An Onstage/Offstage Love Story

The romantic tension in Crimes of the Heart between Babe Magrath and her lawyer, Barnette Lloyd, is playful and longing, a sweet flirtation wrapped in a tricky legal situation that may end up being disastrous for one or both of them. What you might not realize is that actors Lizzie O’Hara and Josh Marx have a long history of acting onstage together—as well as a very personal offstage relationship.

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Lizzie and Josh’s wedding day / Photo by Mark Kitaoka & Tracy Martin

Lizzie and Josh met at San Jose State University, where he was majoring in Animation and she in Film. They were cast together in a one-act play called Am I Blue?—which happens to be one of Crimes playwright Beth Henley’s earliest works. Lizzie played an awkward girl trying to seduce a varsity jock.

Lizzie says, “We became fast friends.” Despite not being Theatre majors, they both haunted the theatre department and did every show possible. Their final show together at SJSU was Urinetown, with Lizzie playing Little Sally and Josh playing Officer Lockstock. They both won the Hal Todd Award for Excellence in Acting in Graduating Seniors (Best Actress and Best Actor). Although they were still “just friends,” they thought it would be funny to sing “Follow Your Heart” at the awards ceremony and awkwardly kiss at the end of it. “This,” Josh says, “was our very first kiss.”

That summer, they both took trips to Europe, and met up in Paris. They went on a pub crawl with a group of friends, but got separated from the group and had to navigate their way through a foreign city. “Lizzie, in a prophetic moment, took a quick snapshot of us holding hands as I guided us through the busy streets.” A few months after that, they finally began dating.

In 2009, Lizzie began working at TheatreWorks, first as a Box Office Representative, then as the Database Assistant, and finally becoming the Donor Stewardship Coordinator/Board Liaison/Management Assistant. Josh taught drama at Hoover Elementary in Palo Alto while applying to MFA Acting programs. He was accepted to Rutgers in New Jersey, and they spent a year in a long distance relationship.

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Lizzie performing with Sky-Pony

After a year, Lizzie moved to New York City, but Josh was still traveling around the country much of the time for acting jobs, and they weren’t able to spend as much time together as they liked. “Josh was only in NYC for a grand total of six months in the three and a half years I lived there, so it wasn’t as fun as it could have been,” Lizzie says, although she kept busy with her band, Sky-Pony, as well as performing and working a day job with Theatre for a New Audience.

“During a nine-month contract at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, I resolved to make things official and bought an engagement ring at the local jewelry store,” Josh says. “I proposed to her at the Mint Karaoke Lounge in San Francisco by singing ‘The Next Ten Minutes’ from the musical The Last Five Years while hordes of her friends poured into the bar to surprise her.” “It was AWESOME,” Lizzie says. “We had been dating for five years at that point. It was still a surprise.”12644761_10156464612085551_8641846892381201982_n

The two decided to move back to the Bay Area to be close to family, and to try to mitigate the amount of traveling that Josh would have to do for work. They got married, bought a home in San Francisco, honeymooned in Thailand, and adopted a cat named Mr. Fox.

They’ve had a lot of luck getting cast in shows together: first, One Man, Two Guvnors at TheatreSquared in Arkansas. “In the show, we played opposite one another and took special advantage of the final kiss at the end—grossing out the audience with our flagrant affection.” They played uncle and niece in The Importance of Being Earnest, and appeared in A Christmas Carol (both shows at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina), before getting cast together in Crimes of the Heart at TheatreWorks.

Crimes Director Giovanna Sardelli says it was a no-brainer to cast the two of them as Babe and Barnette. “They’re both such sweet, funny people, and great to work with. They have to fall in love onstage and they do that, over and over, eight times a week.”

When asked about their favorite moments in Crimes of the Heart, Josh says, “My favorite moment of Barnette’s is when he realizes that Babe actually remembers him from their moment at the Christmas Bazaar two years ago.” Lizzie is partial to the line “I hope you win it. I hope you win your vendetta. I think it’s an important thing that a person should win a lifelong vendetta.” She adds, “I think that line solidifies our feelings for each other.” When asked whether Babe and Barnette end up together after the end of the play, Lizzie smiles and says she definitely has an opinion about that, but “Babe has to work through a lot of tough life stuff before they even go on a first date.”

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Lizzie O’Hara and Joshua Marx in Crimes of the Heart. Photo Kevin Berne.

Crimes of the Heart plays through Feb 5 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click here.

A Kitchen Onstage

Thank you to our Properties Master, Christopher Fitzer, for this guest blog post about the challenges of creating a working kitchen onstage!

