TAMPA, FLA.: Details about how Jobsite Theater artists Summer Bohnenkamp and David M. Jenkins met diverge at times, but together they paint a vivid picture.
“We met doing a show,” recalls Bohnenkamp, who has worked at Jobsite since 1999 in various capacities and is currently the director of marketing for the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. “During rehearsals, we’d smoke cigarettes out on the loading dock, and he’d pay a little too much attention to me, and I’d be snarky about it. Then, for whatever reason, I decided to take him up on an invitation to a party at his place.”
Jenkins, producing artistic director and cofounder of Jobsite, says the show was Mac Wellman’s Whirligig. Soon after they began dating, he got a job at the Straz Center, where Jobsite is a resident theatre and where Bohnenkamp worked. “We both worked side by side in the marketing department,” Jenkins says. “She kept getting promoted and soon she was essentially my boss, even though I reported to the V.P.”
In that way, Bohnenkamp and Jenkins have always straddled their personal and professional lives—and they’ve been doing so for 17 years. “In truth, we’ve never really known anything different,” says Jenkins.
Recalls Bohnenkamp, “I’d never done any theatre before the one show where we met.” While she says that playing a Hun in Wellman’s Whirligig was “oddly fun,” when Jenkins asked her to audition for Jobsite’s next show, Bohnenkamp thought it was little more than a ridiculous attempt at flirtation. But she landed the role (working under a different director) and has worked at Jobsite ever since, primarily as an actor. This month Bohnenkamp directs Jenkins in Donald Margulies’s Time Stands Still, which runs July 6-31,
This is a reversal, as usually Jenkins directs Bohnenkamp. “I love directing Summer,” Jenkins says. “She’s always a bright spot onstage, willing to do anything, fearless, with exquisite comic timing.”
Most recently the two codirected Sharr White’s Annapurna, which is about a long-married couple. “When we decided to codirect the show, we thought that I’d focus more on Emma and he’d focus more on Ulysses,” says Bohnenkamp, referring to the play’s two lead characters. Ultimately they realized they complemented each other in a different way. “David is much better than I am at conveying big-picture thoughts and concepts,” said Bohnenkamp. “I’m good with detail and small work. I like explaining things from the inside out, and his style is more conducive to bringing the outside in. Luckily we pretty much agreed on everything about the show.”
Jenkins concurs: “I most appreciate Summer’s eye for detail—not just in theatre, but in general. The fact that I was maybe more big-picture and she more real-life was a large part of why the show was so successful for us.”
As opening night for Time Stands Still approaches, Jenkins says he’s impressed by Bohnenkamp as a solo director. “Maybe she’s even been more honest than other directors I’ve had in recent years, which is refreshing,” he allows. “She knows my mannerisms, my bullshit, my bag of tricks, and she’s steered me away from me and to James (the character). That’s her job, I know, but she’s been a lot more direct, specific, and insightful than many others. I would absolutely do this again.”
But opening-night jitters are getting to Bohnenkamp, she confesses. While she knows that Jenkins is a skilled actor and consummate professional—“He should be, he’s got a master’s in acting”—she’s not sure she’ll direct again. She compares the experience to getting a giant tattoo on her ribs. “During the sessions and for weeks afterwards, I said, ‘Never again,’” Bohnenkamp says. “A year or so later, I was looking in the mirror thinking, ‘That’s a lot of good real estate. I need to find something badass to put there.’”
As for advice to other couples making a go at romance and working together, Jenkins warns that issues within a relationship won’t melt away simply by collaborating. “If there are bigger things, maybe it’s not a good idea to work together,” he says, though that clearly isn’t the case for he and Bohnenkamp. “Oh, get a housekeeper, personal shopper, and pet sitter, because your house can go to hell real quick!”
Bohnenkamp is succinct with her advice: “Stick together and don’t get all actor-y about nonsense. Leave that at rehearsal.”