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Creative couple have marriage of the mind

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Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan created The Legend of White Woman Creek together.

OLIVER SACHGAU/ WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan created The Legend of White Woman Creek together. Photo Store

when it comes to fringe theatre, work-life balance is tough to find. Even when not rehearsing, it's easy to spend every waking moment doing something related to a performance, from finding costumes and props to organizing the cross-country tour.

Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan decided to combine work and life. The two have been dating for almost a decade; the only thing keeping them from being married is that they don't believe in marriage.

Part of what brought them together in the first place is their shared love of theatre: Hartman is an actress; Ryan is a playwright. ã

The two had done some small plays together before, but the work they're performing at this year's Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, The Legend of White Woman Creek, is the first where they consciously sat down and worked together on everything, from the writing to the costumes and organizing their tour of fringe festivals.

The play is a legend Hartman's grandmother told her when she was a little girl, about a Civil War-era woman who haunts an area in Kansas, and the two turned it into a 10-song drama.

"We knew we wanted to do a one-woman musical, but we had no idea what it would be or how to do it," Hartman says.

Being a couple helped in some ways. The two had cheap rehearsal space -- their apartment -- and could practise at any time in the day because their schedules were virtually identical.

"We wanted to create this show very cheaply, so we basically wrote it and staged it in our living room," Ryan says.

But it also had its drawbacks. Living together meant every waking moment was dedicated to rehearsing, which eventually got to be too much.

"In an eight-week period, we would simultaneously be making dinner and doing research and bouncing ideas off of each other. It was exhausting," Hartman says.

"We would try to go to dinner, and end up talking about the show anyway. We found that four weeks into the process, we were starting to go a little crazy," Ryan adds.

They learned a lot through the creation process, though, and decided to lay down some ground rules. They decided to rent a rehearsal space that would be the only place to talk business. They also took on a third person who would break ties in case of creative differences.

"It's a nice marriage of the two different perspectives," Ryan says.

-- -- --

Monday night's rainstorm couldn't slow down Winnipeg's fringe-goers. Executive producer Chuck McEwen says the 7,782 tickets sold for Monday's 109 performances -- there were 12 sellouts Monday -- is another strong day for the 2014 festival.

Sunday's performances at the fringe festival led to 8,486 tickets sold, with 12 of the 124 performances that day selling out, he said.

The festival's first weekend was a busy one, McEwen said, with three of the first five days of the fringe setting individual daily records.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2014 C5

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Updated on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 8:59 AM CDT: Replaces photo, removes photos

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