Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 August 2011

Thanksgiving in August: Justin & Elizabeth

I met Justin and Elizabeth in 2001. They were both new at Cal Poly Pomona where I went to undergrad. I had been in the theatre department for about a year by then. I can’t remember getting to know either of them, really. I don’t remember when they became my favorite people of all time. I remember that Elizabeth was in a production of Molière’s Tartuffe, in which I had a small part. But Fall 2001/Winter 2002 was a time of intense self-centeredness for me. I was very focused on being in love with someone, and I was also very busy being a know-it-all about what good theatre was. As I remember it, my ego was so out of control in those months that I am surprised J&E (or R&J as I used to call them) took the time to get to know me at all.

Elizabeth performed in a one-act I directed back in 2001 (I think. Who can remember at this point?). She immediately became my favorite person to work with. We communicated with such ease, with such calmness. She was (and still is) a true joy to work with as a performer, and she’s also a terrific actress.

I left for Vancouver in the Spring of 2002 and when I came back I was a much better guy, so I assume we must’ve become friends after that. We all worked on productions of Othello and a new play called The Myth of Pomona, and in ’03 while Justin was playing Pirelli (hilariously) in a production of Sweeney Todd, he also rehearsed and performed in the first full-length play I directed, Gross Indecency, where he was the earnest and devious Bosie. Justin and I tell occasionally tell the story of the night before opening night when Justin was sick and didn’t do any acting all night, just marking his blocking and saying his lines. I was furious at the time. Nowadays we both make fun of how ridiculous I was.

I directed Patrick Marber’s Closer as my senior project, and both J&E were in the show: both were splendid. One of my favorite things I’ve ever done is a production Elizabeth produced of Howard Korder’s Boys’ Life that both J&E were in back in 2006. We had such fun times working on that project together with a whole bunch of our friends.

Okay, enough with all of the history. I don’t remember most of it anyway, let’s be honest. What Justin and Elizabeth have meant to me personally has deepened so much since we were artistic collaborators. I have said for years that Elizabeth is like a female version of me. Our thought patterns are so alike on so many things, and I am always surprised at how uncanny these similarities are. I think she is one of the cleverest, loveliest, wisest people I know. She is an excellent actress who keenly understands characters, which means she is also wonderfully empathetic. Justin is, flat out, the funniest person I’ve ever met. He is the most talented, hilarious comedian, with a vicious humor, just like my own, though he is a million times funnier than I could ever hope to be. I laugh the hardest when I’m with him. He is also – paradoxically –incredibly sensitive and caring. We cry at all the same things, and he tells me that he loves me every time I leave Los Angeles.

As we have grown older, we have grown to love each other and appreciate each others’ company even more. Whether we’re sharing wine or sushi or seeing theatre or chatting late into the night, we always have a great time. And this year I was privileged to officiate at their beautiful wedding, on the stage at Cal Poly Pomona, where they met and fell in love. I cannot articulate how much of an honor it is to be asked to take such a large part in such a special day.

Mostly I simply feel privileged that these two amazing people, who think are the best people in the entire world, care for me as much as they do.