Over a year ago The Children’s Theatre Company won the rights to a very popular pre-teen girl-oriented cartoon, which for the sake of this article we’ll call The Fruit Show. The show promised to be a good one—the music was slick and well-produced, and the script was actually more or less coherent. But the best part was that none of the characters were mascots – nobody in the show would have to go into a head. Almost every woman on the company’s roster of performers desperately wanted to go on this tour, including my wife.
[The clients who own the rights to the characters being portrayed (usually an animation production company) are very strict about how the characters look. With the mascots, the battles were fought over costume design. In The Show About The Rat the clients had a big problem with the fact that Cat’s mouth was open as it rarely opens its mouth in the cartoon. But in order for the actor to be able to make it through the show without killing everyone else on stage, there needed to be an opening for him to see through. Eventually the client let it go, but it was a near thing. They don’t care what the person inside the costume looks like, as long as the costume fits. In The Turtle Show, Fox, a male character, was played by a woman, and Beaver, a female character, was played by a man.
The three questions any director/producer has to ask when casting a show is: Do they look right? Are they skilled enough? And what are they going to be like to work with?—usually in that order. Not worrying about someone’s look being accurate has lead The Children’s Theatre Company to a very informal casting process—usually based entirely on recommendations of current cast members rather than auditions. But because none of the licensed characters in The Fruit Show were in mascot costumes, the company was forced to have a much more normal casting process, (i.e., actually audition people).
The missus auditioned in early 2012. She was always a favourite of the powers that be in the company, so she was presented to the clients as a potential candidate for one of the characters. After much back and forth they eventually rejected her for the role. The missus was devastated. She was instead offered a role on the inexplicably popular The Show About the Rat, which was being sent out for its third tour—this time of Western Canada. As we’re both from Western Canada, the itinerary wasn’t exotic. As she’d already done the show, the show wasn’t novel. There was little appealing about the tour, but she decided to take it anyway—it was going to be her last hurrah with The Children’s Theatre Company. Her plan was to transition from the world of performing to the behind the scenes world of casting, a move that would provide us with enough stability to eventually start a family.
But then, a few weeks after The Show About the Rat ended, after she’d already started a job at with a Toronto casting director, she received an email notifying her that the clients had changed their minds, and that she was booked for the four month tour of The Fruit Show.
So off she went for another four months on the road. She spent six of the nine months between September and May of this year touring, a particularly gruelling time of separation that I’ve briefly mentioned in another instalment of this column.
It kind of made me hope that I die before she does. Things got real boring without my partner in crime. I had a hard time making plans with people—I’m too used to just saying “what do you want to do tonight?” then going out and doing it. I’d forget to plan ahead, find out all my friends already had plans, then have nothing to do. To make matters worse, in terms of my social life, I had received a rather large grant to write a musical adaptation of a well-known Canadian novel. I worked from home, by myself. And at the end of the day, I had no plans. At least if I’d still been working at a restaurant to pay the bills, I would have had work-colleagues to hang out with after a shift. I ended up just playing a lot of video games.
The only thing I liked about the missus being away was that the toothpaste was always squeezed from the bottom and the cap was always screwed on.
But we’ve been very lucky to have had many opportunities to work together as well. We’ve done a total of five contracts together over the years, four of them tours. When we toured together we spent almost every minute of every day together. We shared a hotel room and a dressing room at the theatre. We sat next to each other in the van and would spend our free time exploring whatever city we were in.
And during those months that we spent every waking minute together, I never once wished that I could have a little time away from her. That’s not to say we don’t drive each other crazy sometimes – the aforementioned toothpaste remains a bone of contention—but there is no one else I would rather have drive me crazy.
She’s excessive in the extreme—while in a Wal-Mart somewhere in New England, she found some gas pills on sale for negative seventeen cents (on sale for $1.83, plus a flier coupon for $2 off). Rather than buy a normal amount of gas pills a person might conceivably need over the course of a lifespan, she bought ALL OF THEM, using them to offset the cost of some expensive make-up. Seriously, if you ever find yourself bloated and gassy in Toronto, stop by. I will hook you up.
On The Fruit Show she crossed back and forth over the Canada/US border three times. As alcohol is considerably cheaper in the US, she bought as much booze, wine, or beer they’d let her. If anyone in the cast were not buying duty-free, she’d get more, and make them claim it for her. After her tour we needed a grocery cart to wheel it all up from the lobby. Seriously, if you ever find yourself sober in Toronto, stop by. I will hook you up.
When she got back to Toronto, she couldn’t just have one job. She started to worry she wouldn’t be busy enough and looked for others until she had one thousand jobs. One week last month she worked a total of eighty hours, in several different jobs. The complicated schedule juggling required to make this possible would have given me an ulcer. I’ve managed to talk her down to two jobs—working at the casting director’s office during the week, and bartending ONE NIGHT per weekend. Seriously, if you’re ever in Toronto and need a job doing promotions, or bartending, or running an audition session, stop by. I will hook you up.
But this excessive behaviour also impacts how she cares about the people around her. She remembers everything everyone ever says to her, which means she remembers when someone says they like something or need something—making her the best at buying presents. She will do anything to help a friend—and you really have to be a special kind of asshole in order for you to not be her friend.
She calls me out for being self-righteous or when I’m full of some other variety of shit. She completely believes in my talents, and is a hundred percent supportive of my writing. She keeps me honest about how hard working I am—because really, when you are a freelance writer, it’s very easy to spend a couple hours making good progress on a piece, then pat yourself on the back and call it a day. When I have to explain to someone who just finished a twelve-hour shift how I spent my day, it makes me want to at least come close to matching that amount of effort.
I’ve seen relationships I thought were solid crumble. It scares me to think how we might grow apart, or how radically different our life will be when we have a kid. I don’t ever want to be that guy who goes to a bar to get away from his spouse. I always want to relish our time together, as I do now, and as I have for the last four years of our marriage. I just hope we can continue to grow together instead of growing apart…
And if only we could do something about