Romance of the Theater
Brian and Nikki Weaver

The Playhouse

The temperature rose at Portland Playhouse last March as actress Nikki Weaver, playing a social-climbing Hollywood party girl, bra straps off-shoulder, pounced on actor Leif Norby in Theresa Rebeck’s play The Scene. Offstage, Nikki’s husband, Brian Weaver, toughed it out from the control room as the stage manager started and stopped the makeout sessions with cue lights. “He was taunting me,” Brian says, “going, ‘Should I stop her now? How about now? Just a little bit longer!’”

The Weavers are no strangers to such trust exercises—or to taking risks. In 2008, they relocated from Boston with Brian’s brother Michael and started a playhouse in an old Northeast Portland church still fitted with old pews and a large stained-glass window. “The first play we did, one person showed up,” Nikki recalls.

Undaunted, Nikki began acting with other companies and teaching yoga classes, forging invaluable contacts in the theater community, while Brian put in 60-hour workweeks as creative director, poring over scripts, applying for grants, and helping manage the house day to day. Their efforts paid off, and Portland Playhouse’s audience gradually grew to almost 100 each night—but their fourth season brings new challenges.

In July, the Playhouse was suddenly (and they hope temporarily) forced to move from its sanctuary due to zoning concerns. Still, the Weavers are confident that their plan to produce six plays, mentor nine acting apprentices, and guide eight high schools through performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet will go forward without a hitch. September’s offering, Gem of the Ocean, August Wilson’s redemptive drama about a former slave, will be performed at the World Trade Center, as will December’s Angels in America. Brian excitedly hints that audience participation might play a big role in the future.

Meanwhile, the pair maintains a united front even as their individual roles (like Nikki’s onstage necking) require them to divide and conquer. “I think in a relationship you’re supposed to think of lots of ways to keep the romance fresh,” Brian says, “so we try to use our work as artists to do that.”—AA