Ptown's Adam & Ben Berry - Married, with Theater

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday August 10, 2017

Adam and Ben Berry are modern day impresarios. These actors/producers, whose theatrical talents are matched with an insatiable amount of charm, want their Peregrine Theater Ensemble to be a permanent destination for good theater in Provincetown. They are also a married couple who have been living and working together for nearly a decade.

Some may recognize Adam as the co-host of TLC's paranormal investigative series "Kindred Spirits," or from his five years with the SYFY channel's "Ghost Hunters."

Adam and Ben's current production of the musical "Chicago" just opened to unprecedented rave reviews. EDGE caught up with them to talk about that, and also what it was like to be a married gay couple working together in the performing arts.

Age old story

EDGE: So how did you two meet?

Ben Berry: It's an age old romantic story: we were introduced through a mutual friend who I had met when I was studying at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie acting program. His name was Elliot Eustace, who is a member of Yingling dynasty in Ptown, and he brought me here. Together we started this Shakespeare on The Cape Company in 2005. I had heard of Adam as he was a star of musical theater in his own world and was doing 'Bat Boy.' In my mind it was like two opposite ends of the spectrum who were bound to meet eventually.

Adam Berry: This was right when social media had not yet taken off and we became friends on something called Friendster. I knew of him and we had mutual friends, but I was so focused in getting out of college and getting a career and I just wasn't looking for love, but it found me I guess.

In 2006 Ben was starring in 'Romeo & Juliet' and I was back at the Provincetown Theater, but then I saw him at the Fourth of July Parade on a float. From way across the road I spotted him and he really caught my eye, and I thought 'OH, that's him!' The next time was August 1, 2006. He was working selling ice cream in Spiritus. After he gave me some free ice cream, I asked him what he was doing later after his show. 'Well, usually after a tragedy we go home,' he said. To which I replied, 'Well, if it's not too tragic why don't you meet me at the bar at the Vixen. I have a tech rehearsal, but I'll be there by 10 p.m.'

Ben Berry: I was all excited that this was happening. I take my friend Hope with me as a sort of padding, and we end up waiting for Adam for two hours as his tech ran long. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, but Hope wasn't having any of it insisting that I had been stood up.

Adam Berry: Tech did run long and all the time I was panicking 'OMG I've got to get out of here.' I didn't have his cell number as you didn't focus on that back then. So when I showed up with my friend Dakota, my buffer, Ben was pleased to see me, but Hope gave me this frosty stare as if she could kill me. I ordered my favorite bottle of wine, Hartford Court Chardonnay 2005, and within five minutes both of the women had disappeared... I don't even remember them leaving... and that was the beginning of it all.

Why Ptown?

EDGE: How did you come to end up in Provincetown after all this?

Adam Berry: I had been coming here every summer since 2003 so coming back to me was a no-brainer as everywhere else stinks ! Don't get me wrong, I love New York, but in the summer it's horrible. By then we were living together and Ben was still doing Shakespeare and I was doing theater around town, so we decided to stay longer and start living here all year around.

So when Shakespeare in The Cape closed in 2009, Ben and I, along with our friends Tessa and Jake, wanted to create something new that gave back to the community but also gave us a real reason for being here and that's how Peregrine Theater came to be.

EDGE: And at that point in your relationship, you weren't worried about both working and living together?

Ben Berry: I think that as a couple we can contribute to Peregrine in our own ways and bounce our ideas off each other, and if sometimes that will mean late night arguments, then so be it. Our company is sort of like our child at this point and we are invested in it far more ways than just financially.

The first time we worked together was when we did 'Rent,' a show that we both were both so obsessed about, which made it real every night. So I guess in that sort of minute way, it totally influenced our relationship.

Adam Berry: I guess the one thing I love about being married to an actor is that I enjoy doing roles opposite him because I think it actually does shed light onto different aspects of our relationship that we would never think about. We did Caryl Churchill's 'Cloud 9' together once where we played opposite each other. Audience members didn't know we were a couple but would be blown away because our chemistry on stage was so intense. It affected our relationship however, because the material was deep and dark and so we had to kind of find a way to turn it off when we left the theater.

We did 'Thrill Me,' the Leopold & Loeb story and it was really fun playing these crazy young killers and one of us was using sex to get what he wanted from the other... I mean hello! It was exciting and something we would probably never do in real life.

An ambitious musical

EDGE: Oh really? (laughing) You also work away from each other too. For instance, Adam you have the gig at 'Kindred Spirits' because you are quite the expert on the paranormal...

