Karen Wood and William Vickers share their own true love story, the balancing act of their demanding careers and what drew them to The Birds and the Bees.
How did your love story begin?
William – In 1985. We played a romantic item in the Stratford Festival production of She Stoops to Conquer.
Karen – The very first time we met was in my dressing room at the Avon Theatre for a
W – We didn’t even know what that was.
K – The designer asked us to hug so they could measure around us.
W – Because we had to fit in this grandfather clock that would appear in the final scene of the play.
K – At that point we were total strangers. They built this Styrofoam grandfather clock, but when we came out in it the Director decided it was too big.
W – So when they measured us the next time, we had to lose our clothes and get down to our underwear.
K – Once you’re hiding inside, it’s just so tight – you could barely move.
W – We each had a lever we had to pull back and forth, all while in our underwear, you can imagine what that was like.
K – Sparks flew, luckily we both have a good sense of humour.
W – Actually, we were supposed to meet 4 years earlier in Charlie Brown.
K – It might not have worked out!
What drew you to pursue a career in theatre?
K – I didn’t plan it. I was in an amateur production and someone in the play told me that the NAC (National Arts Centre) was holding auditions. I had just graduated with a diploma in Broadcasting from Algonquin College. I auditioned and got in. It was an unbelievable national tour. I decided to ride that wave until it was over, and after two years I moved to Toronto and I was in it. It wasn’t my master plan, but it was an amazing opportunity so I kept rolling with it. By that time, technology had changed so much I probably would have had to go back to school.
W – My love of theatre came from storytelling. I would get lost in the land of imagination as a child, my mother was an incredible storyteller. I took drama in highschool and originally went to Bishop’s University for geography, but then switched to drama/music. My teacher told me to audition for National Theatre School, so I did and got in.
K – Only 16 people across Canada get in, you must have had something!
How do you juggle your career and relationship?
K – There can be lots of separation – we were just apart for 3 months, but you learn to deal.
W – We’ve been together 31 years.
K – No, we’ve been married almost 31 years, together for 2 before that.
W – Yes, you’re right.
K – It’s funny, for many years in our career we didn’t work together as a couple. Sometimes in the same show, but they would give us different partners.
W – I don’t think they thought we looked good together as a couple?
K – Recently we’ve been doing most work together.
W – We draw the line at home. We keep it in the rehearsal hall.
K – We don’t give each other notes, it’s too exhausting to be working all the time.
What is it like working together on stage?
K – It’s great, acting relies on a lot of trust. We completely trust one another.
W – We’ve worked together a lot, so it works out very well.
K – We can always rely on each other to get us out of a situation.
W – There are some actors you click with and some you don’t, It’s comforting knowing people have your back.
K – Trust puts you more at ease. In a play, if you don’t trust other actors it can be stressful.
K – I love the town. I’m thrilled to be back. The first and only play I’ve done here was Summer Garden, I was a part of the cast that helped create the script. I was fascinated by the dance hall. People in town would come up to me and share their stories.
W – We’ve been down to see other shows since then.
K – I always thought I’d be back, but didn’t know it had been 25 years already.
W – I thought maybe 10! I vividly remember my first 5 years of acting, after that, theatres all start to blend together.
K – It all speeds up. I’ve been to every province except Newfoundland. Played in major theatres across the country.
W – Same with me, except Newfoundland and PEI.
K – I wouldn’t have if hadn’t been in theatre. It’s astounding.
W – I feel very lucky. No expectations of celebrity, just love being on the stage.
What made you want to do The Birds and the Bees?
K – We saw the premiere at Blyth and loved it, felt it was very special. We thought we would love to do it.
W – Matthew (Gorman, Director) reached out to us, we hadn’t heard from him in about 12 years, just different circles of life.
K – I worked with Mark Crawford as an actor before his first show as a playwright premiered, Stag and Doe, which was a huge hit. He has a wonderful ear for natural colloquial. He’s not a one shot wonder. We’re so proud of him.
W – Mark’s actually still tweaking The Birds and the Bees, we just received a new draft.
K – We love the script and the subjects it covers. There are serious discussions about the use of pesticides back home. We’ve seen the affects; no grasshoppers, issues with insects, birds having seizures. Bill’s really interested in entomology.
W – We have a water feature at home, but there aren’t enough insects so we actually have to feed the frogs. There’s also a big discussions of bees disappearing – is that because of pesticides?
K – The play is filled with metaphors that apply to human struggle as well. Mark leaves it open as to who is the expert, the scientist with the university degree or the farmer with years of experience? No definitive answer, he’s not taking a side, just presenting.
W – This play provides hope at the end though, that life continues. It’s also about connections – it’s about love.