Block and her husband, Sebastian Arcelus, are currently appearing together in Into the Woods. Illustration: Maanvi Kapur
Stephanie J. Block, who won a leading-actress Tony Award for her role in The Cher Show, is back on Broadway, this time as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. She is starring opposite her real-life husband, Sebastian Arcelus, an arrangement that is both a gift and something of a logistical headache given that they commute from New Jersey and share a 7-year-old daughter. But they’ve made it work, putting an emphasis on starting the day together with breakfast and spending their shared day off by celebrating Taco Tuesday, even if doesn’t happen to be Tuesday at all.
Thursday, September 22
For breakfast, I have a fruit shake with yogurt and kale. Our daughter, Vivienne, who is 7, likes to wake up before 6:30 a.m., and it’s kind of all about her in the morning. It takes the effort of both my husband and me to be one solid, awake, functioning human. So we all do breakfast together, and whoever prepares it is king or queen for the day. We have that and then get settled for the next two hours, so we just want something to sustain us and keep us away to be present for the kid. Whatever food can do that, that’s the answer.
Coffee is an iced quad espresso from Starbucks. We’ll do coffee at home sometimes, but when I need a kick, I go to Starbucks for an old favorite.
For lunch, I have a chicken cutlet with potato salad from the local deli, and before the show, I have an energy bar. If I have a big meal before this show, it can fall pretty heavy. It doesn’t necessarily affect my voice so much, but if there’s a heaviness to the belly, it affects the physicality for the three hours when I’m gonna be moving.
After the show, I have brown-russet-potato chips as a snack. Potatoes are a staple for me. Whether it’s a hash brown, a roasted potato, or a potato chip, it’s always been this way. It started with my voice teacher, who felt the potato would give us a warm, full-belly feeling. Ever since I was 11 or 12, coming off a show, it would be potato salad, a baked potato — it doesn’t matter. Any variation on the theme of a potato is good for my soul.
Friday, September 23
Coffee is homemade — we’re not a pod family; we are the old-time recyclable filter, brew–type family — and so is breakfast. Hash with eggs, sausage, potatoes, and shredded sharp-cheddar cheese with a side of pineapple. Pineapple is a major thing when we’re singing. It brings down inflammation; it balances the acidity in one’s system, the alkaline, and all that. And it’s a good morning food for us because it brings down the swelling of the vocal cords. Most singers want things that will reduce inflammation. There’s also the magic drink of warm water, lemon, and a bit of honey with cayenne pepper.
The singer community also says it’s important to stay away from cheese, but we just like our dairy, so it is what it is.
For lunch, I make noodles and broccoli with garlic sauce. It’s hard to figure out when to eat because we take a train into the city for shows. The New Jersey Transit leaves at 4:54 p.m., so you have to decide, Gosh, am I eating dinner at four o’clock in the afternoon, or do I just get myself to my dressing room, have something very light, and then figure out what may be good once the show is over?
After the performance, I have some raspberries, pineapple, and wheat toast with butter. When we have earlier curtains, we come home and happy cry through the last couple of seasons of This Is Us. We’re gluttons for punishment. We know we’re being manipulated with these stories, and yet they still make us cry.
Saturday, September 24
It’s a two-show day, so we are back at Starbucks. I need the quad espresso. For breakfast, I have oatmeal with brown sugar and yogurt. We take the 11:54 and get in at around 12:30. On the train, I do emails and social media, and Seb listens to one of his podcasts, probably about fantasy football. He’s in a league that carries on over 20 years later from Jersey Boys.
Before the matinee, I have a protein drink. It’s got calcium. It’s got the potassium and magnesium I know my body needs to make those three hours happen without cramping or whatnot.
Between the shows, Sebastian and I go separate ways for “linner” to run errands. I have sautéed bok choy, chicken, pork wontons, and scallion potato pancakes. More potatoes!
Then we come back to the theater for PT. Physical therapy is a big thing in between shows, and it’s been a huge help. They come Wednesdays and Saturdays — they’re here at the theater — and that treatment is really vital. It’s a very physical production: We’re just jumping around, running from one side of the stage to the other. Our dresser, Carly, wears a Fitbit watch, and on a two-show day, we do about 20,000 steps. Even getting to the physical therapy: It’s on the seventh floor of the St. James Theatre, so we’re constantly climbing.
Since this was our reintroduction to Broadway after the pandemic, we’d both gotten out of the habit of what eight shows a week does to the body and what sort of physical condition one needs to be in to do a musical. We got the offer — gosh — very quickly.
A lot of the time, when you know you’re doing a musical, you’ve got a couple of months to regulate your body and get everything strong and ready to go. But we got the call two or three weeks before we needed to start, and there was a lot of life that had to be put in place and a lot of moving parts to understand in order to say yes to doing this opportunity. It was a bit of a shock to the system since we were much more sedate during the past two and a half years of life.
It helps to have Sebastian, of course. Cheering each other on, commiseration, looking at each other — the understanding you can share with your spouse and your partner and a fellow performer to recognize the joys and the exhaustion of this experience.
We get to come home and say, “What the hell just happened?” after a two-show day. I skip my snack, and Sebastian has Tostitos chips, his nemesis or his best friend; let’s call them an anti-hero. He keeps them everywhere. They’re in his dressing room, they’re in the car, they’re in the kitchen. Our whole place kind of smells like a Mexican restaurant because of these Tostitos. He’s been gluten free since 1995 — basically patient zero of celiac.
Sunday, September 25
For breakfast, I have an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a toasted English muffin with my pineapple slices. I let Sebastian sleep in.
We stay light before the matinee and go home after the show for dinner. I make something from Blue Apron — oregano chicken with tomato, broccoli, mushrooms, and garlic sauce over farro.
We really do savor our time with our daughter, so we’re more inclined to stay home for dinner, but we don’t love to cook. That’s the honest truth. It’s a little panic inducing. We cannot listen to music or talk to anybody else while we’re cooking. It’s literally instruction by instruction.
Taking our time to prepare, allowing our 7-year-old to get involved by picking certain things or watching her cut cherry tomatoes or whatever the case may be — it becomes more of an event, a ritual. Rather than sitting down and eating, the preparation becomes the family activity.
The next day, we’re planning to do Taco Tuesday. We love our Taco Tuesday, but we have shows now, so we move it to Monday. We’ll find a much more even rhythm once Sebastian leaves the show in October, and he’s back home with Vivienne and can be the anchor for her. She got very used to having her parents around these past two and a half years with the pandemic.
Not to use a food phrase, but it will be bittersweet when Sebastian leaves. Sharing this story with my husband has been such a gift. It’s something we’ve wanted to do individually since we were very young, and now to experience it together, we understand how precious this time is. So I will miss him, but as a mom, it will be great to know he is back home with our daughter.