In this two-part interview, we look into some corners of the secret garden in the life of the much talked about Jeff Coon at a time me when American family structures are changing and expanding. Jeff talks about his life as a father on stage in the magnificent production of The Secret Garden at The Arden Theatre Company, and as a happy father of his two children—his daughter, Piper (9) and his son, Jackson (8)—who are being brought up jointly by him and his lifemate Joey Abramowicz, and Jeff’s ex-wife and her new husband.
Henrik: What does it mean to you to be a “good father”?
Jeff: I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can. I want to be there when they need me at all times. I want them to know that I am “for” them in all situations—but I have to work to support them. I have to take time away from them to help provide the financial support for them to do all the things that I’d like them to do in their young lives.
You seem to worry that you may not do enough for your children.
Sometimes, even when I’m with my kids, I’m thinking or worrying about something else that is part of being an adult, and then I find I’m not really WITH them in the way I want to be. And on those occasions, or the times when I miss a dance recital or a basketball game, I wonder if I am enough for them. However, I don’t think this is unique to me—at all. I think all parents experience this to some degree or another, especially when their kids are younger.
In what ways have you overcome this notion that you may not always be “enough” for your children?
I’m not sure that I have or ever will. I just keep trying to tell myself to “BE WITH THEM WHEN THEY’RE WITH YOU.” Because I think that’s all they really want most of the time.
Could it be that you are harder on yourself because of your amazing, if unusual family structure: you and your lifemate, Joey, and your ex-wife and her new husband. Could this perception, however subconsciously, impact your being tough on yourself, sometimes wondering that you may not always do enough for your children, even though, you do more than most fathers?
I’m sure that’s part of it. I also think there’s a fundamental part of me that is always convinced that I’m not enough in any part of my life, and so I’m constantly hard on myself to do and be better. It’s a pathology, I know. [he smiles]
All four of you have created a wonderful, working relationship amongst yourselves, taking turns in bringing up both children. Could you tell us how the children are responding to this most nurturing and creative environment that all of you have created?
We are our own little village trying to raise these children as best we can. We don’t always all of us agree, but I think we put the three kids (Piper, Jackson, and Wyatt) first as much as we possibly can. And that helps clarify things when there are disagreements. I think all three know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved—deeply and truly by all four of us. Where is the bad in a child knowing that he or she is loved?
Have you ever regretted taking on an acting role since it takes time away from your children? If so, how did you deal with this apparent disconnect?
Yes, but—ultimately—I can make peace with it on some level because I have never taken a role or job that I didn’t think was going to help me take care of my family. That’s helpful for me.
If you had more time with your children, what would you like to do with them? Where would you go?
We’re going to New Orleans next month to visit Joey’s family. They’re going to meet his niece and nephew . They’re going to meet Joey’s niece and nephew for the first time. And that’s exciting for all of us. But if I had more time I’d like to take them to see their extended family more often. My mom’s family and my step sisters are in Florida. I have family in Seattle. I’d like to just be able to take them to spend more time with people who care about them. And maybe the Harry Potter exhibit in Universal Studios Orlando. Piper is on her second trip through the books and I think we’d all love to go there.
Thank you, Jeff. May you and your family always be safe in the secret garden of life. And may those children grow up to become so mature and caring that future generations will respect all types of loving relationships.
And, of course, may even more people see The Secret Garden at the Arden Theatre with its great cast, directed beautifully by Terrence J. Nolen, and with its spectacular scenic and video designs by Jorge Cousineau (conceived jointly by Nolen and Cousineau)—one of the most extraordinary productions that I have ever seen of this moving and thought provoking musical.
Tori Mittleman reviews The Secret Garden at The Arden Theatre Company.
An Interview With Jeff Coon On The Arden’s ‘Secret Garden: Part 1: An Outstanding Father On and Off the Stage by Henrik Eger.
An Interview with Jeff Coon: Part 2: Raising His Two Children in His Own Special Secret Garden by Henrik Eger.