New Column: ‘Married to the Stage’ begins on DC Theater Arts by Natalie McCabe

“Honey, I don’t think I can go to the next level. I just don’t see myself going higher here.”

“It’s okay, my love. I support you.”

Johnny and Natalie. Photo courtesy of Michael Erana and Serendipity Studios.

This was a conversation I had several weeks ago with my husband of nearly five years concerning his job.  He did not feel that he could force himself to advance to the next level at work, a choice that I fully support – because, when my husband said that he felt unable to get to the next level, he meant literally.  He couldn’t force himself to go higher to the third floor because he has a bit of a fear of heights. Well, not heights so much as falling off of them.

Johnny as Richard Tarlton. Photo courtesy of of Photography by Michael Ulrich.

Perhaps I should explain. My name is Natalie McCabe, and I am currently halfway through my Masters of Arts degree in Theatre History and Criticism at The Catholic University of America here in Washington, DC. (In fact, I like to remind my husband that my Masters degree is in “Criticism” when he disagrees with me). My husband, whom I affectionately call Johnny, is an actor currently performing two hours away at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where his job involves falling 20 feet off of buildings. (You know, the usual).

Of course, the PA Ren Faire involves much more than that. His daily performance schedule involves life in the Shire of Mount Hope, where Queen Elizabeth I herself has just arrived. Johnny portrays Richard Tarlton, a famous Fencing Master, jester, and actor in his time. His days are filled with sword fighting, grappling in hand-to-hand combat, particularly during the Human Chess Match, directing a Commedia dell’Arte play that he wrote, performing the title role in Shakespeare’s Henry V, singing, dancing, miming, and performing other stunt work, including those second-story, twenty-foot high falls. (Just not third story high falls. And I am okay with that).

Natalie, ready to “storm the Bastille.” Life is never dull when you work in “other centuries.” Photo by Natalie McCabe.

Consequently, his performance days in the shire are typically fourteen hours long. Sometimes, his non-faire days seem much longer between rehearsals, discussions with his fellow directors, and other matters. My schedule, further south in DC, is also quite busy. I am currently assisting the dramaturg at DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company on next season’s shows, preparing for my intense workload this fall (coursework, my teaching assistantship in the Department of Media Studies, and PhD applications), working on papers to submit to conferences and publications, and studying French daily – for I must pass a foreign language exam in order to graduate. Thus, daily conversations with my spouse are simply not a reality, though text messages help to fill the gaps. Still, it is a life one must prepare for when marrying an actor or, truly, when marrying anyone whose profession leads them to the stage door.

I am married to the stage, which means anything but a 9-to-5. My husband’s life is the same. When you are wedded to the performance space of the shire and your Queen and cast need you, you will embark upon a “long day’s journey into night” and return when your quest is complete. But return you will, time and again, to spouse and stage, stage and spouse, until the boundaries begin to blur. It is a life of uncertainties. It is, more often than not, a penny-poor life. But it is my life, for I am married to the stage.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire is located at 2775 Lebanon Road, in Manheim, PA, approximately a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. It runs Saturdays, Sundays, and Labor Day Monday through October 28. Information about tickets can be found here. For directions, click here.


Michael Erana and Serendipity Studios.
Photography by Michael Ulrich.


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