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I Owe My Marriage to Theatre!

Date: Dec 03, 2020

On stage, backstage and in the audience, we fell in love through shows


Welcome to our latest Theatre Lovers essay. Today, Tina talks about the leading role theatre has played in her personal and professional life. If you'd like to submit your story for consideration, email TDF Stages.

I met my husband, Tarmo, my freshman year of college in 1978 in an acting class at C.W. Post - Long Island University. He was so handsome and well-dressed—I was smitten immediately. We became fast friends and spent a lot of time together, performing on stage and working backstage at the school's Post Theatre Company and going to see shows in New York City.

Our first official date was the campus Halloween party, ten months after locking eyes in that acting class. We dated on and off throughout college and for years after graduation. We went our separate ways several times, but always remained close. Our shared passion for theatre helped keep us connected. Tarmo graduated before I did but returned my final year to star opposite me in my senior thesis mounting of Ralph Pape's Say Goodnight, Gracie. The original Off-Broadway production of that play was one of the many shows we saw together with tickets purchased at TKTS in Times Square.

In fact, we built weekly visits to that TKTS Booth into our college schedules. Tarmo, our friend Steve and I only signed up for early classes on Wednesday mornings so we could hop on a train and go stand in line at TKTS to buy matinee tickets. We justified the expense as being a major part of our theatre education, and the amount of cash in our pockets determined whether we saw something on Broadway or off. Our love for the theatre and for each other grew bigger and stronger with every show we saw. No, they weren't all winners, but we usually found some aspect to enjoy. And sometimes a show I didn't want to see turned out to be life changing. Steve and Tarmo tease me to this day about how I begged to skip a new political musical they were interested in catching during previews. But we ended up buying TKTS tickets and Evita is now one of my favorite shows of all time. We still laugh about it four decades later!

After college, Tarmo and I continued our theatre adventures. Highlights, often courtesy of TKTS, included the original Broadway productions of Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Misérables, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Burn This, Doubt, Agnes of God, Proof, Crimes of the Heart, M. Butterfly, 'night, Mother, Plenty, the list goes on and on.

I had the great fortune to assist Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner on their show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Lily loved Tarmo and always said that he looked like a performance artist. While working for her, Tarmo and I decided it was time to tie the knot as we had known each other for eight years. We had a small wedding in the backyard of the Long Island house we still live in. It was one of our greatest theatrical productions. We planned every detail, made all the food, designed the deejay's playlist, I even made my own wedding gown! Tarmo joked to everyone that I made his tux, too.

Four years ago, we produced our "wedding revival" on a little Mexican island called Isla Mujeres. We wrote our renewal vows, my sister officiated, and our son played his acoustic guitar and sang our song, "You." Both the original production and the revival were magical.

On September 7, 2020, we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. Our life together includes 40-plus years full of wonderful theatre memories as audience members, as performers at various Long Island theatres, as producers of a script-in-hand series at our local library and as proud parents sharing the stage with our son, Zachary, from time to time. Truly our greatest production, Zachary is a jazz musician and teacher and inherited our love of the arts. I have worked in some aspect of theatre my entire professional life—as an event coordinator for Night of 100 Stars II and the 1985 Tony Awards; as a production assistant for Lily Tomlin on her show; as a commercial talent agent; and as a box office manager at Long Island's BroadHollow Theatre Company, sadly one of COVID's casualties. For the last 23 years, I've been an executive assistant at TDF. To say that theatre has been an important part of our life as a family is an understatement. Theatre IS our life and we long to return to it.

Have a great tale for our Theatre Lovers series? Email your story to TDF Stages.


Tina Marquis-Kirsimäe has been an executive assistant at TDF for 23 years and loves her job. In addition to her love of theatre, she is passionate about travel and can’t wait to return to both. Besides her husband and son, Tina lives with two rescue dogs, two parrots and a rescue parakeet.

Top image: Tina Marquis-Kirsimäe and her husband during their vow renewal ceremony. Photo courtesy of the author.