Have you noticed how talent seems to come in pairs? Theater couples. They’re as common on local stages as blocking tape. They’re actors, directors, producers, often collaborating to bring us the finest productions in Colorado Springs.
We interviewed a half dozen prominent local theater couples, asking them (in a StoryCorps kind of way) to talk about their partner’s favorite work.
Dave & Lynne Hastings
Hate brought Lynne and Dave Hastings together. Specifically, it was I Hate Hamlet at Star Bar Players. They were both acting in it, and the production proved to be one of those magically intimate ensemble situations that produces lifelong friends.
“Dave was totally not my type,” Lynne says. (She says that a lot, by the way). “But this was one of the best casts I’d worked with. So talented, and we all had so much fun, and we all got along so well.”
“It was the kind of thing where we would rehearse for several hours—” he says.
“And then hang out,” she says, finishing his sentence (which she also does a lot.)
“Nobody wanted to go home,” he says.
They ended up married, and performed some of their greatest works together, including playing opposite one another in the saddest play of all time, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, at Theatreworks. Lynne, now Theatreworks’ artistic producer, loved Dave in the piece, but her fave was in the Fine Arts Center’s Peter and the Starcatcher.
“Because it took him out of his comfort zone, 110 percent,” she says. “Because Dave does not like to look foolish at all. Nobody does. But he got to a level of vulnerability I didn’t think he could get to. I was so proud of him.”
Dave doesn’t take long to consider Lynne’s greatest role.
“I would have to say Raisin in the Sun, because she did it twice, once in ‘99—she was way too young to play Mama. She was only 30. And she was fabulous,” he says. “And then she played it again last year, and she was better. I could see the life experience and everything else that had gone into it. Seeing her do the same role twice at two points in her life showed me what an amazing actress she is.”
Where to See Them Next
Lynne Hastings plays Brutus in Julius Caesar for Springs Ensemble Theater, Dec. 5-22.
Megan Michelle & Joe O’Rear
Shakespeare proved an irresistible babysitter. Megan and Joe had tucked their 8-year-old son and 7-year-old triplet daughters in a side room with books, iPads and snacks. But, inevitably, they would tiptoe out to watch their parents in rehearsal for The Tempest.
Joe is mostly a stay-at-home dad with those kids. He also does some carpentry at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. Megan is an English teacher at Rampart High School. They recently dove into the local theater scene because they wanted more out of life.
“We wanted something—in addition to work and the kids—to feed our soul,” Joe says.
They found it in various local companies, especially Counterweight, a fledgling company that performed last season in the basement of the Carter Payne building. To Joe, that production of The Tempest, Megan’s solo directorial debut, represents her finest work to date.
“The way she could navigate ideas in such a seamless and calm way was really impressive to me,” says Joe, who also acted in that production. “She was able to not only see so many things that weren’t there, she could freely accept new ideas and reject ideas that weren’t going to work. It was amazing.”
To Megan, Joe’s recent role opposite Steve Emily in Counterweight’s production of Red showed the young actor stretching in fascinating new ways. But she was most blown away by his work in Counterweight’s Macbeth.
“They had five actors. They all memorized the entire edited version, and they switched characters for each scene,” Megan says. “I was so impressed with his ability to really inhabit whichever character he was playing, fully committed.”
Where to See Them Next
Jodi Papproth & Steve Emily
Jodi was a theater teacher at Cheyenne Mountain High School and a fixture in the local theater scene for over a decade when she reconnected with her old college flame, Steve Emily.
Steve came from Chicago to take the relationship to the next level and had barely started auditioning. “As soon as Steve moved here, I became ‘Steve Emily’s girlfriend,’” Jodi says with a laugh. “And I was just like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve been here for 15 years?’’’
As a half-hearted attempt at balance, I will hereafter refer to Steve as Jodi’s husband. But anybody who’s seen Jodi’s work knows she’s no second fiddle. As a director and actress, she’s a tiny powerhouse. Her best work?
“I’d say, Smell of the Kill,” Jodi’s husband says, citing one of the early dark comedies produced by Springs Ensemble Theatre (SET), a company he helped found. “Part of it was, I hadn’t seen her do anything for 15 years. Can she act? I know she can direct. I was in the show as an off-stage voice. I spent a lot of time listening backstage. I thought, She’s got the timing down. Even just hearing it, I could tell she’s being real subtle and it feels natural. Then when audiences started to come in and she was getting huge laughs, I thought, Oh, yeah, this is working well. She’s got it.”
Jodi’s husband’s best work?
“The first thing that comes to mind is Steady Rain because of what it was doing to him in his real life,” Jodi says, referring to an intense two-man drama—also produced by SET—for which her husband played a crooked cop. “He was having nightmares. … I was horrified and nervous. That doesn’t always translate well. You’re insane in your personal life … and … I went to see it. And I felt, like, star-struck. I was crying, but also happy for him, and devastated by the story and torn up. And when he came out of the dressing room, I couldn’t even talk to him because it was too much.” She felt star-struck over her own husband.
