At the wedding of Kathy Clark and Bradley Rosenberg yesterday afternoon, guests roundly agreed that the bride looked like a hooker. It's the kind of juicy gossip folks usually save to dish later, but then brides don't usually run around in miniskirts and gray-glitter platforms.
Most weddings feature their own behind-the-scenes drama. Dueling in-laws, smoldering passions, allergic reactions to liver pate. The most solemn occasions of our lives can make for the best theater.
But this was "Shear Madness."
At the Kennedy Center's Theater Lab, nearly 400 close friends and family members watched Clark and Rosenberg first appear in cameo roles during the matinee performance of "Shear Madness" before tying the knot in a ceremony that featured aspects of traditional Judaism. Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer officiated.
They wanted a wedding that would be "a lot of fun for everybody, not just fun for us," said Rosenberg, 42. "No disrespect to other people's weddings, but they tend to focus on the bride and groom. . . . We were trying to figure how could we make this work, then we just stumbled on this idea of sheer madness. That's what a marriage is anyway."
The popular stage play, a comedy whodunit set in a Georgetown hair salon in which the audience acts as investigators, has had a 12-year Kennedy Center run. "We're not sacrificing any of the plot by saying a murder is committed, a murder is investigated, a murder is solved," artistic director Bob Lohrmann said before the play. "Neither of the intended are suspects."
Friends and family say the couple are atypical and they expect drama. Rosenberg and Clark, who live in Oakton, both work in Northern Virginia's high-tech industry. Clark, 42, who has been married before, is founder and CEO of Landmark Systems Corp., and Rosenberg is founder and president of the Strategic Advantage consulting company. "We lead a pretty busy life and tend to have fun at it," Rosenberg said.
He calls himself a turnaround artist for high-tech companies and said he and his wife plan to retire in three years and sail around the world. Meanwhile, the honeymoon is a leisurely three-week sail from Tahiti to Fiji in a boat named for the play. They are "e-registered" at an online sailing supply store.
Wedding guests Marc and Denise Rogers also work in the high-tech industry. They say that field accounts for a lot of the ceremony's offbeat nature. "It's a little different. Very creative and off the cuff," said Marc Rogers, who pointed out that the invitation called for an afternoon of "murder and marriage," and the dress code said no flip-flops or ties. It's definitely "not as starchy as a regular wedding would be. Tech people are very laid-back and casual," Rogers said. "They get away with wearing jeans and shorts to work."
Backstage, before the curtain went up, the bride was scrambling to find her accessories. "I've misplaced one of my earrings," Clark said frantically. "At least I've got my nose ring. It matches my dress. I am seriously thinking about wearing it."
Onstage, Clark, who played a trollop, was pursued by Rosenberg, some sort of vice cop, and the two chased each other and kissed memorably to the cheers and hoots of the crowd.
During intermission, friends and family gathered on the terrace to question actor Patrick Noonan, who plays a police lieutenant. They were looking for clues. And they were suspicious of the streetwalker bride. "What about that trashy woman with the ring in her nose?" someone yelled from the crowd of about three dozen. "That's the bride."
Margaret Tercero, a longtime friend of Clark, was all worked up about a bloody glove. "I keep trying to yell and give clues but they're not seeing me," Tercero said. She had never been to a "Shear Madness" performance and was caught up in the mystery.
Spying Clark peeping through a curtain as intermission was ending, she ran up to the bride and kissed her. "I hope you don't mind I called you a hooker," Tercero said.
Clark came up with the idea of having her wedding include the performance after the couple's plans for white-water rafting in Denver and renting out Baltimore's ESPN Zone fell through. They had been to only one "Shear Madness" performance before deciding to see if they could rent the space--or in this case, buy the seats, all 399.
People have proposed during the play before, Lohrmann said, but the wedding is a first. He thinks it might catch on, which is not a problem. "We're receptive to anybody who wants to buy the whole house. Just as long as nobody asks to have a funeral." Just in case you're wondering, seats went for 20 bucks apiece--the special wedding discount rate. And that doesn't include the reception at the Roof Terrace Restaurant.
After the audience voted on the likely murderer, the play ended and the ceremony began. Beyer led a procession of family and friends through the theater. The bride, now draped in a floor-length white sheath embroidered with silver, and the groom, in a double-breasted blue suit, took their places under the chupah, a Jewish wedding canopy.
A Yiddish toast was made, a unity candle was lit. The prayer of Black Elk, a Sioux holy man, was invoked. As the couple exchanged vows, there was laughter and theatrical pauses and the house lights shone off the ketubah wedding certificate and the yellow day-glo wallpaper on the "Shear Madness" stage.
It all made for really good theater.