True love on stage and at home

Acting couples combine stage work and marriage

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

David Smith, right, and Melanie McKay, center, appear in a publicity shot for Hale Center Theater's "Singing in the Rain."

Mark A. Philbrick, Michelle Booth, Marc Haddock

OREM —

Married in real life, David and Brittni Bills Smith and Paul and Melanie McKay Cartwright publicly acted like they were in love long before they really were.

"I tell people we kissed for three months before we ever went out on a date," said Brittni Bills Smith. (She was Ado Annie in SCERA's production of "Oklahoma" and he was her beau, Will Parker.) "Then it was my dad who put us in a car on the night the show was rained out and sent us to get ice cream."

From that "date night" on, David and Brittni became a couple off stage as well as on.

Melanie McKay Cartwright and her new husband, Paul, were faux married for a whole summer as Mary and Parley P. Pratt in the LDS Church's Nauvoo Pageant before they took a serious, romantic look at one another.

Now they're newlyweds living

in Provo while Melanie goes to BYU and Paul takes the management path at Enterprise. In their first month, they worked married life around rehearsals for "Zorro" for the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley.

Both couples combine a love for the stage with love for each other. They're constantly working in the emotional and physical demands of acting with figuring out how to relate as married people.

The Smiths dated for four years, married three years ago and continue to share their private lives, their jobs and their demanding show business endeavors.

The Cartwrights had a whirlwind engagement following years of bumping into each other on stage and working on the same productions.

"We met and really weren't interested in each other in Nauvoo in 2010. He was Parley P. Pratt and I was a performing missionary set apart to dance. We saw each other a few times but nothing came of it.

"Then in 2011, I was Mary Pratt and he was Parley again. There were no love scenes, just a lot of waving and sending off. I was really worried about working with him, but he was always just so kind to me. By the end, we knew we needed to go on a date or two," Melanie said. "By the second week in August, we knew we were going to get married."

Which they did.

Acting on her bishop's advice, Melanie pulled back her bid for a full-time LDS mission, and the two were wed in the Salt Lake Temple on Dec. 30, 2011, on a warm winter day.

"From my vast experience, I can tell you it's difficult to have late-night rehearsals and still find time for each other. But we're both in the same circle. It's just really nice to have someone on your team," she said.

"This is our 24th show together," said Brittni Bills Smith, following a rehearsal for "The Blind Date" at the Covey Center for the Arts in which she and her husband play a pair of seeing-eye dogs watching their owners fall in love.

"This last little while, between "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "The Blind Date," is the longest we've ever had between shows. We didn't know what to do with ourselves, but it was kind of nice."

The two actors actually met when she was 18 and he was 19. She was a dresser for Hale Center Theater in Orem's "Forever Plaid." He was one of the leads, albeit a goofy one.

"Back then, he was just a goofball," Brittni said. "People compare him to Jim Carrey."

He's still basically a goofball but a talented and ambitious one, she added. "Dave is very project-oriented."

Dave said he was headed for a basketball career before he found his love for theater and Brittni (after a number of serious physical injuries).

Dave said he never dared ask Brittni for a date because when he'd see her on campus, she was always holding court with a bunch of guys.

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