It's a director's job to ensure whatever happens onstage goes off without a hitch, but in some cases their decisions can orchestrate an actor's off-stage life, as well. Director Francesca Zambello served as a kind of unofficial matchmaker when she casted Kara Lindsay opposite her future husband Kevin Massey in the Guthrie premiere of Little House on the Prairie The Musical. As Almanzo Wilder and Laura Ingalls fell in love onstage every night, Massey captured Lindsay's real-life affections behind-the-scenes. Like Almanzo and Laura the two were married and are now tackling a long-distance relationship while Lindsay finishes up her run as Glinda in the Broadway production of Wicked, and Massey is literally killing it as Monty Navarro in the first national tour of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. They let us in on the details of the final callback that brought them together, their tricks for staying close during the GGLAM tour and how Massey topped his onstage proposals with a real one.
How did you two meet originally?
Kara Lindsay: We met doing Little House on the Prairie the Musical.
Kevin Massey: Kara and I were in the final call back; there were three Lauras and three Almanzos. Luckily we got paired up, so the first time I saw her I sang a love song to her — in front of people!
KL: Right! I had done the previous workshop, so I knew the director Francesca Zambello. When I found out that I got the part I asked who Almanzo was going to be and [Francesca] said, "The one you had the most chemistry with. Duh." Obviously there were sparks between Kevin and I in that room that they recognized, so they were actually our matchmakers! We ended up doing [the musical's] run at the Guthrie in Minneapolis, and then we went on tour together. We were just friends at the Guthrie, although he was clearly courting me. He pretended to be an anonymous fan, and he would send me all this fan mail. I was new to the business, so I was so shocked by this. I was like, "I don't believe I'm getting fan mail!" He made me this binder for my script that said "Half Pint" because I was playing Laura, so I was thinking I was hot stuff and that I had this awesome fan. Eventually I found out from Jenn Gambatese and Sara Ford that it was Kevin, and I was like, "What! Seriously? I don't have a fan?" Then for opening night I gave him a gift from an anonymous fan to get him back, but he clearly knew. It was my way of telling him that I knew what he was up to. There were lots of fun things like that. He also wrote me a great song, which is based on the song "No Air" by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown, at the end of the Guthrie run. He [changed] the lyrics and called it "No Kara" because we were going to have a huge break and probably not see each other as much. We'd become really good friends, and clearly there was more than friendship going on.
That is so cute! Were you guys officially more than friends after that song?
KL: We solidified that we liked each other, but we were pretty hush-hush about how we felt about each other until we got back to New York City. Then, while we were dating, we went on tour [with Little House on the Prairie] for a year with almost the same cast that was at the Guthrie. When we went back to rehearsals for the tour, everyone was like, "Oh, so you're dating now?" As Almanzo he proposed to me at the end of the show every single night, for a year, and then he did it in real life.
Kevin, how did you actually propose, having already proposed to Kara so many times as Almanzo?
KM: People thought I was going to do it on the last show of tour, but that's not my M.O. I didn't want it to be a big thing like that, so I took Kara camping [after the tour ended]. She'd never been camping before we started dating. I took her to a place [in the Catskills] that we'd been to before. I'd also invited my brother and his girlfriend.
KL: That's why I didn't think it was happening, because we had people with us.
KM: I wanted to throw her off and I wanted pictures of it. [I decided to do it at a place called] Artist Rock and I was so nervous. We sat down, and I was getting ready, when all of the sudden about 15 old ladies sat all around us and started painting and butting into our conversation. I thought, "Oh, well this is not going to happen." At the next place I gave a nod to my brother and I said, "We're going to go look at the leaves over here." I'd written this poem, because I'd written her a lot of poems when we were dating and then I [asked her to] stand up and give me a hug. My heart was pounding out of my chest.
KL: This is when I knew something was weird… I felt his heart like punching me. I was like, "Are you okay?" At that point I knew he was going to propose, and he got down on one knee.
KM: Then we popped some champagne I had brought. We didn't call anybody, because we didn't have cell phone reception. It was really nice.
Kevin has been on tour with Gentleman's Guide for about three months now. How is the long-distance thing going?
KL: We've been able to see each other about every four weeks. [This past fall] we [also] bought our first apartment ever and when we moved out he was actually in Schenectady [New York] so he came back for one day to help me pack for 12 hours. Then I moved everything, with movers, when he was away in Chicago. Right after I moved in I went to Chicago to see Kevin's opening, which was a couple of days later. Then he had a week off for Thanksgiving and he actually got to see the apartment, which was weird for him because all of our furniture was in a whole different place. I also went to see him in San Francisco, and I got back Christmas morning. His sister and brother-in-law live out there and his parents came out, too, so we were all together for a few days, which was really nice.
You came back Christmas morning?
KL: Yeah we had a performance at Wicked on Christmas Day. It's pretty cool to get to do Broadway at Christmas. Then Kevin's coming back for my last show in Wicked, on January 31st.
Kara, I know you also did the Wicked tour a few years ago. How do you stay close while one of you is away?
KL: We learned a lot when I went on the Wicked tour. It was nine months long and for six of those I was in Canada. International long distance is rough, but he was able to come out to almost to every stop because Wicked touches down for a longer time in each city. We were in all these awesome places in Canada and in the U.S., and now we have great memories of these vacations that we wouldn't have normally gone on, but we would also go eight or nine weeks without seeing each other, which was hard because you're missing your other half. Now we won't go longer than four weeks without seeing each other.
KM: You also have to get used to doing your own thing after three or four weeks, so when you finally do see each other it's almost as if the other person is invading your space in a way. If you don't see each other, you start forming your own habits, and it just throws everything off.
KL: We're constantly learning. It's not like a normal relationship where people get to be in the same place. This business takes us to lots of places and we love traveling, but it keeps us apart sometimes too.
KM: Skyping and calling is great, but that gets a little old, so sometimes if it's late and we have to save our voices after work we do the old-school Gchat where you're writing back and forth. You communicate in a different way on there — the jokes you do, the cadence of your speech — which is really fun. Different things come out that way.
Do you get a separate place to stay when you visit each other on tour or how does that work?
KL: With Equity contracts you get to have your own room unless you choose to room with someone. I actually use Airbnb a lot on tour, because it's more homey. Kevin would just come and stay at that house or apartment that I was renting, so we did get our own private space which was nice.
KM: One time we also stayed with [Laurel Harris who was playing] Elphaba and her fiancé because [she and Kara] became very good friends.
KL: [Laurel's] awesome and we're still very good friends. When the four of us were living together we were watching them plan their wedding, which we had just done the year before, so it was kind of fun to be like, "Wow, we were that stressed a year ago. But not anymore! We just get to watch."
Kara, have you had any standout experiences visiting Kevin on tour?
KL: His opening in Chicago was really special. I know that he's worked really hard and hearing the crowd go crazy when he took his bow was really special for me because I feel like I'm a part of it in a way. He's my husband, and I feel what he feels, and I know he's really grateful and really excited to be out there, so I was just feeling all the feels that he was feeling. They got rave reviews and going to the opening night party with him and standing by his side was really awesome. We've been through a lot together. We've seen each other go through hard times in the business and also go through really wonderful times. Getting to celebrate those really wonderful high times just brings tears to your eyes.