Theatre Interview: Sharon Spiegel-Wagner – Tinder For A Flame, Or Igniting A Light In The Dark

July 23, 2019



Sharon Spiegel-Wagner plays ‘Jody’ in dating comedy The Dead Tinder Society (Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, 25 July to 25 August).


What are your personal feelings about Tinder?

I never really knew about Tinder before I went to audition. I knew there was a world of online dating and finding a match on the internet but I learned that Tinder has a very specific identity and reputation. I must admit I’m indifferent to it. It’s something that, in my personal capacity, I don’t give much thought to. Not for it, not against it really.


How different do you think those feelings would be if you found yourself in Jody’s position? Would you make similar choices, do you think? Take similar risks?

This is one of those projects where the character’s feelings and thoughts are not far from my own. She’s in a different space to me. It’s a vulnerable place-newly divorced finding a new identity moving from the being married “club” to the being divorced “club”. I imagine how scary that space can be. It’s utterly terrifying. My parents are divorced, as is my sister, and I recall both my mom and my sister dabbling in the online dating space because the dating game has changed so much. I judged it before, but learning more about divorce and dating today and seeing the events that happen to Jody, I often think I may have taken similar risks if I was in her shoes. But again, I feel like Jody finds herself in a “choose your own adventure” narrative. She’s lost a sense of stability so she’s experimenting, searching, exploring and discovering. The vehicle she has selected for this part of her journey is Tinder. I would probably be open to it as well if I was in a similar space. Who knows?


Like Jody, you have two kids. Motherhood and romance: can they co-exist?

Yes and no. Romance is redefined after children. It’s not the romance of courting and the initial exciting preoccupation with one another. Romance before kids is spontaneous, wild and at times irrational. Romance after kids is more grounded. You can’t just get up on the spur of the moment and go away on a lovers’ retreat. You have to plan it so the kids are safe and looked after. And even then, if a child gets sick, plans can change. Romance after kids becomes about the small things and not the grand gestures. My husband and I keep the romance alive by me cooking his favorite dinner, or me rubbing his back after a hard day. He spoils me with gifts and impromptu flowers here and there. Ironically, the most romantic thing he does now that we have kids, is to take them out so I can be alone and read a book!


How does these and other experiences you share with Jody make connecting with the character?

When times are tough, it takes both husband and wife to keep a marriage together. This was not so with Jody. Her husband cheated on her and abandoned the marriage. Ironically, this was also my mother’s journey, so connecting with Jody rekindled my connection with my mother and her experiences. My mother and Jody are worlds apart, but they share this in common. I revisited my mom’s perspective and questioned her choices. Jody and I are similar in many ways. She’s a mother who takes motherhood very seriously. She’s confident. She’s brave. I connect with Jody’s honesty. I would like to imagine that I would speak my truth as she does to the audience. It’s liberating and I have joy in telling her truth.


Conversely, how interesting or challenging is exploring what is different about Jody?

I can relate to her innocence and naive notions about men and dating. However, these things were all very new to her once she got divorced. I was lucky to have had relationships before I met my husband so my time of exploration happened before marriage. Jody was a good girl. She didn’t have many boyfriends before she met Gary and then she got married. So I try relate my experimental phase with boys, the anxieties, the excitement and the naughty fun things I went through in my twenties, and inject some of that spice into Jody’s love life after divorce. Jody has a career in marketing and is a project manager so I try imagine her as neater and more organised than I am!


Originating a character is a wonderful opportunity. How have you, director Lesedi Job and scriptwriter Ashleigh Harvey, via the script, focused on the specifics of depicting Jody and Ray [co-star Mpho Osei Tutu] in that regard?

With new work, especially contemporary work like this, a lot of originality and creativity is allowed and Lesedi has created such an embracing and open space for us actors to play in. She encourages us to explore and most importantly to draw from ourselves and our personal resources. There are clues in the writing that help us define Ray and Jody’s relationship. So we built their story on the map created by the writing and our own experiences. Once we defined this piece as a comedy, and not a piece that focuses on the dark sides of divorce, we didn’t have to take our characters or their situation too seriously. It’s our shared humanity being able to laugh at ourselves. We trust the words. We defend the writing and we play the truth. It’s actually very simple. Real people in a very real and highly charged time in their lives.


You, Ashleigh, Mpho and Lesedi all studied at Wits Drama school. How is that affecting the dynamic as you work together?

There’s a history. We were at school together. It’s a lovely full circle. And what’s great is we are all interested in creating theatre. I’m very proud of all of us and where  we came from.


Superficiality, lust, loneliness – these are some heavy, harsh themes to explore in a comedy and a complex mix to immerse yourself in as an actress. What are some of the hardest-hitting insights you’ve gained?

For me, it’s only human to confront these things with a sense of humour. I won’t lie, we were all having a good laugh one day and suddenly the pain in the comedy hit me. Hard. I don’t think this piece is about revealing the pain in the conventional sense. It’s done through laughter and the awkwardness of life and dating and divorce. This stuff is hard and sore. Those who relate to it will feel the pain and laugh at it with us. We laugh so we can cope. This piece and Jody give us permission to do so. She’s a light in the dark.


What has made you laugh the most?

Mpho’s characters are hilarious. And hearing Lesedi’s belly laugh got me going!


What has been most difficult to confront?

Just my own insecurities. Will I do a good enough job? Will I do the piece justice and not let people down? A cliche, but true.