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True love on stage and at home

Published: Friday, Feb. 3 2012 3:10 p.m. MST

Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright stroll in the autumn weather. (Michelle Booth) Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright stroll in the autumn weather. (Michelle Booth)

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.

Engagement photo of Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright. (Matthew Ryan Photography) Engagement photo of Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright. (Matthew Ryan Photography)

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.

Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright hug in the production of Melanie McKay and Paul Cartwright hug in the production of "Witchapalooza." (Margie Cartwright)

"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.

Melanie McKay, back left, appears on stage in Nauvoo with her soon-to-be husband Paul Cartwright and their stage children. (Dalynne Grover) Melanie McKay, back left, appears on stage in Nauvoo with her soon-to-be husband Paul Cartwright and their stage children. (Dalynne Grover)

"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."

David Smith and his wife, Brittni Bills Smith, left and center, appear in David Smith and his wife, Brittni Bills Smith, left and center, appear in "April Ann" at Hale Center Theater Orem. (Mark A. Philbrick)

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.

"I thought she was gorgeous but, to me, she was the unattainable girl. I would just wave at her when I saw her," he said. "Then we did Oklahoma."

They dated until it hit him on a cruise to Mexico that he needed to ask Brittni to marry him.

"I went back and bought a ring," he said. "It was pretty scary.

"I proposed on the stage of the SCERA Shell in the middle of January outside. It was very snowy and cold. I got a space heater. My brother kidnapped her and with the spotlights on and the pristine snow all around, it was beautiful. I came on as Will Parker and she said yes."

Paul Cartwright appears in a scene from Paul Cartwright appears in a scene from "Curtains" at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley. (Hale Centre Theatre)

They were married May 10, 2009, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.

Today, Dave holds down three jobs: He keeps the books for Hale Center, teaches acting classes in Orem and directs youth theater in American Fork. Brittni teaches drama at Mountain Ridge Junior High School in Highland.

They share not only a passion for theater and film but understand the rigors, the heartbreaks and the rewards.

They keep involved in theater and film projects, occasionally even kissing other people on stage. Dave has even directed his wife in a love scene, just one of the stresses that come with their busy, dramatic lives.

"I think just sharing the passion really bonds you. You have somebody who knows the commitment it takes. Dave is right there along with me through auditions and everything else," Brittni said. "It's really nice. Auditions are so hard, but to have somebody who really gets it. That's nice."

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

Paul Cartwright says he enjoys theater but he really wants a family and the role of a father more than fame.

"For now, we're just having fun. My biggest priority is family," he said.

Dave Smith said he believes discovering his talent for theater led him purposefully to his wife. "Before that, I was drifting," he said.

"David and I are really happy with our lifestyle. We don't perform for the money or the recognition. We perform because we love to tell a story," Brittni added.

"It's not always easy, but it's the lifestyle we're used to."

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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