TAM’s 46th Season presents Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a story full of jealousy, forgiveness, and miracles. Onstage, you will find Nisi Sturgis and Jordan Coughtry as the graceful and strong Hermione and the jealousy-ridden Leontes. This talented pair will portray a couple involved in a big misunderstanding, that (spoiler alert) chooses love in the end. Interestingly enough, they share a real life romance as well. Married in 2013, this talented twosome is thrilled to be joining TAM this summer for the Shakespeare classic.

How did you meet?


Nisi, Jordan, and their son Owen
Photo by Christina Hallowell

Jordan: We met years ago at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. I was rehearsing for a play while Nisi was performing. We met for about five minutes on the porch of equity housing and then we didn’t see each other for another two years or so. So, two years later we were back at the same theater…

Nisi: Although you kept tabs on me…

Jordan: I kept tabs for sure. I had to check her out on MySpace every now and then. We were back at the same theater and Nisi was playing Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, and I was coming in to rehearse for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. I got to housing, and it turned out our rooms were catty-corner. So I dropped my stuff off in my room and headed over to the theater for the show. It was, she was, unbelievable. She was incredible. We came back and there was a stairway. She was on the phone coming down the stairs and I was coming up the stairs and I saw her. I kind of mouthed to her, “You were wonderful; you were perfect!” She said to whoever was on the phone, “hang on, hang on.”

Nisi: And I ran down the stairs!

Jordan: And she ran down the stairs and gave me a big hug.

Nisi: and I said, “Welcome home.”

Jordan: And we’ve been together pretty much since then.

 Do you usually work together, or would you say this is unusual for you?

Nisi: We’ve been incredibly fortunate. This is our 10th time working together?

Jordan: Oh, more than that!

Nisi: More than that. It’s been absolutely amazing and such a blessing.

Jordan: Our first show together was actually with Matthew Arbour, who is directing The Real Inspector Hound here this summer.

Nisi: Yeah I feel like once people know you’re not too much trouble and you both are, you know, a talented couple they’re like “Okay, it’s good. Let’s bring them both!” It helps with housing and it’s just nice to have that kind of unity in a company, too, I think.

It’s your first summer here at TAM, how do you feel about it so far?

Jordan: We love it here at Monmouth!

Nisi: Jordan’s mom was actually born in Maine.

Jordan: And her side of the family still lives right here in Monmouth.

Nisi: So it’s been a dream to get to work here since we first met. They’re always like, “You’re both actors; there’s a theater; you should be here!” And the stars finally aligned this summer for it to work out. It feels like wherever we are feels like the favorite because we’re just, you know, any artist feels so lucky to be working. Especially being together with Owen, our 11-month-old son. It’s his first summer on the planet, and we’re all together, and it’s just magical.

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Photo by Christina Hallowell

Nisi: The thing that I love about Hermione is that she’s a wife that’s trying to keep balance and encourage harmony in this world. Her husband has had his best friend visiting for nine months. Her entire pregnancy. And that is amazing, if you think about being a woman in the world. If you think about your husband’s best friend being there your entire pregnancy, just like, “Okay, I’ll sit back and wait a little while!” She’s a really peaceful person. She loves to see the people she loves happy. In that, we are alike. Something that’s said about her repeatedly during the play is that she has this grace, and she’s an honorable lady. To tap into that and find the gravity of that within the play, for me, is a great challenge. I would love to be more like her. She’s a great example. I get moved even talking about it. Even through this ordeal that she has to endure, she still chooses love. I think that’s incredibly brave and the hardest thing to do.

Jordan: I don’t think I’d say that Leontes is like me. I think we’re quite different people. With any character you try and find similarities. You try and bring yourself to the character as much as you bring the character to you. It’s really challenging. With a lot of Shakespeare, you find often the play starts with these characters being different than they usually are. Like Hamlet starts off and everybody’s like, “Oh, he’s not like himself!” Or like Olivia in The Twelfth Night. She’s locked herself away and she’s grieving and that’s not like her. There’s kind of this out of balance at the start and throughout the play you try to restore that balance. But with Leontes, it’s a little murkier, I think. There are a couple things, though. Camillo at one point says, “You never spoke what did become you less Than this,” which is kind of like, “You’re not like yourself,” but not quite.

Nisi: The history isn’t as…

Jordan: The history isn’t as specific or intact.

Nisi: It’s more about the relationships.

Jordan: You don’t get a lot of clues as to what he was like before. And also, you don’t get a lot of time seeing him the way he was before. This intense jealousy just floods him right off the bat. I think it’s easy to sort of label Leontes as the bad guy in some ways, because he does some really terrible things and does some horrible things.

Nisi: I mean, not even just kind of.


