“I asked Christopher out on a date the day before we went to Poland,” Jay Hardee says. “And it went well, and then Poland was very romantic. Our cast mates dubbed us the ‘Make Out Boys.'”
That was almost 10 years ago, when local theater professionals Christopher Henley and Jay Hardee were part of the cast of Scena Theatre’s Ivona, Princess of Burgundia. After a run in D.C., Scena took the production to a festival in Poland, home to Ivona playwright Witold Gombrowicz. Since then the now-married couple has worked together many times around D.C., most often on shows for WSC Avant Bard, the almost 25-year-old company that Henley helped found as the Washington Shakespeare Company.
But in recent years the couple has been working separately, alternating work-life responsibilities — one will work on a show while the other stays home in D.C.’s Chevy Chase neighborhood nurturing their turning-two twins, Ivona and Aksel. Obviously, Ivona is named after that seminal Scena show, but Aksel? “I used to ski race,” Hardee says, explaining that the namesake is the world champion Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal.
Whether Aksel ever takes to the slopes, Henley and Hardee are certainly raising the twins in the theater. “They’ve been to a bunch of plays already, so they’re already avid theatergoers,” says Hardee, noting that Imagination Stage’s Peter Pan and Wendy was the twins’ first play last year.
The twins are also getting firsthand knowledge in putting on a show, especially now that Henley and Hardee have found a project that they can work on together. The two are co-directing Dracula: A Love Story, Tim Treanor’s modern take on the vampire classic, transposed to present-day D.C., and running as part of this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. “Because of the Fringe aspect of this,” Henley explains, “where we could rehearse it in our home, and there are only five performances, it worked out to be an unusual opportunity for us to work together.
“I was moved by it in a way that I’m not usually moved by vampire stories,” Henley adds. Hardee notes that the production is sexy, and features a lesbian scene nodding to the 1983 vampire film The Hunger.
“There’s something for everyone,” Hardee says. Though not the twins: Fringe recommends it only for ages 13 and up.
Dracula: A Love Story opens Saturday, July 12, at 3:45 p.m., and runs to Saturday, July 26, at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Tickets are $17 a show, in addition to the one-time purchase of a $5 Fringe button. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org.