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Stage-crossed lovers

Two IRT actors share how they fell in love at the theater


Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens in The Great Gatsby
  • Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens in The Great Gatsby

There's an old adage about mixing your private life with work (don't), but for those who see the theater as home, the lines are easy to blur.

Matt Schwader's and Hillary Clemens' relationship is inextricably woven into their on-stage careers, and it's been that way since they first met in 2010 at a Shakespeare festival in Wisconsin. Today, they are married and are coming full circle in their theatrical parenting foray. They discovered that they were pregnant on the morning of their opening of The Great Gatsby at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in 2015. The two are back at the IRT in its production of Boeing Boeing.

Though branded by the dark circles under their eyes common to all new parents, the couple is upbeat and positive about their first show together since their son was born eight months ago. "We were going to take a year or more off from the theater world, and we probably wouldn't have taken this [Boeing, Boeing] if it weren't for Hillary's mom," says Schwader with a smile.

"[IRT] is a fun theater," Schwader says. "When you come here, people are just so warm and creative—good people."

"We met in 2010, and we reconnected a couple years later. We started out long distance. From e-mails, to Skype, to watching Netflix at the same time," Schwader says, which makes them both laugh again.

Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens - ALL IMAGES ARE SUBMITTED
  • all images are submitted
  • Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens

Clemens adds, "We spent a lot of our relationship working in different cities and different plays. Right after we got married [in 2014], we had about two weeks together, and then I came here [IRT] and did The Game's Afoot. But then we had an amazing year where we worked together.

"Back to back," says Schwader. " We did Romeo and Juliet out at Lake Tahoe where she was Juliet and I was Romeo. And we came here and did The Great Gatsby."

That brings the story back to the baby.

"Actors get things for each other as little opening-night gifts, and we had been sort of lax on that," says Schwader. "And in the morning, on the opening night of our show, Hillary comes to me and she's like, 'Let's give each other our gifts now!' and I was like, "No, we don't do that!"

Clemens explains, "We still had about four hours of rehearsal to do."

"Yeah, you do it at the show," says Schwader. "But she said, 'No, we have to do it now.' Well, I was curmudgeonly about it."

"And she said, 'You go first.' So I was like, I didn't want to do it at all, and now you're making me go first," says Schwader. "So I gave her her gifts, which were some things related to the show, like a daisy necklace and things like that because she was playing Daisy. And then she gave me my gift, and it's a little thing that is wrapped up. I pull it out, and it's a onesie. And we just burst into tears."

Clemens picks up the story: "We had to go to rehearsal and couldn't tell anybody. We'd be on stage, to reposition a moment or fix the blocking, and I'd look at Matt and he'd look at me. And his eyes would just fill with tears. And I was like [whispering through gritted teeth], 'Get it together! They're going to think something's wrong!' We told Nathan [Garrison], the stage manager, pretty much right away because it's a medical issue. You want to make sure somebody in charge knows what's going on."

"It's wonderful to come back with something that is so wonderfully silly," Clemens says of Boeing, Boeing. "And we know when we come home at the end of the night we're going to be in a great mood, as opposed to like a Shakespearian tragedy. You can't always leave all of it; it comes with you, it lives in you a little bit. So it's nice to know that there really isn't a way to be in a bad mood at the end of this play."

Schwader agrees. "Especially with this cast and this company. It's sort of funny because the play's about these people who sort of live an international lifestyle, and a play like this for anybody is sort of a vacation. You get to forget about anything that's happening in politics, the world, or whatever else may be troubling you in life, and you can go laugh for a couple hours."


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