The sun brightens the table at the front window of Liz’s Café in Provincetown as Anne Stott, an actor and musical performer, and her girlfriend, production designer Ellen Rousseau, chow down on brunch and reflect on their coupledom. Stott points out how appropriate it is to have such a conversation here at Liz’s, “because a great deal of our relationship took place here,” she says. “It’s our hangout.”
Stott has just returned from New Hampshire, where she was a stand-in for Sen. Elizabeth Warren during preparations for the Democratic Party presidential debate. Rousseau is gearing up for the upcoming slate of productions at the Provincetown Theater, where her work with artistic director David Drake has galvanized the local scene. Stott, too, has been performing in Drake’s productions and had a key role in August: Osage County last spring. Though Drake plays a large part in their lives here, he actually had nothing to do with how they got together as a couple.
That happened when Stott hired Rousseau, who does high-end carpentry work for a living, to fix up a house she bought here in 2011. “I wanted somebody who was a builder and an artist,” Stott says, and Rousseau fit the bill. Out of that working relationship grew something more intimate.
“It happened slowly,” Rousseau says. “We would write emails back and forth, and her emails made me laugh. That immediately was attractive to me. We had a repartee.”
“It was more than the emails,” Stott says. “We would meet at the house. We had a business relationship, so I didn’t want to step over that line. There wasn’t an ‘Omigod!’ moment, but afterward, I realized, oh, I’m flirting with her.”
That was seven years ago — they recently celebrated their anniversary. What marks the date? “Our first kiss,” Stott says.
Stott and Rousseau are alike in their devotion to creative pursuits, but in some ways, they present a stark contrast. Stott is outspoken and unabashed, Rousseau is reserved. Stott is stylish and groomed; Rousseau is casual and ready for work. Each of them has a parallel story that led her to the Cape.
“I was born in Philadelphia,” Stott says. “We lived in Europe for a while, then in Minnesota. And then I moved to New York at 17 to go to college, at Barnard. I majored in comparative religion.” In New York, she got politically active. “I was in the Lesbian Avengers. And I was in the Irish gay and lesbian organization. I got arrested five times — five Saint Patrick’s Days, on Fifth Avenue,” she says, referring to protests on LGBT exclusion from the parade.
“Anne has been arrested a lot,” Rousseau says.
“I lived in New York for 20 years,” Stott says. “I thought I’d never leave.” But after a relationship ended in 2007, “I put my stuff in storage for four months and moved here. And I’m still here.”
Rousseau grew up in Gainesville, Fla. “We moved to Camden, Maine, when I was 12,” she says. “That’s where I fell in love with theater. I was always an artist — I always drew. And I’ve always loved building things — any kind of building toy was my favorite. I went to college as an art major, at the University of Southern Maine, but I spent a lot of time in the theater department.”
She dropped out and worked in construction, eventually moving to New York City. Rousseau and Stott lived only a few blocks from each other in Manhattan but never met. Eventually, Rousseau moved to the Outer Cape and set up shop here. “I missed living in a small, oceanside New England town,” she says.
And now they follow creative pursuits on their own. “I like the way we support each other,” Rousseau says. In the summer, when theater projects dominate their time, “we understand how demanding it can be,” Stott says. “If someone stays up all night, we don’t take it personally. I love that Ellen understands what I’m doing. I’m just doing what I want to do.”