How They Met…
Robert and Susan Smythe of Swarthmore are born performers, but they’ve never really been on stage together — “except for some emergency puppet performances,” Susan says. After 37 years together, that is about to change, as the couple takes the stage on Valentine’s night at in “Tricks and Truths for Staying in Love,” an original cabaret performance based on their love and shared life.
At Wesleyan University in the late ‘70s, Susan Dinsmore and Robert Smythe were part of the same theatre crowd, working on productions and occasionally performing. She sang; he mostly didn’t, Susan says, but “he is a happy, natural performer.” They liked each other’s acts, and started dating 37 years ago. Four years later, they wed, and more than three decades later decided to revisit their romance from the beginning, in song and story, on stage at Philadelphia’s L’Etage cabaret. The two have each performed at L’Etage — Robert in two one-man shows, and Susan in “Ladies’ Night” with two other women.
Susan, ADA coordinator for Swarthmore College, and Robert, a line producer for Synergixx in Mantua, N.J., raised daughter Maggie and son Harry, as time went by, and careers and interests evolved. “So many people say ‘we’re not old enough to have been together all those years,’” Susan said. “We thought it would be good and enjoyable to give people something that shows how we got to 37 years,” perhaps prompting couples in the audience to reflect on twists and turns and joys of their own long love affairs.
Robert, founder of Mum Puppet Theater, came late to singing. After a brief flirtation in college, he started seriously with voice lessons about six years ago. Susan has “sung my whole life, from early music to Broadway to the American songbook and Tin Pan Alley.” Those burnished 20th century standards contribute the melodies and libretto of the Smythes’ show, which shares with audiences the resonant events of their meeting, marriage, kids and life together.
The performance is at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day. Tickets are $12 in advance — tricksandtruths.brownpapertickets.com — and $15 at the door. Bistro food and drink is available at L’Etage, which is on the second floor at 624 S. 6th Street in Bella Vista, Philadelphia.