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Taking on a new role

Couple introduced through theater prepare to marry on stage

 

In September, Teresa Wilson will get married on the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center stage for the second time. But there’s a big difference this second time.

In the same theater, four years ago, Wilson walked in with her sister and her daughter to audition for “Annie” and to complete a goal the two sisters had set for themselves: to perform on the same stage their parents had in the 1980s as a way of honoring them.

Four years ago, Jason Howland was president of Albert Lea Community Theater. He was also there on May 20, 2014, (“She knows the date, of course,” Howland said when Wilson had it ready), observing auditions.

Wilson’s daughter is responsible for the introduction, she said. Her daughter and Howland’s stepdaughter are friends, and they live in the same neighborhood.

“Maybe it would be a good time for me to introduce myself, since we had been neighbors for four years,” Wilson said.

She did.

“When I met her that night, at that moment I knew that she was the one,” Howland said.

Wilson laughed.

“I did, too,” Wilson said. “I thought, ‘I’m in trouble.’”

Although he said didn’t intend to audition, Howland did after meeting Wilson. It was an opportunity for the two to spend time together almost every night during rehearsal for the summer musical. Their first date was to see a play: “God of Carnage” in Austin.

Jason Howland and Teresa Wilson have performed in four ACT productions together since they began dating. They plan to continue participating in Albert Lea Community Theater. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

Since then, the two have been in three other plays together, although never cast as a couple. In their most recent production together, “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married,” Teresa Wilson’s character, Bernice, married Aarvid, played by Luke Zacharias. Both actors know what they do on stage is putting on a show, but Wilson admitted: that was a weird one.

But on Sept. 1, Howland and Wilson will cast themselves as husband and wife thanks to their nuptials, which will take place at Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

“You wore a wedding dress on stage,” Howland said of Wilson’s “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” performance. “But it wasn’t the wedding dress you’ll be wearing.”

“You don’t know that,” Wilson told him.

They chose the venue because theater has been and continues to be a big part of their lives, Howland said.

“This is where we met,” Wilson said. “This is where we fell in love.”

It’s where Wilson expected to be engaged, too, perhaps during a curtain call.

Not quite.

“I had the element of surprise on my end,” Howland said. “That was awesome.”

Her right hand drifted toward the gravitational pull of the ring on her left. July 2, 2017 she said — that was the day she joined Howland for an evening of fishing on Lake Pepin.

“Halfway through the evening of fishing I said, ‘Honey, you know how much’” — he turned to Wilson — “What did I say?”

“‘You know how much I love fishing, I love to fish,’” Wilson prompted.

Howland resumed.

“‘Honey, you know how much I love to fish, right?’ And you said ‘yeah,’ and I said — what did I say?”

She started him again. “‘The best catch…’”

“‘You’re the best catch ever,’” Howland said. “‘You’re my best catch ever.’”

Cue the proposal.

But while theater is a part of their story, it is not all of it. In the three years of dating and one engaged, Howland and Wilson estimated theater is responsible for about 20 percent of the time they spend together and their connection.

“There’s not too many things that we don’t do together,” Wilson said.

And in that time together, they’ve discovered a few things.

“It’s nice to be in love with your best friend,” Wilson said. He makes her laugh. He’s a good sport.

Wilson, Howland said, is kind, and beautiful inside and out.

These are the pieces of their love story, coming to Marion Ross Performing Arts Center on Sept. 1.

“No acting this time,” Howland said. “This is real life.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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