Photo by Christina Hallowell

Jordan: He does do terrible things. I think he’s filled with a kind of temporary insanity. There are moments in Shakespeare where you hear people say, “Well that’s just Shakespeare being Shakespeare. It’s kind of unbelievable. But it’s Shakespeare, so we forgive it.” But one of the things that Nisi said when we first met that always stuck with me is, “If Shakespeare wrote it, it happens all the time.” Because he writes about humanity. He writes about human beings and human behavior. He writes about it clearly and honestly and openly. Boldly. Sometimes it’s so bold and in such stark relief that you’re like, “Oh, that couldn’t be.” When in fact, it happens all the time.

Nisi: That wedding your brother just went to, where that guy went crazy and got crazy jealous…

Jordan: Right. This guy got crazy jealous. One of the groomsmen at this wedding got jealous and like, punched the bartender.

Nisi: Morbid jealousy exists.

Jordan: Yeah, it happens. And it happens in relationships and it happens in other aspects of life. When you’re insecure about something, a lot of insecurity is irrational. By its very nature, I think. And I think when you’re feeling insecure you start looking for proof. You’re looking for evidence. Then, you come across this moment where all these pieces kind of click together, like for Leontes. His friend has been here for nine months. His friend arrives, and boom! She became pregnant. What does that mean? And when they’re together, she seems more fun. Polixenes is from Bohemia. It’s this laid back and chill culture.

Nisi: And the first thing I say to you is, “you charge him too coldly.” I have a comment on your personality at the very beginning of the play.

Jordan: Right, so it’s sort of like maybe she feels more comfortable with [Polixenes] or something. More free with him. And they’re hanging out and then you wait nine months and Bam! All these pieces fit together. Whether it’s rational or not, it makes some kind of sense and that’s enough to send him off the deep end. Then, if you get to that point, next you’ll be in the position where you’ll start doing things about it. Leontes is a king! So he starts doing something about it. He kind of gets himself steeped in so far that it becomes about honor and it becomes about pride. If you do something and people call it crazy, then you get more frustrated like, “No, I’m not crazy…”

Nisi: It all makes sense.

Jordan: Leontes took too many steps, and he starts to take these violent actions. If he goes back on what he says, he’s in deep trouble. Because now it’s not just that he fears it, but he’s acted on it as well.

Nisi: And sometimes in a relationship, you just need the other person to say, “yes,” to what you believe.

Jordan: That’s the thing. I don’t even think he even wants…

Nisi: He doesn’t want to believe he’s right

Jordan: He doesn’t want to believe Hermione’s guilty. He doesn’t want to believe that this horrible thing has happened. I really think that if someone had just said, “Yes it’s happening,” it would have burst that bubble. Like, I have this line, “You will not own it.” I just want you to say it. Just say you did it and I’ll forgive you. He says, “I’ll give no blemish to her honor.” I think he means that. He just needs to be told that he’s not crazy. But no one can do that, because to say that is a lot. It’s this insane situation. It is wild, but it’s not beyond the realm of human experience. So that’s the challenge with this. I’m trying to paint this picture for people in a clear and understandable way. I think I’m trying to make Leontes not an insane or crazy person.

Nisi: Or evil person.

Jordan: Or evil person. But a deeply irrational and hurt person. He is deeply, deeply hurt, and he’s insecure and sensitive. And that’s a deadly common issue, I think.


Photo by Christina Hallowell

Jordan: There are a lot of moments in this play that I like. I am enjoying this really cool scene with Camillo, with Mark Cartier. It’s really early on when the bug is kind of eating away at Leontes. And I’m enjoying sinking my teeth into that role and that relationship. There’s this really remarkable kind of courtroom scene that’s kind of a strange nightmare. Then the ending is really spectacular. It’s funny. During rehearsal, there were a lot of elements that we were trying to figure out. But, no matter what, even when we’re kind of halting and stopping and calling for lines, there’s still magic. It’s just magic. Even in the most complicated or difficult rehearsal times, it just takes your breath away. It’s really spectacular. Totally simple and human. You don’t see it coming and it just hits you.

Nisi: I love Mikey, who plays Mamillius. I think a big part of Hermione is being a mom and so any moment that I have with Mikey onstage is just delightful. There’s innocence when you’re onstage with someone who’s not a professional actor, but just a person. To be onstage with him, there’s a purity that I love. All my moments with him are my favorite. I think this is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and my others end the same way, with a moment of forgiveness. I think that’s our super power as human beings. They call them the problem plays, because people are like, “How can we believe that this would be accepted?” But it’s the only way we’re going to survive. That’s the only way we’ll make progress in the world. We’re going to hurt each other, that’s a done deal. How we care for one another and forgive one another and give each other the space to heal is incredibly beautiful.  The fact that Paulina has so many beautiful lines in the last scene about faith and an awakening, for that to be required is something that I find fascinating about theatre. You know, we sit in the dark with people who have different life experiences and then by the end of it, we are connected. It requires you to give up yourself a little bit and I think that’s good in this world.  To put yourself aside and go into somebody else’s experience. It’s humbling and creates an empathy that we should all strive for.