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TBA Online: News & Features: February 2018

Couples In Theatre: 2018 Edition

Wednesday, February 7, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TBA Staff
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by Lauren Spencer

Editor’s Note: Happy Valentines Day from Theatre Bay Area! This is the first in our two-part Love and Art series. Look out for The Business of Show Biz in the Feb 21 issue of The Insider, where Velina Brown answers a question about maintaining a relationship while being a working actor.

In this year’s edition of Couples In Theatre, Lauren Spencer chats with three couples who are partners in love and in art: Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses, Melvign Badiola and Jed Parsario, and Jeffrey Adams and Monique Hafen.

Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses. Photo by Emily Sevin.

“It’s funny to look back on it now, because it just seems so inevitable,” musician, writer, and performer Kate Kilbane says about her relationship with musician and writer Dan Moses. The two met by chance in 2003 at a pizza joint in Brooklyn, where they shared an impromptu conversation over a slice. “It was a very lovely conversation,” Kilbane says, “But all the while I am thinking that I have not mentioned my very serious marital-bound relationship at any point and, if at the end of this conversation, if he asks me for my number, what do I do?” The conversation ended instead with Moses giving Kilbane his card and asking her to call him. “I stuck the card in my wallet and walked out with no intention of calling,” Kilbane says, laughing.

Several months and a difficult break up later, newly single Kilbane found herself fishing the card from her wallet. “I thought to myself, I need to go on a date with a man that does not matter at all because if I fall apart in the middle of dinner or throw up into my soup he will not be able to tell anyone.” She emailed Moses proposing that he show her the best spots in Williamsburgwhere Moses already lived and Kilbane had just moved. The two ended up on what they both describe as a “fabulous eight-hour date” that would ultimately lead to their marriage, the formation of their 

marriage, the formation of their “theatrical rock band,” The Kilbanes, and most recently their two-year old, Hazel.

“When we got pregnant, my best friend was like ‘you know you are now literally creative partners in everything’,” Kilbane laughs.

For the first six years of their relationship, Moses and Kilbane, who each had their own bands, worked to keep their music projects separate. “The last thing you want is all of your tensions from your art to bleed over into your personal life,” Moses says. However the separation didn’t last long. After the couple moved to San Francisco, Kilbane struggled to find the right piano player for her band and Moses, a conservatory trained jazz musician, offered to step in, launching their musical partnership. “Now the only hard-and-fast rule is let’s just try to always be honest and talk about it, this dedication that we are going to work through whatever it is,” Moses says.

Melvin Badiola and Jed Parsario

Melvin Badiola and Jed Parsario are familiar with the challenge of navigating one’s personal relationship with work. The two actors, who live together in Oakland, met working on Stories High XIII, a culmination of acting, writing, and directing workshops produced by Bindlestiff Studio, where they are resident artists. “It didn’t even cross his mind until we started getting called in [to audition for] the same exact character and that part was hard for me,” Parsario says. “It’s always so much more joyful when we are both in it.”

The two have performed in multiple shows together such as Marin Theatre Company’s production of The Oldest Boy and Playground’s production of Kano and Abe. For Badiola, the secret of working well together is respect and professionalism, “We go [into rehearsal] as individual artists. You have to be professional. If we are in a scene together, we are scene partners first in the rehearsal room, then partners.”

Jeffrey Adams and Monique Hafen.

Actor Monique Hafen and her partner, actor Jeffrey Adams, agree that balance and boundaries create a healthy artistic partnership no matter what the relationship. “We both have immense respect for the process so when we get into the rehearsal room, it's all work...I believe we are both sensitive to each other's needs as actors and try to remain supportive from a distance until help is asked for. Still, there are days after a long grueling rehearsal or a not-so-great performance when we have to say, ‘Can we not talk about this for the rest of the night?’”

The pair, much like Badiola and Parsario, have shared the stage many times, first meeting in the acting program at Santa Clara University, which they both attended as undergrads. “Immediately, I thought, ‘Wow, he's so handsome and so talented and WAY cooler than me,’” Hafen says. They formed a close friendship, playing love interests senior year in Thoroughly Modern Millie. However, their romantic relationship off stage wouldn’t bloom until years later when Hafen recommended Adams to director Susi Damilano to play Prince Charming opposite her Cinderella in SF Playhouse’s production of Into The Woods. “Working together is one of my greatest joys,” Adams says, “[Monique] challenges me and is the driving force for me to continue to pursue my dream. There’s never a question when it comes to her supporting my acting. And that makes me want to be the best actor and person I can be for her.”

According to Parsario, acting together has taught him a lot about what kind of relationship he wants to have. “If you are an open actor, you allow your true self to be seen on stage.  It’s amazing how you can do that onstage but not in real life. Now I feel: okay let’s deal with this the way we would deal with it as if we were scene partners. Let’s pretend there’s an audience there that needs to hear what both you and I are thinking. Where do you and I want to go in our relationship? Let’s speak from that space that every audience member wants witness.”

Kilbane notes that conversely, her romantic partnership has taught her how to be a more receptive artist. “[With Dan] there is no opportunity to burn it down. In every moment you think hard do I want to get through this artistic disagreement because this is the person who is going to be lying down next to me in an hour and a half so what I say now counts on a lot of levels...It’s a way of honoring the work. I mean we’re all trying to make this and we are all reaching into the dark for the idea and so to honor how challenging that is...I try to carry that discipline with me everywhere else because it’s actually equally important with all artistic collaborators.”

Moses stresses, “At the end of the day our teamness transcends anything we are talking about.” He believes this is evidenced in all great artistic partnerships,If you look at musical theater it’s almost all partnerships. And I think it’s because of this immense fertile ground of these negotiations.”

The three couples are each relying on their own particular “teamness” as they dive into upcoming projects. The Kilbanes are working on a production of their rock opera Weightless, which will premiere at Zspace on February 23, Parsario and Badiola are scouring for the right project to co-direct at Bindlestiff, and Adams and Hafen are talking about starting a theatre school together and collaborating on their upcoming wedding.

In the midst of these various collaborations, these couples have had to also master the art of the hustle. Beyond his work with The Kilbanes,  Moses has a full time job as the audio DSP engineer at Sennheiser Audio Company. Hafen juggles acting on stage and camera with casting and vocal coaching while Adams teaches drama at Monta Vista High School. In addition to acting, Badiola works as a stage manager, producer, and the youth programs manager at Brava Theatre. When Parsario is not in a show, he returns to a retail position at Express. For each couple, the hustle is the challenge of making a life together in a market that is increasingly financially prohibitive for artists.

These couples profess a passionate belief in the power of cultivating love within our artistic processes and communities. “Love and art exist side by side,” Badiola says. “To be able to express what we feel and see but making it in a way that the person we are trying to reach out to is able to receive it. How love can do that? Art can do that.”

For Kilbane, it comes down to simply listening: “The best way I know how to love another person is to listen to them. In the times we live in there’s so much pressure to have a response, to immediately have an opinion or say something. But actually it can be very, very powerful to just really listen, to decide that I don’t have to respond right now or analyze.  It can be very powerful to be present, to be ready, to be open, to show up and just be a student of the moment. We have so much to teach each other.”

Lauren Spencer is an actor, activist, and teaching artist based in San Francisco.