Jen Meharg-Gonzalez, BFA in Performance, 1999
Vinnie Gonzalez, BFA in Performance, 1999
Vinnie remembers the first time he saw Jaws, “I fell in love with acting and sharks. What pushed me toward acting was Robert Shaw’s performance.” Vinnie’s early plans were to major in marine biology to study sharks. Meanwhile, Jen started her VCU education in pre-Vet, because “it didn’t dawn on me that I could do theatre.”
As fate would have it, they both ended up in the theatre department at the same time. “We were drinking buddies. We used to skip class (Sorry Liz & Gary!) to drink wheat beer at Chuggers.”
When Vinnie graduated, he moved to Chicago, but just like any actor in a new market, “it was starting all over again. I ended up in retail and was unhappy, so I moved back to Maryland and spent a year with a painting company.”
Meanwhile, Jen was working at Theatre IV. Vinnie returned to Richmond and was there as a technician. For three summers, Vinnie was in the outdoor drama Blue Jacket in Ohio. “I rode horses bareback all summer. Jen had a horse. I was into photography, so I took pictures of her and that’s how we reconnected.”
Vinnie has made a career as an actor, director, designer and technician. Thinking back, “I learned so much from Uncle Lou (Lou Szari, former Professor of Lighting at VCU) on the technical side. I’m grateful to Dr. Campbell, who was one of my heroes. I came back from Chicago one summer to get advice from him and found out he had passed away. It broke my heart.”
About her experience at VCU, Jen recalls, “I felt like I wasn’t sure where I fit as an actor, because I’m not ingénue material and I love to move, so I found myself in movement.” One summer, she travelled to Southeast Asia, where she studied indigenous dance. She spent the rest of that summer at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, where, she says, “I was able to do movement theatre.”
Jen started her company Range of Motion Massage and Therapeutic Exercise in 2012, and Vinnie continues to work in all aspects of theatre. They’ve worked together in two shows, both acting in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Richmond Triangle Players and in Cloud 9, which he designed.
Jen and Vinnie lived together from 2011 until 2018, when they got married. Jen recalls, “Vinnie came home, and I was 9,000 months pregnant, so the next morning, we went to the court and got married.” Vinnie had Jen’s ring designed featuring a sapphire (both of their birthstones) in a gold bird’s nest, “because Jen loves birds.” Their daughter’s name is Larawren Dafne Gonzalez. Her original name was just going to be Wren.
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the February 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.