Betsy Reisz and Ron Hanks as Cleopatra and Nikola Tesla. | Photo by Joshua H. Nelson

Most people know the feeling — you meet someone and being with them immediately feels perfect. But the timing is off. Maybe in a couple of years … but what if your time was way off, like by 1,000 years?  

Afterloves,” a two-person original show co-written by Louisville native Betsy Reisz and her writing partner Ron Hanks, is a series of vignettes that pairs famous folks from history to see what their post-life romances might be like. For instance, Ernest Hemingway and Marie Antoinette, or Judy Garland and Abe Lincoln.

Though Los Angeles-based, Reisz is taking “Afterloves” on tour, and she wanted to start in a town that will be, hopefully, pretty open and friendly. Her play begins a four-run stint at The Bard’s Town on Thursday, Feb. 14.

Betsy Reisz | Photo by Troy Blendell

Insider caught up with Reisz about the show’s conception and creation.

While L.A. is usually known for the moving pictures and movie stars, Reisz says there is a lot more going on.

“The theater scene out here is actually fantastic and rich and diverse,” she says. “What I love about L.A., in general, is you can make it anything you want it to be. And that goes for the theater as well. The trouble is that very few people go to see it, or are willing to pay for it.”

So artists make theater to feed their souls and go to work to pay their bills. Kind of like a lot of actors in Louisville. Except, of course, the “day jobs” for L.A. people are frequently other parts of film and TV.

“So, you know, acting in commercials is pretty lucrative and pretty great. But there’s not a lot of acting in the commercials,” says Reisz, revealing a penchant for chiasmus.   

Outside of theater not paying the bills in La La Land, Reisz faces the same problem many women who act face — there aren’t as many quality roles written for her. So she did the same thing a lot of actors do.

“I am absolutely a self-serving writer. I write for me, to provide things I have not gotten elsewhere,” she says.

Reisz started writing “Afterloves” because — like many writers before her — she found a muse.

“There was a boy I was interested in. I was looking at our headshots together. I was like, ‘That would be a really good postcard,’” explains Reisz.

Postcards often are used to promote shows. They can function as flyers and also are sent through the mail. Alas, the postcard of Reisz and the cute boy never came to be.

“I did go out with him eventually, but it didn’t last long and it didn’t end well,” she says.

Reisz as Judy Garland | Photo by Joshua H. Nelson

Instead, Reisz met a different boy and discovered they had a certain chemistry.

“It was an improvised audition, and we just had comedic chemistry, and I had been wanting to start writing the project,” she says. “I found him afterward on Facebook, and I reached out to him and he was totally open and receptive.”

The two created the show over the course of a year, meeting once a week and improvising. They’d videotape the session, toss the dross and hold onto the gold, which formed the backbone of the script. Those improvisations came from lists of names. 

“He came up with a short list of historical figures he would be interested in. I did the same,” she explains. “And then we came together and started pairing people, figuring out what the tension and the conflict would be, and the point of attraction.”

They put the show together and performed it in L.A. several times. However, when Reisz conceived the show, she didn’t dream of leaving it laying languid in the city of angels — she wanted to take it on the road.

Reisz as the Virgin Mary | Photo by Joshua H. Nelson

She hasn’t realized that dream yet. Instead of starting with a hastily planned 10-city marathon, she’s doing just one.

“So this is the first stop on what I hope will be a longer tour eventually,” she says. “It’s a proof-of-concept, don’t die, go where it’s safe and where you have a community thing.”

Reisz reached out to the people in town she still knew and asked for help.

“It is amazing and heartwarming to me. Like, how much the people I went to (high school) with have been willing to step in and help me,” she says. 

In addition, social media allowed her to start getting the lay of the land and see the what, where and whos of the Louisville scene.

After the play’s four-day run this week, Reisz heads back to Hollywood to plot her next expedition.

“I have my eye on Minneapolis next,” she adds.

“Afterloves” runs Feb. 14-17 at The Bard’s Town, 1801 Bardstown Road. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at the door or online. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.