Lynn Berg remembers when he first noticed Laura Welsh.
"We were in rehearsal for a production of A Christmas Carol. I'll remember that day the rest of my life, " he said, with the broadest of grins. "She was just walking across the room but I remember that quite vividly."
Nine years--and dozens of theatrical productions--later, including the past five years as husband and wife, the Bergs have returned to Boise, which they consider a second home. Lynn is from Boise (his father is a professor at Boise State University) and Laura is from Cleveland, Ohio, so they decided to split the difference (somewhat) by living in Chicago.
"But this summer definitely feels a bit like coming home. We've done so much work here and Boise audiences are so generous and loving," said Laura, who will play Anne to Lynn's Richard in the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's penultimate 2013 production King Richard III, opening Saturday, Aug. 10, and running through Saturday, Aug. 31.
Boise Weekly spoke to the couple about their life together, on and off stage, and the challenge of playing one of history's greatest villains.
Did you have discussions early in your relationship about the possibility of one of your careers skyrocketing while the other partner would have to be OK with that?
Lynn: We talked about it today.
Laura: You're living with it, day after day. It's something that is part of your reality.
Lynn: We're pretty open about our feelings about work and life.
Laura: In marriage, you take a step back and ask, "How's your ego doing?" "How's my ego doing?" "How are we doing together?"
Laura, I see that your resume says you've acted in a previous production of King Richard III.
Laura: Here's something odd. I actually played Richard. It was cross-gender casting in my graduate school last summer.
Lynn: She was fantastic.
Are you inclined to share some of what you discovered about Richard, or are you inclined to leave Lynn to his own journey?
Laura: I share if he asks. And most of that has been about small moments, not character choices. As much as I loved it, I want it to be his, because he's amazing.
King Richard III has to be on the short list of most people's favorite tragedies, what with amazing performances from Laurence Olivier, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Ian McKellan.
Lynn: King Richard III has been produced for hundreds of years; thousands of actors have played Richard. I think the key is for audiences to fall in love, or fall in hate, with Richard. And the task for me is to live as fully and completely in the part as I can.
Is it your sense that Richard was as truly despicable as most of us think?
Laura: I ended up writing my graduate thesis on the facts of Richard versus Shakespeare's play. I personally don't think he's nearly the villain as he was made out to be. Having said that, historical research does us no good because the world we represent is the world of the play, not history.
It must be pretty strange playing Anne, but in playing Richard, you previously romanced the character of Anne.
Laura: Anne is a woman who has lost everything and she's floating through life, almost drowning. And the one person who shows her kindness is Richard.
But isn't that a seduction?
Lynn: A seduction, but not in a scheming fashion. The thing that makes Richard so awesome is how thoroughly convincing he is in the scenes in which he's lying. It's said that the best way to lie is to talk between two truths.
After a three-hour emotional stage production such as King Richard III, does it take you another three hours to wind down?
Laura: It doesn't take an emotional toll for me. I find it more cathartic than troublesome.
Lynn: But sometimes there's a restless energy that you need to let go of.
Laura: Instead of having to work very hard, I think of great writing as more of a ride.
What's the most thrilling moment that you've watched your partner give an audience.
Lynn: Last year, I watched Laura play a number of male characters, or females pretending to be males. She was... boy, oh boy... she was just so alive ... and expressive. When I watch Laura work, I sort of go into a trance.
Laura: Lynn is so transformative as an actor. He never looks the same. To this day, I'm never sure what he's going to look like. His work harkens to an actor like Alec Guinness or Gary Oldman. It's beautiful and amazing.