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PLAY LEADS TO LOVE

Sometimes love shines as steady as the face of the moon, and makes your head spin like the Earth.

The moon never turns its face away from us. But what if it did? What if it were to spin upon an axis like the Earth? How would that be?

Julian Schrenzel and Jenness Klein pondered this one night at the Springer Opera House, where each had come to play a leading role in the musical "Guys & Dolls." That evening they had walked along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, and had talked about the moon.

They had only recently met, and still were getting to know each other. They would have to get to know each other well, for in their roles they would have to embrace, and kiss, and flirt and fight and sing together.

They would have to act like they were falling in love. Or so they thought.

So, one evening as they walked beside the river, Julian, 31, and Jenness, 28, talked about the moon and wondered: What if the moon were to spin?

When they got back to the actors' apartments at the Springer, they tried an experiment. They dropped a wad of paper into a bowl of water in which they stirred a whirlpool. It did not suffice.

Julian got on the phone to his father, an astronomy buff. His father asked them to imagine a dancer pirouetting at the end of a rope --- the dancer turning one way, the rope the other. Jenness tried to demonstrate as Julian watched.

It was the moment Julian fell in love --- not for show, but for real.

"So Jenness is in my room, doing pirouettes and spinning her hand the other way with a rope," he recalled, "and I was just, like, 'I have to have this girl.' "

But he could not have her --- not then. He kept his love a secret.

Jenness was engaged to a man in Alaska, a relationship two years old. She intended to settle there, to make acting more avocation than vocation. That was her plan, for a quiet, small-town life. To fall in love here would risk it all.

In "Guys & Dolls," she played Sarah Brown, a Salvation Army sister whose love leads a gambler to convert and settle down --- not the other way around.

The actors would spend weeks together practicing their lines and their songs, preparing to convince an audience they were two very different people falling in love. The hard part would be pretending they were different.

What they learned, as they ran together on the Riverwalk, ate lunch together downtown, developed their characters and shared their dreams, was that they were not different at all. They both wanted to devote themselves to their art.

One night they were in the opera house kitchen, where Jenness expressed doubts about the plans she had made back in Alaska. Wistfully, she talked of finding a new role in life, of working in theater full time.

Spinning off course

Julian took her hand, and told her that if in her heart she wanted to devote herself to the theater, then in his heart, he wanted to share that with her.

His revelation was not unanticipated. Jenness keeps a journal, and weeks earlier had written of this. "I had this vision of him one day confessing these things," she said, "and what would I do then?"

She did not know. That night she held his hand, and said, "I don't know what to do, Julian."

By then Julian had been in love with Jenness for weeks. He had decided it was time to be bold, like Sky Masterson, his character in the play:

The devil-may-care gambler In "Guys & Dolls" boldly and impulsively kisses the Salvation Army sister who saves his soul. For this first kiss, she slaps him, but the kiss is more convincing than the slap.

In real life, their kitchen scene would be the climax. Jenness would need more time to think, but not much. She soon accepted that she was in love with Julian, that they belonged together --- like the characters they played.

Life imitates art and vice-versa, but life gives you no script to go by, no stage direction to tell you where you stand. It is all improvisation, and often the hardest part is speaking from the heart.

From the far side of a continent, Jenness had to tell her betrothed that her heart had changed. It was hard, but it was the truth. It was not, by then, an abrupt change of heart, but a final and firm decision to pursue her true dreams --- with Julian.

Once their love became clear to them, it became obvious to everyone.

As the show went on, some in the supporting cast began to gather in the wings to watch the pair on stage. To watch two people falling in love play two people falling in love and yet not play them because no pretense was necessary, that was too tempting to resist.

On stage, Sarah Brown's green eyes shined like planets in the night sky when she looked at Sky Masterson.

"They had the chemistry on stage as actors and then offstage as people," said Raymond Campbell, who was among the chorus.

Raymond had been friends with Jenness for years, having worked with her on other Springer productions. Before the rest of the cast learned of her love for Julian, she had told Raymond of her doubts about her Alaska plans.

"She was telling me how much she loved the theater, and that her fiance wasn't interested in it," he said. "She said that when she got to the Springer, she realized how much she loved it. I told her, 'Jenness, maybe y'all weren't meant for each other, if he's not interested in this and you love it so.' And I said innocently, 'Well, what about Julian?' And she looked funny then." Later Julian told him the two were in love.

"Guys & Dolls" ended its run March 18. The next day, on the very eve of spring, Julian and Jenness left Columbus, with new plans. Jenness would move to New York City, to be with Julian, to pursue their shared dreams.

They will remember Columbus, the Springer, this early spring in Georgia, running together along the river, having panini sandwiches and coffee at a Broadway coffee shop, sharing tea at a bookstore up the block, watching the trees and flowers spring to bloom, and imagining how it would be if the moon began to spin.

Contact Tim Chitwood

at (706) 571-8508 or

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com

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