enriches my writer's life. And I've had the good luck to perform with so many grossly talented (and gross) people.
And Brigitte, are you more into acting, dancing, or musicals these days?
Jon: Um, right now she's into the oatmeal raisin cookies.
Brigitte: That's because I've not been in a musical for almost 2 years and no one has to lift me. I'm doing a lot of acting and choreography these days. My first love is acting and performing, but I've become very successful as a choreographer so I can't just throw that away. Plus, choreography pays more than acting. Money talks, I listen.
Ain't that the truth, sister. So, let our readers know what you are working on right now, and if you've got anything coming up in the future.
Jon: I'm playing Sheridan Whiteside in Circle Theatre's production of THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER through April 3rd; after that, my play ACES opens at Signal Ensemble Theatre on May 16th - it's a nice, R-rated comedy (of sorts) set in 1975 Las Vegas, written for the ensemble - I'll be playing a sour alcoholic with a gambling problem. Oh, and I'm cat-sitting Miss Brigitte's cat while she goes to her friend's wedding.
Brigitte: And I'm getting ready to go into rehearsals for COLD COLD FEET with Diamante Productions which opens May 8th at Stage 773. I'm also doing some choreography for Raven Theatre's THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Not that Mike Menendian has turned it into a musical or anything, they just need some group dance choreography. I'm also 4 months into my social experiment/blog to have a drink with every one of my Facebook friends over the course of a year. It's called the Social Network Butterfly. I'm already up to 18 followers! Seriously, you actors wait til the last minute so if we are connected on Facebook, let me know when we can grab drinks. Don't wait until November please.
Jon: Brush the cruller crumbs off your snoobs, dear. Oh, and don't forget we're going to see THE MOONSTONE on Thursday. Nothing like spending our "us" time away from the theater AT a theater, right?
My wife Andy and I do the same thing. Well, I want to thank both of you for taking the time to talk with us at this lovely Bake Sa...oh, man, I think it just turned into a swinger party. Should we stay?
Brigitte: I haven't tried the pound cake yet. Do you think that's a euphemism for something or are they really selling pound cake?
Jon: Dirty, dirty. My virgin ears!
Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
Eric Roach and Anderson Lawfer are the founders of www.Reviewsyoucaniews.blogspot.com
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