Being in a Creative Relationship – How to make it work (Pillow Talk #SpectrumNow Review)

Six well-known creative couples talked openly about their relationships at Spectrum Now’s March festival 2016. They included: David Williamson, Australia’s most successful playwright and his author wife, Kristin, all round entertainer David Campbell and his producer wife Lisa, actor Rob Carlton who played Kerry Packer in the ABC’s Paper Giants series and his wife, writer Adrienne Ferreira, all talked openly about their relationships. They discussed the tough times, how they made it through and what they did to make their creative lives work.

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Photo courtesy of ABC

It was love at first sight for David Williamson when he first met his now wife Kristin, though they were both married to other people at the time, he distinctively remembers what she wore which made him fall head over heals in love with her. Kristin remembers his great charisma and the way he was passionate when talking about his work. They met on his first production of The Removalists. She remembers when doing a play read for him, he was actively gesturing, gregarious and witty which appealed to her. He admitted that he once cast himself in one of his earlier plays, and burst out laughing just before a funny line was delivered. He hasn’t returned to acting since!

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It was a few years later that the two split with their partners at the time, and there was a lot of hurt and pain before coming together as a couple. The Williamson’s greatest challenge came out of their open marriage in the 1970s which led to Kristin writing a list of people she could “bear to be with” as David was doing it, why couldn’t she? It wasn’t until she admitted that she was falling for a man on her list that David changed, cleaned up his act and really started listening to her. He said, “It wasn’t until I felt that I was losing her, I realised I could no longer do this.” David confessed that the whole open marriage thing doesn’t work because “sexual jealousy is deeply rooted in our inner most nature and you can’t emotionally deconstruct it.” It comes with the human psyche. Since that breakdown in their marriage he realised what a treasure he has and together they’ve worked through their relationship battles and Kristin found her own identity and career in journalism, and became known independently. She said what they went through has made their relationship stronger. Together they work as a team. She often reads through David’s drafts and has learned to be careful when putting forth criticisms because in the past he was very sensitive and often over reacted to her suggestions. David said like most writers, he draws on his own personal experiences and writes about them, giving characters different names and alters situations to make them more dramatic. Kristin often discovers when watching his plays on stage pieces of familiar dialogue and says, “That’s what I said to you last night!”

He says what he loves about Kristin is that he’s still attracted to her; he still sees her younger self and loves her inner soul and honesty. Kristin said what she loves best about David is his sense of humour and that he always makes her laugh, his intellect and curiosity in life. That’s what makes their relationship work.

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Photo courtesy of On Broadway album cover

The next creative couple was David and Lisa Campbell. David confessed that it was during The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee  musical when this British woman from the cast of An Inspector Calls came backstage. Back in his drinking days, they had a theatre tradition called Thirsty Thursdays and Magda Szubanski, who was also in the Spelling Bee, invited the Inspector Calls company over for drinks. They were all fangirling over Magda because they loved Kath & Kim and it was her who set him up with Lisa.

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The two hit it off instantly and got together just after three weeks of dating and became engaged in Paris. In 2008 they married and set up their own creative production company Luckiest Productions where they produced all of David’s national tours, as well as other productions. It was only once during David’s 80’s tour that they struggled financially. They admit that they had counselling and joked that it was Lisa who had the counsellor first, then David joined her sessions and ended up taking her counsellor. Discussing things openly and accepting the creative chaos in their lives helps them through their relationship challenges. After David’s 80’s tour he soon landed a regular gig at Channel Nine, co-hosting with Sonia Kruger. Lisa then started producing successful musicals and is currently producing Little Shop of Horrors at Hayes Theatre and reveals what she loves about David is his singing. “When he gets up on stage and starts singing, I fall in love with him all over again because he’s just so talented,” Lisa says. She also admits that he helps her connect with people for her productions. For example she was looking for a voice of authority, with a God-like tone, and Geoffrey Rush was going to do it but then had to pull out so Lee Lin Chin was suggested and David said he could get hold of her because he has a contact at SBS. David says what he loves about Lisa is how she’s a leader, “she’s the boss!”

“What I don’t like about David is his indecisiveness,” Lisa jokes.

David agrees, “Yes, even when I’m ordering, I always ask what the specials are but never order them. I’m just curious and want to know, but I’ll still order the same thing. What I love about Lisa is how she nurtures the next pool of talent coming through and she’s her own institution.”

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 photo courtesy of Saxton.com.au

The last couple was actor Rob Carlton who played Kerry Packer in the ABC’s Paper Giants series and his wife, writer Adrienne Ferreira.

“On our first date Rob wanted to kiss me before dinner! I said no and had to pull the reins in!” says Adrienne.

Rob said they had previously met five years before at university and he wasn’t someone Adrienne was interested in at the time because he was a night owl and loved drinking and smoking. It was five years later when they met again and Rob pursued her. They eventually got together and had two boys and his career grew. He raised money, produced his own TV series and had his own production company, and was on a creative high. It was during this high moment in life that he came home from work one night and made dinner for his family and Adrienne started crying at the dinner table. She said,”I’m not kind enough to you,” (pause). Rob gets up from his seat on stage and tells the audience, “Oh, isn’t that sweet, but wait, then she went on to say, ‘because I don’t like you anymore!” Those words came out of nowhere and shocked him to the core and made him think- OK at least she didn’t bring it up during an argument. She was honest and brave enough to say these words calmly to him and reveal how she’s truly feeling. He then made a list of character flaws of himself and said he’d work on them. During this time Adrienne let out her frustrations by writing a screenplay which was devastating for Rob to read, as the protagonist was a mother who used to get up to mischief on weekends.  She even asked him to direct it. There were so many issues in the play that he uncovered – the comic irony of what the mother in the story was getting up to on weekends was mind boggling for him to read and comprehend. He then thought, OK this is how my wife’s feeling. Rob then announced to her, “You’re responsible for your own happiness, I can’t make you happy. Only you can make yourself happy.”

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From that point onwards they came to an understanding that relationships change and we all evolve, it will never stand still and stay the same. She admitted she was feeling down because she didn’t have her own identity as she was part of his limelight. After writing her screenplay, Adrienne wrote novels and got published. She’s now a successful writer and has her own identity and success.

I’d like to thank them all for sharing their honest stories with everyone so we can learn from their experiences. This was one of my favourite yearly #SpectrumNow events- hearing nothing but honest stories from creatives.

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