Love is in the air. Two of our beloved members and instructors at The Torch are getting married next month. Romance in any situation is an adventure, but so much more so when building an improv theatre. Sam Haldiman and Jacque Arend sat down with us to talk about their love.
TT: Improv is all about support and agreement. How has that idea been a part of your relationship?
SH: I say yes to everything she wants
JA: It’s interesting, especially with all the wedding planning. There are definitely moments when I know I deny him a lot with his offers but it’s definitely made me a aware and I think that the progression of our relationship has been very much influenced by our philosophy of yes and and support. Especially when we first started dating; everything was just about having fun and enjoying each other’s company and just riding the wave; being positive about the relationship, which lead to moving in together and I think that transition was real smooth I thought because we were both very supportive of each other’s time and space in sharing that domicile.
SH: Not only just yes anding each other but, kind of like you just touched on – living in the moment and accepting whatever our choices are and exploring life in and outside of this place.
TT: How did the two of you originally meet?
SH: We first officially met in Chicago. We were in the summer intensive groups. She was in one group and I was in another.
JA: That’s how we first met, so our relationship was definitely born out of an interest in improv because we made out on a rooftop at a party. One of the fellow people taking the intensive was having a rooftop party. And then I think our roads took us on different paths. I came back here. He stayed in Chicago. I think when he came back into town, he really wanted to get involved with what we were doing and I definitely made it a point to kind of welcome him and get him involved with us; not because of that history, but just because it meant having another strong player – a strong force to add to The Torch community. It was nice because he moved into town in September (2008) and I think because we approached it more as just a friendship we started spending a lot of time together, but just as friends. It gave us an opportunity to learn a lot about each other without having that ideal of being in a relationship kind of looming over us so we were able to get to know each other as real people as we really were. By the time he asked me out, we had created a nice bond as friends which I think is a really powerful thing to take into a relationship.
SH: It definitely helped to build trust. Our time together in Chicago was obviously very limited, because it was just that summer in a fleeting moment “Summer Lovin‘” style thing almost. Knowing that I was staying and I was going, I probably didn’t handle things the smoothest, because I didn’t want to get all wrapped up, knowing that – at the time – this wasn’t going to grow into anything. So coming back, it was interesting. I was nervous because I had talked to Ken a lot off and on being in Chicago and I knew that she was not happy with how things had ended. So it was a little nerve-racking coming back, but knowing the community of improv – in general – that I would be accepted and welcomed back regardless of what had happened.
JA: Yeah, and I think three years is a long time to get over something. So by the time he came back it was kind of a clean slate. But also I wasn’t necessarily like “Oh, he’s coming back into town. Maybe something can happen. We could pick up where we left off.” It was more like, “Oh, he’s coming back into town. Big deal.” Well, maybe not “Big deal” but I certainly didn’t anticipate us getting into a relationship.
TT: The Torch Theatre was actually involved with your proposal. What lead to that?
SH: I know that this is a huge part of our lives obviously and it’s our family in many ways. We’ve spent years together now as a collective. I wanted it to be something that everybody could share in. I spent a lot of time trying to plan things. There was a lot of rough moments in that planning because she was getting a little antsy about certain things at times, and I had this big thing that I was working on towards that, but I didn’t want to cheapen it, so it almost put a little roadblock in our relationship – not to the point where we’d break up or anything – but I knew she wanted this and I knew I wanted this and we’d actually talked about getting married for a while even before that, so it’s something that would have happened regardless of how it happened. But I definitely wanted everyone to be a part of that and it was a great moment in time because there was so much energy and love being put into building this place at the time, it was like why wouldn’t I want to include that in the engagement.
JA: Yeah, and it was really a special event. I’ll forever remember that day and tell that story forever. Having the community so involved and the support they gave Sam just in keeping the secret was really nice and just the support of showing up there and being present for it having so many familiar faces and wonderful people involved was a really nice touch; even to the point of having my Mail Order Bride girls with me when we were running around all these places while I was flipping out because I had a rehearsal scheduled.
TT: Many of our readers don’t know the story of the proposal itself. How did it happen?
JA: So, it was a Saturday. It was actually March 5th of last year. I had actually gotten up quite early and had gotten down here (The Theatre) to mud and tape drywall, so I had been working down here all day. Bill had – and this is of course my perspective of the day – planned an open house for people to come down and check out the progress of the theatre space and the building. I just remember a lot of people showing up and people were asking me why I was working, and I was like “Well, why wouldn’t I be working. This shit needs to get done. Of course I’m working.” So Bill’s taking people on these tours, and I’m like “Hmmm” and then finally at one point, which I think was like 3:00 or 2:30 Bill was like “OK, well now we’re going to go on a little scavenger hunt.” and hands these envelopes out to everybody. I said, “No, I can’t go because in a half an hour I’ve got my students coming for rehearsal for their showcase” and of course Stacey Reed was there and came up to me and said “No, it won’t take that long. Just come along. We’ll have a good time. We’ll get you back on time I promise.” Then of course Michelle and Amy were there and were like, “Yeah, let’s all ride in one car.”
So the first envelope takes us to Carly’s
SH: Which is where we had our first date.
