Sharing the Stage & Sharing a Home

By Annie Sears

Arwen Anderson and Rod Gnapp play with their son Rowan at a local park. Photo courtesy Arwen Anderson.

It’s a big week for the Anderson-Gnapp family. Rod Gnapp is currently performing on The Geary as Stan in Sweat, which closes Sunday. His wife Arwen Anderson will soon grace The Strand as Goodman in Men on Boats, which begins previews tomorrow.

Both Gnapp and Anderson are A.C.T. veterans. You may have seen Anderson most recently in Heisenberg (2018) or Gnapp—a graduate of A.C.T.’s M.F.A. Program—in The Realistic Joneses (2016). They met while working on Magic Theatre’s 2009 production of Mauritius, directed by Loretta Greco, who also directed Sweat. Later that year, they were cast in another play at Magic called Mrs. Whitney. Gnapp started flirting with Anderson—who was playing his character’s fifth wife—during that show, and they’ve been together ever since. Last summer, they performed together in Marin Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet as Gertrude and Claudius, and their four-year-old son Rowan was a consistent rehearsal presence, romping through the outdoor amphitheater as his parents worked onstage.

The couple kindly gave us a few minutes in the midst of their busy schedules to discuss raising a family with another performer.

Is it common knowledge in the Bay Area theater community that you two are together?
Anderson: Oh, everybody knows! We sometimes get called in for the same shows, and casting directors say, “Well, let’s just see what happens. We don’t want to make your lives too difficult.” It’s pretty much always part of the conversation now.

Gnapp: When Arwen first got pregnant, we were trying to lay low with that information. We didn’t know how it was going to go or what the chances of miscarriage might be. But she was doing Romeo and Juliet at Cal Shakes, and she had a fight scene that involved stomach punches. Dave Meier [the same fight choreographer for Sweat] came in to teach the choreography, and he has some standard questions he begins a session with. So he asks, “You’re not pregnant, are you?” [Laughs]

Anderson: And I just say, “Uh, well, actually . . .”

Gnapp: And next thing ya know, everybody knows that we’re having a baby. You can’t keep anything a secret in this little community.

Is it challenging to balance an actor’s life and family life?

Anderson: It’s equally as rewarding as it is challenging. With Rowan being so young, we have a lot of logistics to work through. In this situation, we ended up with five weeks in which we’re both contracted with A.C.T. For the first few weeks, we were both in rehearsal during the day. We got through that by cobbling together friends, neighbors, babysitters, and then my mother flew in from Pennsylvania so that she could be here when I transitioned into tech and Rod began his final stretch of shows. Neither of us could be available for bedtime, which is a really important time of day with a young kid. So Grandma flies in, and she can make sure Rowan is still being nurtured by family. We’re very thankful for all the support.

Gnapp: We have to be a little more selective about which roles we accept because we have to pass the baton back and forth. We don’t often do crossovers like this.

Anderson: Right. But when Rod was offered Sweat and I was offered Men on Boats, we looked at each other and said, “Well, these are two amazing opportunities—great shows, great casts, great directors, great plays.” We knew we had to make it work.

Catch Rod Gnapp in Sweat through Sunday October 21, and catch Arwen Anderson in Men on Boats starting tomorrow, Wednesday October 17. Get your tickets today!

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