By Cece Scott www.cecescott.com
Bone china is the anniversary symbol for a couple who have been married for 36 years. It might be something that George and Martha would hurl at each other, along with spirited words, from the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but for Janet-Laine Green and Booth Savage, their banter is infused with laughter and affection.
“In all the years we’ve been together, I think I have only heard Janet-Laine say an unkind word about two people – and one of them was me,” says Savage, as Green breaks out in hearty laughter.
Booth Savage, well known for his role as Team Canada’s Head Coach, Harry Sinden, in the CBC mini-series, Canada Russia ’72, is a Gemini award-winning actor (The Last Season), and has appeared in more than 100 plays across Canada. As a playwright, he has penned several pieces, including Savage Heat, Pajama Games, and Pillow Talk.
Janet-Laine Green is the recipient of a People’s Choice award, and is a three-time Gemini and two-time Genie awards nominee. As well as appearing in numerous television series, including This Life, She’s The Mayor and Seeing Things, Green is also a voice artist in animated series such as Jacob Two-Two and The Care Bears.
A prolific stage actor, Green met Savage in this arena while rehearsing for a play called The Olympic Show at Theatre Passe Muraille in 1976. “Janet-Laine would come in from the country with her cool hats on,” says Savage. “And I taught her how to be hip, and with-it.”
Green’s roles run the gamut. She says that, for her, acting is something that she just has to do. “There is no particular role that best reflects me. I think you have to find parts of yourself that may be hidden, but are still truthful. Every part I take on, I feel like, yes, I can do this.”
Savage believes that as an actor he is constantly reinventing himself, and he’s partial to weird roles – the weirder the better. “I like dangerous roles, doing undiscovered stuff – experimental stuff – and working with innovative people.”
Both Green and Savage are invested in helping young performers on their personal acting journeys. Green is on the faculty of Humber College, and previously mentored for Banff’s Women in the Directing Chair. “I see this playfulness in young people. They are so full of imagination with the freedom to explore – any role or character is possible,” says Green. “There is such a joy in delving into it all – such a questing. I was like that. I would jump in with all fours.”
Savage admits that it’s often his anger that fuels his art, and he identifies with students who, because their artistic side has not been encouraged, act out with anger and aggression. “I picture myself, and I reach out to that person,” says Savage. “You see the gleam in the kid’s eye when they realize that they can do this – when they get to the moment that the light goes on. What’s better than that?”
The couple co-own Briefcase Productions, and over the years have worked together, both on-stage and at home. This past September, Green and Savage collaborated on a project at Humber College. Savage wrote a film script that Green used for performance purposes with her third-year film students.
Two years ago the couple realized a dream by costarring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Their son, Tyrone, directed the play. “The play is so dark and the couple fight non-stop. We rarely fight, so I was concerned about our son directing it, and how he was going to react,” says Green. “But, Tyrone wanted more yelling and screaming. We laughed a lot. I got to be outrageous in a way I don’t normally do.”
“The biggest challenge was the memory work,” says Savage.
Green adds, “Ah, yes, the memory work.”
Green and Savage both agree that acting roles and film opportunities have dramatically changed since they were in their 30s and 40s. “Big time,” says Green.
“There aren’t the breadth of roles out there for my age group.” “There is usually only one old guy in each movie,” says Savage. “And it’s the same 15 guys auditioning for the role – definitely diminishing opportunities in terms of that.”
Savage says, that with age, he is a less-ambitious actor. “The fire in my belly to be an actor doesn’t burn as strong as it [still] does for Janet. I think that is a part of being older – there is a transition – a passage. In my 30s I had all the time in the world, but now it takes me two years to write a play.”
Green is still busy with her acting career. Most recently she played the role of a grandmother who gets recharged by UFO’s. She’s also directing with their son in Soulpepper Theatre’s November production of The Chasse-Galerie, and is rehearsing for Tarragon Theatre’s production of Peace River Country (February 2017).
When reflecting on her youth, Green says, “I really miss being flexible, in so many ways.” Both she and Savage roar with laughter at the veiled innuendo.
“I’ve been a dancer and physically active all my life. And now – the aches and – the bones. I don’t want to give in to feeling like my body can’t do things, but it’s a reality. I’ve transitioned from CrossFit to yoga, to Pilates, to walking. I’m being kinder and more reasonable to my body. As I get older, I find I am also more and more reserved. I miss being joyful – the silly part of me has been put on a shelf somewhere, and when I am with young people, I think, I want that again.”
“It’s the mental flexibility. I’m preparing for the worst in that respect,” says Savage. “This is a new thing for me, looking back. I’m trying not to regret the mistakes I’ve made, of which there are plenty. I’m sorry for the people I’ve hurt along the way; I’m trying to make today right. I am trying to let go of the past and invent the present.”
Green and Savage work at maintaining a healthy lifestyle by tending a large vegetable garden, bike riding, travelling and holding creative salons at their sprawling, rural home. Over the past 25 years, this home has helped to shape their lives and that of their children. The property is now listed for sale. “I’m parsimonious,” says Savage.
“As a senior your income diminishes and you have to learn to live with less. Janet-Laine loves to travel and wants to do more of it. So, the question is – do we want our resources tied up in a large piece of real estate?”
Green and Savage have two children, Booth Tyrone Jack and daughter, Akela Kit. “Your children become great friends; you can share so much more with them than when they were younger. In their 30s they become actual human beings. It’s such a pleasant experience,” says Savage.
“I’m enjoying our long marriage, our kids, our home,” says Green. “Over the past few years, I have a better understanding of what love is. I love and respect my husband more. He is phenomenal.”
“She lets me have a girlfriend on the side,” Savage interjects wryly. “But seriously, Janet-Laine is incredibly smart and intuitive – her instincts are spot-on.”
The couple share common philosophical goals. Green adds, “It’s our responsibility to create those plays, paint those pictures, sing those songs. There is no finish line. It is in the job that you have to find the joy.”