JA: That’s right. We get there and in the car it was a lot of “What’s Bill thinking?” and “Where’s Bill sending us?” So the next envelope is Bikini Lounge, which we frequented a lot at that time because we were doing stuff at The Trunk Space. At that point the ladies were like, “Let’s have a shot. Let’s drink” and I think they were just trying to loosen me up because I was so stressed out. Meanwhile Stacey’s on the phone with Bill saying “Bill. Are you at the space, will you make sure her students know that Jacque’s going to be a little late and la-di-da.”
The next place was The Rose & Crown. I’m wondering “Why are we getting all these bars?” because no one else was around so we’re thinking everyone’s got different places – or I’m thinking that. They’re all just agreeing with me, totally supporting the idea that they have no idea what’s going on either, which is amazing they did such an amazing job.
So we had another shot and our last stop was 5th Avenue Cafe which one of our students, Dawn White, owned with her husband. Sam and I had a nice relation with her so I assumed that Sam set it up for Bill to have our reception there for the open house. I knew it was closed so I thought, “Wow. This is like a private event. This is really crazy.”
We show up, and we’re feeling pretty good at this point. We walk in and there’s a ton of people there. More people than when we started and everyone starts applauding when we walk in. I was thinking we were just the last ones and they were all waiting for us. So I was all “Yeah, we made it!”
Sam walks up to me and he asks me if I noticed that there were other people in there and I took a second to look and there were his parents, and his mom & grandma and other relatives and I was immediately like “Oh shit – this is going down right now.” Of course I had wanted it to happen, so it was a wonderful feeling but I was very caught off guard so my first instinct was to back away from him.
But it was lovely; he got down on one knee and he told me he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and I said yes and it was great. And we partied all night long with all of our friends. It was great.
TT: How has The Torch played a role in your romance?
JA: Oh, man! The Torch has been… I don’t know if we would have made this… I don’t know… we probably would have but I think The Torch community and the support for our relationship and how much they love seeing the two of us together was a huge factor into how we grew as a couple because when you have your friends constantly telling you that you are perfect for each other and are so super- supportive of you building a life together that it’s really easy to be successful.
SH: There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that we made a great couple and that was great. There were no snide comments behind anybody’s back like you might see with some friends. It really was great. Everybody was genuinely happy for us and want us to have a successful relationship and to be happy together. And we are happy.
JA: It’s really nice to be involved in a community that’s that super- supportive of your relationship. We even won the cutest Torch couple in the 2009 Torchies with our vomit bucket. Obviously a lot of people in The Torch community have been really supportive of the wedding and have offered to help in so many different ways and saved us a lot of money by giving us in-kind donations of their time, taking pictures and doing the video and DJing and all that kind of stuff. It’s awesome to have that kind of support coming from the community that is so important to us. It’s really helped to alleviate a lot of the stress and keep us excited about it. I can’t imagine us having this big day without The Torch being a part of it.
SH: It says a huge thing that obviously everybody that’s hugely involved here is going to be there anyway, but it’s a huge thing that this is probably one of the very few things that we’ll shut down for, for a night. We appreciate that and everyone’s support, that we are not such a big corporate-type entity that we’re like “No, we still have to work.” No, these are our friends. This is our life. This is something that we want everyone to be a part of and we’re very happy that there’s absolutely no question about why we’re closing this weekend.
JA: That’s great because it really makes the day even more special to know that this thing we care so much about is right there beside us for that day. It even goes beyond the people that we’ve invited to the wedding. Newer students and other performers in the community that may not have gotten invited are still really super-supportive and excited for us and that’s why we have kind of had the day wedding so we can extend the party into the night and allow for all these people who are just as special to us from The Torch to come and share the day with us.
TT: Planning a wedding can be a huge undertaking. How did your experience as improvisors help with the process?
JA: We did a very Do-it-yourself wedding as far as putting things together on our own. I think from our experience with running the theatre and with The Phoenix Improv Festival, it’s really helped me to know what to do – in this case planning a wedding. If I’d never had that experience before it would’ve been like “Arrghh! I don’t know what I’m doing!” That’s been really great. And like Sam said, just knowing that we have the support from all our friends to get us through it is really nice.
SH: It’s almost like it’s everybody’s wedding. Everybody’s taking a little part of it. It’s The Torch wedding
JA: It is the first official Torch wedding and I think that’s really great. I think it expresses even more what The Torch community is all about when you can celebrate two people getting married in a community. It’s those things outside of just being n stage and being in this theatre space, but being able to share these moments outside of even being improvisors and running a business. That’s the thing that makes strong community bonds; sharing those experiences. Being an improvisor, and the whole yes and philosophy and being able to go onstage and create things and just the whole fun of it has really kind of been taken into the wedding experience. I definitely found that I had some traditional values, but we want it to be a fun day and so a lot of the stuff that went into the planning was around that idea of just having fun and almost letting yourself go. We’ll have toys at the tables as opposed to fancy expensive wedding favors, just hoping that people will embrace that attitude of just letting themselves be a kid almost.
TT: Thanks for taking the time away from planning. Any parting thoughts?
JA: I think it’s really exciting taking this step. We’ve been together for three years but this is a really exciting step to be married and it’s a really nice feeling to know that as husband and wife we’ll still continue to have this bond in improv through The Torch and have that community support that we’ve built with it. I think it adds a lot of brightness to our future. Even just the idea of starting to have kids and knowing that we’re going to be raising kids with this community with this whole improv attitude I think is really exciting.
It’s exciting for us as well. We wish Sam and Jacque all the best.