Ben Berry: I'm very much involved even though Adam goes off on his own as it seems doing the 'ghost stuff,' but when he's not filming he's still doing events and things which I go with him too. So I'm still looking for my channel out, however I am perfectly content right now the way the way things are. I've always believed that my life would be in the theater and I'm happy to be devoting all of my energy to our company.

Adam Berry: I would say the paranormal arm of myself is a strange one to say the least. It was a hobby that I was passionate about that somehow became a career. I love the theater, and I'm very fortunate that I can do all of it because we film 'Kindred Spirits' six months of the year during the winter usually, and then in the summer all my focus and energy can go into what I've been doing since I was six years old, which is theater.

EDGE: 'Chicago' is big cast ambitious musical. What made you take on such a major project?

Adam Berry: Well first and foremost we wanted to work with Kyle Pleasant, who is the director/choreographer. I went to school with him, he was the best man at our wedding and we are good friends from way back. In my opinion he is a genius, and for as long as we have had this company we have both been looking as to how we can work with him.

The show came up and we applied for the rights for the last three years and they have said no to us every single time, but this time they said yes. So I said I guess we are doing 'Chicago.' It was that simple as that.

Ben Berry: There was a sort of serendipitous aspect to it too. We were having dinner with Kyle two years ago in Manhattan having just seen his production of 'Chicago' at the PPAS High School. We'd been there literally ten minutes when Chita Rivera walks in and says hello to us as she is with somebody else that we know. In my mind her presence seemed to be blessing the project as she was a major part of the original show.

Adam Berry: I guess how our season works is once we get the rights to the show we want we move forward. Of course there are other aspects, like where are we going to get these people? How are going to house them? And where are we auditioning them? It's a beast of a thing with a mind of its own.

Biggest hurdle

EDGE: Are your cast all professionals?

Adam Berry: They are all young trained professionals from conservatories and universities. The older people are also fully trained actors that come from theatre background, but are not Equity members per se. In my opinion these kids are just as good as anyone getting their Equity card these days.

We created a program that involved college aged kids who want to come to Ptown to do a fabulous show and continue their education with people from our community who know theater and who may be able to teach them something they are not going to learn in university.

EDGE: What's the biggest hurdle for you then?

Adam Berry: Everything is a big deal, however we cannot see them as challenges but as opportunities. It is literally one day at a time as every day brings its own challenges and headaches, but we do it all because we both believe that Ptown is still a hub of theatrical talent and I don't want that to go away.

We talk about artists and painters here, we talk about fishing, about pilgrims, whales, new restaurants, themed weeks, the LGBTQ + community and that is awesome. Let's not forget that O'Neill, Williams and Susan Glaspell were all here and they created what we consider as American Theater. What better way then to honor that by doing an American musical classic and trying to do it as best as we possibly can so people look at Ptown for theater and not just all the other things it is known for.

Big anniversary

EDGE: What is next for you two?

Ben Berry: At the end of each summer we try and grab a week in the Dune Shacks and wallow in the beauty of their isolation.

Adam Berry: Artistically our goal is to create some all-year-round programming so we have partnered with the U.K.'s National Theater program to show their season, and we are in talks with another venue to see if we can make it happen. That would be be something that is really really cool if we could bring their wonderful work to Ptown in the off season.

Then we are already talking about next summer. Should we do a Sondheim, or something that will specifically appeal to a Ptown audience? It's a never-ending conversation but the most important element at this stage is where we can perform. Once we nailed down a venue then it becomes more clear to us what kind if program... so if you have any suggestions... laugh

EDGE: And next season you'll be celebrating your own 10th Anniversary?

Adam Berry: Actually this year we've been together 10 years and five years married.

About 'Kindred Spirits'

EDGE: Adam, Can we talk a bit about the TLC show you co-host, 'Kindred Spirits?' How did it happen?

Adam Berry: Well, Amy Bruni (my co-host and partner-in-crime) and I had worked together for five years on the SyFy channel's original series 'Ghost Hunters' and we were approached about creating our very own show.

EDGE: What makes it different?

Adam Berry: Instead of just coming into someone's house, finding ghosts for them and leaving, we wanted to discuss why the ghosts were there on a level and in manner that every one could understand, which is great deal more rewarding for everyone. The show has proved enormous popular because of our approach.

EDGE: Are there gay ghosts too?

Adam Berry: Naturally.

"Chicago" runs through September 2 at Fisherman's Hall in Provincetown. For ticket information, or to learn more about the company, visit the company's website.

For more on "Kindred Spirits," visit the show's website.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.