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Many plays are set in or require a kitchen onstage, and in other plays “off-stage” kitchens provide real and prop dining and eating experiences onstage. And in each one of these plays, how we achieve the kitchen, and all that it requires, is different each and every time. From artificial and theatrical to fully functional and practical, TheatreWorks has presented a multitude of variations of kitchens over the past many seasons. Here are the processes we go about to create the kitchens onstage:

SINKS

Prop – The simplest sinks onstage do not actually produce water. In those cases the sinks are put into the cabinetry, not attached to any water source, and act purely as an aesthetic reference, necessary to dictate that we are in a kitchen. This included the sink in the Muldoon kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar.

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Tank – The most common way we utilize sinks onstage at TheatreWorks is with sinks attached to a small tank hidden on or behind the stage. Sometimes they are pressurized tanks to ensure water comes from the faucet, and other times we have tanks elevated that use gravity to bring the water to the faucet. Both of these ways are much simpler than plumbing the sink, but have a limited water amount, and therefore are used in shows where the sink is only used a couple of times. This included the sink in the Reilly kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and in 2014’s Marry Me A Little.

Plumbed – The most difficult to achieve onstage, but the most realistic, is to plumb a sink onstage into the existing plumbing of the building. This way is only used when a copious and consistent amount of water is needed during the performance (and typically more likely in industrial or commercial kitchen sets). For instance, 2016’s tokyo fish story required an industrial sink to wash rice multiple times throughout the production.

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APPLIANCES

Prop – A majority of the times, appliances onstage are real period-appropriate appliances that are not connected to a power source. Refrigerators are used to hold prop foods, but do not actually “refrigerate,” and stoves and ovens hold pots and pans, but never cook anything onstage. The vintage 1930s refrigerator in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and the contemporary stainless steel fridge in 2012’s Time Stands Still were just props.

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Working Prop – In some shows, appliances are required to perform certain functions, but they do not need to be fully practical. Perhaps a kettle needs to boil on a stovetop. In that case, we might achieve that the needed outcome through different methods. If we do not need the kettle to actually be hot, we may add a speaker inside of the stove to create the whistling sound and add a flicker tip light to create the flame effect. But if we need the water to actually boil and a fully functional stove is not needed, we may replace one of the burners inside the stove with a simple hot plate, making that burner functional and leaving the rest of the stovetop as a prop. In 2016’s tokyo fish story the burners were prop and connected to fake gas lines, but the pot we put on top of them had a practical smoke effect inside of it, so that at the proper time the actor could “smoke” his fish.

Real – Every once in a while, a play requires an appliance to completely perform its intended function. This typically happens with smaller countertop appliances, like toasters, mixers, blenders, etc. These items can simply be plugged in, and either work as intended or work with slight alterations. In 2013’s Warrior Class, a popcorn maker with a practical fan inside created popcorn onstage.

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FOOD & DRINK

Real – The easiest answer for food (but not the most cost-effective) is to provide the real thing when it must be eaten onstage. Real coffee was drunk in 2015’s Country House, real oatmeal is eaten in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart, and real sausages were had in 2015’s Fallen Angels.

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Prop – In instances where food in shown onstage but never eaten, we almost always create or provide an artificial version of the food, so that it can last the run of the performances without having to be replaced. This included the shellac-coated bagels in 2015’s Proof, the plastisol-created raw fish in 2016’s tokyo fish story, the multiple cases of silicone donuts in 2010’s Superior Donuts, the molded foam meat pies in 2014’s Sweeney Todd, the carved foam steak tornadoes in 2015’s Fallen Angels, and the foam-and-acrylic birthday cake in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart.

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Edible Facsimiles – In certain instances like cost or cast member food allergies, the props department may need to create edible alternatives for the food needed onstage. In 2015’s Fallen Angels, cloudy gelatin was carved into amorphous blobs to act as a cost-effective and food safe alternative to real oysters. Anytime there is liquor onstage, especially brown alcohol, colored water or decaffeinated iced tea is used. In 2013’s Somewhere, pork chops were too expensive and difficult to cook at the theatre, so peanut butter cookies were baked ahead of time in the shape of pork chops and used onstage. To prevent the melting mess of ice cream onstage, 2012’s Time Stands Still used mashed potatoes scooped like ice cream.

The scenic and props departments use a lot of tricks to make kitchens look complete and food look realistic onstage. Hopefully as the audience you never suspect…but now you’ll know how some of that theatre magic is made!