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TBA Online: News & Features: February 2018

The Business of Show Biz: Maintaining Your Relationship

Wednesday, February 21, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Velina Brown

Q: “I’m finding the more successful I am with keeping busy working on stage, the harder it is on my personal life off-stage. I know some [people] enjoy the opportunities for “showmances” but that doesn’t work for me. I don’t want relationships that only last as long as a show runs. I want a long-term relationship. Some [actors] manage to have both. Your website shows that you have a husband of several years. How do you balance a relationship with a very consuming field like theatre?”


Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

A: I asked a couple of actor friends in long-term relationships how they would answer your question. Gwen Loeb, married for 20 years to a fellow theatre artist, said, “How do I balance theatre and relationship? Simple answer: I don’t. Somedays I feel like a superhero managing to smoothly juggle ten torches. Other times, everything falls and everyone gets burned. Most often though, my reality is that I can’t actually juggle more than two to three torches at a time, so there is always some aspect of my life that I am neglecting or feel like I am failing. The result is that I am always trying to catch up with some aspect of my life. A show will be going great, but I haven’t seen my family in days and I have no laundry. I spend time with my husband and daughter and my day job gets impatient. Realistically, in all of this, the ‘torch’ I set aside most often is my self-care. Upshot: it’s hard. You may spend way too much time thinking about logistics and scheduling but it’s worth it.”

In my view, chasing the concept of balance just causes suffering because as far as I can tell it’s not attainable. The key ingredient to maintaining a long-term relationship through all the craziness of the inevitable juggling is to choose your partner well. A good match for a theatre person cannot be a someone who needs everything to be the same all the time. I’ve never forgotten watching a castmate try to get her eye makeup on while in tears because her partner, fed up with how much she was gone during tech week, broke up with her right before the final preview. I felt so bad for her. But clearly it was not a good match because actors are going to be gone a lot during tech week. It’s like yelling at a fire fighter for being gone every time there’s a fire. However, when there isn’t a fire, make time to be with your partner away from the flames.

James Carpenter, married to costume designer Cass Carpenter for 46 years, describes it this way, “I think you have to know when and how to pull the plug with a craft like theatre simply because it is so consuming.  You need to be able to vent to your partner and they to you about your respective workdays but then you you have to put it down and live your lives without theatre. Any relationship needs to be nurtured, needs constant attending, and it’s easy to get so involved with your project you forget your partner.”

I’m reminded of something I heard the late actress Carrie Fisher say in an interview while reflecting on her short-lived marriage to Paul Simon. I’m paraphrasing but she said something like, “In relationships you have the flower and you have the gardener. Paul and I were both flowers and no one was doing any gardening.” I took this to heart when I was contemplating marriage to my now-husband of 25 years. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t let too many weeds grow in our garden. I wasn’t going to be gardening all day every day and neither was he. But if we each got to be the flower sometimes and we each did some gardening sometimes I figured we’d be able to make it.

Finally, I can’t put it better than Gwen Loeb when she says, “In the meantime, if you can, carpe the heck out of the diem you have. Partnerships are filled with necessary compromises. While you’re single, do all the things you imagine you will need to cut back on when you are in a partnership. Take that out-of-town gig. Volunteer to put in those extra hours to endear yourself to the theatres. Go out with friends on a moment’s notice and find yourself in Vegas at 3AM! Partnership is amazing and fulfilling and I highly recommend it. But for now, don’t worry too much about finding “the one”; just enjoy all the life experiences that are possible when you only have one or two torches in the air! Those life experiences are what will build your career and probably what will lead you to your partner.”

I hope this helps.

Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at