For Stephen Gregory Smith, 35, and Matt Conner, 43, it was “love at first tights.” The couple met in a restroom of the Shenandoah Conservatory, during an audition for Pippin. Matt, a senior donning only tights and a trench coat, dazzled Stephen, a freshman at the time. Unsurprisingly, their first date was a trip to the National Theatre in D.C. to see Jasmine Guy in Chicago.
“We were late, because Stephen is always late,” quips Matt.
According to friends, they have been as good as married since they met 15 years ago. The two have simply been waiting for laws to catch up with the demands of society. They were able to make it official on May 31, with an intimate ceremony, “culminating in a cruise with spectacular views of Washington, D.C. and the sunset.”
However, this idyllic scene only describes the opening act of their matrimony. Arlington, Virginia, is home to the couple but, unfortunately, the state has yet to recognize same-sex marriage. The solution? A legal wedding on the Potomac River, and a theatrical wedding at their “artistic home,” the Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre, on June 10.
Oh, and theatrical it was! It included 275 friends and family, as well as their pug, Buddha, and kicked off with a happy hour, followed by a carnival-themed ceremony, where everyone was “adorned with fascinators, corsets, top hats, and gloves.”
“We have always believed that life is a carnival, and love is the ultimate ride," Stephen explained. "The ups and downs that come with it are thrilling and terrifying.”
Completing the theme with attractions like a tunnel of love, a house of horrors, and a kissing booth, they confess the event was, “a wee bit reminiscent of Madonna’s Girlie Show tour.”
There could not have been a more appropriate way to for them to tie the knot. The Signature Theatre has premiered a few of Matt Conner’s past productions, and the tradition will continue on October 29 with his musical Crossing, which highlights the struggle for personal rights and freedoms in the 20th century.
Theatre has always been an integral part of the couple’s relationship. The up-and-coming writer/composer team has written four shows together, as well as an anthem for Equality Virginia available on iTunes called "Share Love," sung by Carolyn Cole. Their latest collaboration is a musical version of Night of the Living Dead; and this re-imagination of the 1968 independent horror film is no less haunting. In addition to the zombies and intangible dark forces, there was the process of putting Night of the Living Dead together that effectively saved their relationship, according to them both. After breaking up for six months in 2009, they decided to try again; this is when the writing began.
“It united us in a way that was so creatively refreshing," Stephen says. "In working together, we found each other’s souls again, and have never looked back.”
Night of the Living Dead premieres at New Line Theatre in St. Louis, October 10 to November 2