Where to See Them Next
Eve Tilley & Sol Chavez
Eve Tilley has been so influential that the Pikes Peak Arts Council Awards didn’t just give her a lifetime achievement award—they named the award after her. She’s a fixture in this town as a director, actress, company president (Star Bar Players), patron, and she’s infamous as the hostess for almost every wild cast party in the Springs.
Sol Chavez, a character actor with a flair for the mischievous and a resume a mile long, now has taken to filmmaking, combining his passions of engineering and theater. They’ve played together for 32 years, on stage and off. Their relationship is as sweet as it is delightfully cantankerous.
Sol ponders Eve’s greatest theatrical achievement.
“It was Amadeus,” he says.
“That was certainly a tour de force,” she adds.
“It was on the Fine Arts Center stage,” Sol says. “I did the set, so of course it was great. (He laughs.) It was one of those meaty shows. There was a lot to it.”
“Eve’s the kind of director who captures the essence of the piece,” he says. “She really studies the play, and she lays them out blocking wise. And thinks about the appearance of it.”
And Sol’s finest moment?
“Well, hands down, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof,” says Eve, who played Yenta in that production.
“It was for the Conservatory. It was an incredible production. … Sol doesn’t sing—”
“Hey! I sing well enough to sing in a musical,” Sol argues.
“Yes, he does,” she says. “He really was magnificent.”
Joye & Scott Levy
Considering their reputation as the serious power couple of local theater, they certainly know how to laugh with each another—about his first role in a kindergarten play about the solar system (he played Mercury), about her looking for culture in the corn fields of her Iowa hometown.
Scott, a former Broadway producer, has been the producing artistic director of the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company for nearly a decade, having acted and directed in some of the most popular theatrical spectacles. Joye (pronounced Joey) has directed and acted primarily at Theatreworks and the FAC. She recently scored her dream job as arts director for the Manitou Springs School District.
“This is an oldie, and you might be surprised,” Joye says, pondering Scott’s best work. “I hope you’re not offended, but this is like a lozenge of joy in my mind. When you directed Tuesdays With Morrie at PTC [Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor, Maine, where he was producing artistic director before the FAC]. It was like an entry to a new place for you. It was about knowing you could work in the intimacy of the small. Because so much of your work has been in really big company musical work. This was about building such trust, and the vulnerability that those two men could reach because they felt safe with you.”
Scott thinks for a moment, and narrows his favorites to two: Heisenberg and Constellations, both love stories produced for Theatreworks. For Scott, who often has collaborated with Joye, it was delightful to know little about these plays and relish the surprise.
“These two recent two-person plays are really, in a way, companion pieces to each other,” Scott says. “It was great to see how Joye was able to develop her own aesthetic. Because they’re both stylistically not realistic. To see that growth, between just the two of them. It was joyous to walk into opening night, having not been part of the process, to just be able to sit there and enjoy Joye’s work.”
“That’s nice,” she says, smiling.
Sometimes the smallest of audiences matter the most.
Where to See Them Next
Birgitta DePree & Jim Jackson
Birgitta knew when she met him that Jim was a clown. She dated him anyway.
Turns out, Jim was a clown with the heart of an edgy performance artist, and Birgitta was an edgy performance artist with the heart of a clown. Their romantic and artistic union led to thousands of sensational performances and one of the few venues in the West dedicated to original performance: the Millibo Art Theatre (MAT).
Nearly two decades later, Birgitta considers Jim’s career, and her top pick comes like a squeak to a red nose: Gods, Guns and Pancakes, an epic one-man show about Jim’s journey to becoming a clown. (She directed.)
“It combined a whole lot of his skills in a really fresh way,” she says. “And it was very honest, very poetic. It used him as a clown, as a writer, as an actor. It was his story, but it hit home for everybody, how we become the people we are.”
Jim’s choice takes more consideration. Birgitta’s acting career has brought more gems to Springs stages than either can count in one sitting. But he lands on Stealing Sugar, a one-woman show that, in some ways, was a counterpart to Pancakes. (He directed.)
“It was her stories and really showed off her versatility to play several different comic characters, to inhabit them and add physicality to them,” he says. “It was very funny, and yet there were moments that were quite serious and touching and poetic.”
Where to See Them Next
Birgitta DePree and Jim Jackson write and direct Dances with Trolls, Dec. 7-22. Birgitta writes and plays Babette in Yule Be Naughty Too, Dec. 12-22, and Stealing Sugar, Feb. 6-22. Jim performs The Big Bubble Bash on Dec. 31. All performances at the Millibo Art Theatre.