Sebastian Arcelus and Stephanie J. Block’s love for theatre is rather literal. Not only are they two renowned actors, but they have become a powerful team as husband and wife, both offstage and onstage in Into the Woods at the Ahmanson Theatre this month.
“We are living the word ‘marriage’ in the truest sense,” Stephanie said.
Stephanie and Sebastian met during the first national tour of Wicked, where they played Elphaba and Fiyero, respectively. Stephanie was fresh out of a 10-and-a-half-year relationship, but Sebastian called his mom just a few days into their relationship to say that he had found the one. After the tour, Stephanie realized what an “extraordinary human” Sebastian was, and that was that. A lot of life has happened between then and now—they are celebrating their 16th year of marriage and have an 8-year-old daughter together, who has joined them on this tour.
Stephanie said that touring as a family is “not for the faint of heart.” Between the logistics of packing, traveling, and homeschooling their daughter before shows, their days often start early and end late. But the source material makes it worth all the while.
Into the Woods is the acclaimed musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, which has previously graced the stage at Center Theatre Group in 1989, 2002, and 2017. Sebastian plays The Baker, while Stephanie plays The Baker’s Wife. The two venture into the woods to break the curse upon their family so that they can have a child.
Stephanie said that these two roles, “resonate with us in such a deep and meaningful way—these two characters, working hard to have a child—that was our story.”
Sebastian said that Stephanie describes The Baker as “a mirror and a window” into himself and his anxieties and hopes. Stephanie feels The Baker’s Wife is a beautifully flawed warrior who is tempted but ultimately sacrifices for her family.
The lines between life offstage sometimes blur with the character’s life onstage. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The two already know what has happened during their day before the show. The work and “sweet agony” of living feeds into the work onstage.
“He covers me. He protects me. He pours love, lifts me up, and makes it work,” Stephanie said of Sebastian.
This is often done without words—a worried glance when a cart hits her leg, or a squeeze of the hand to signal that they want to cut a note off early together.
The chemistry between them is palpable. Even when glimpsing at them through a shared Zoom call window, the two look at each other with an incredibly clear sense of care. Stephanie said the audience often comments on their chemistry in the show.
Of course, it is woven into the fabric of who we are as people,” she said. “It is literally decades in the making and 10 minutes fresh before we step on stage—so they’re getting our whole story in the language of Lapine and Sondheim.”
At times, they’ve been encouraged to tone down their affections onstage, to better reflect the couple’s growth and connection over the story.
“Act One of Into the Woods is individual journeys—we’re all going for our specific thing, goal, wish,”
Sebastian said. “Act Two, this group is now working as a team, a collaboration, a unit. Making art again...it is about work[ing] together to make something happen.”
This production’s timing was serendipitous for their family, after the isolation and challenge during the pandemic on theatre and education and the ideal time in their daughter’s life. The tour has allowed their daughter to experience the culture and history across the United States and find a new sense of community in the company.
The company has embraced our child and touched me as a mother in ways I can’t explain,” Stephanie said. “She has been welcomed in so many beautiful ways and the way she recognizes how she belongs is such a beautiful thing for an eight-year-old.” Their daughter has her own dressing room, costume, and makeup, and company members have even joined her in her interests—like a Pokémon trading card party.
Los Angeles is the last stop of the engagement, which makes the performance for both Stephanie and Sebastian even sweeter. “[We’re] savoring this extraordinary experience in an extraordinary place,” Stephanie said. “It’s all baked in there.”
For Stephanie, who grew up in Southern California, returning to the Ahmanson Theatre is like returning home. She grew up attending shows at Center Theatre Group and has performed there previously in productions like 9 to 5 before its Broadway run. “Talk about hallowed ground, [Center Theatre Group] was a temple for me,” Stephanie said. “This is the genesis of who I am.”
As for their daughter, Stephanie said her first show at the Ahmanson Theatre, “will be seeing her mom and dad on stage.”
“[We’re] savoring this extraordinary experience in an extraordinary place,” Stephanie said. “It’s all baked in there.”