When Stephen Hanna and Bret Shuford met in 2006, they were young and ambitious artists trying to make a name for themselves in the Big Apple. Stephen is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and moved to New York City at the age of 12 to study at the School of American Ballet. Bret is a native of Beaumont, Texas, who ventured out to Oklahoma for college and then Staten Island where he got a degree in Musical Theatre from Wagner College.
When the couple met, Bret was working on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast, while Stephen was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. The couple says they were each doing a lot of work individually to stay sober.
“Sobriety is a deep part of our relationship and our spiritual life,” says Bret. “We believe that having that vocabulary to refer to is what has made us last as long as we have.”
When the pair met, Bret was relieved to meet an artist outside of the theatre world until Stephen booked the role of Older Billy in Billy Elliot on Broadway. For the second year of their relationship, their stage doors were across the street from each other. (If only Instagram had existed then, what great stories we would have had, the couple says.)
In 2008, Bret proposed, and in 2011, Bret and Stephen got married. The wedding was right before New York had legalized same-sex marriage so the ceremony was in Greenwich, Connecticut (because the town hall was the prettiest), and the reception was at Manhattan Penthouse.
Bret and Stephen have been helping others with their path to success on Broadway for years, and even started their own apparel line for Broadway fans. Since their wedding, they have continued to stay sober and work on Broadway and recently started their journey toward fatherhood (which they’re documenting on Gays With Kids).
“Through a lot of soul searching, we have decided to try the surrogacy journey,” says Bret. “It’s the most expensive path, and being artists, money is not the most accessible.” Their solution was to make a lifestyle change and begin teaching positions in Charleston, South Carolina. “It’s only been a few months, but Charleston has welcomed us with open arms.”
Since moving, Bret and Stephen have shot commercials, performed in several events, choreographed, directed and are producing projects for 2019. Stephen is new to the South, so learning the laidback culture is taking him some time to adjust. The two have found an open and inclusive congregation at the Circular Congregational Chuch downtown. “Seriously, that is something we never thought we would say,” explains Bret. “The community of progressive people we keep meeting is surprising in so many ways. It’s been a big shift for us, and one that we never anticipated. However, having each other has made this adventure worthwhile. We truly are living a life beyond our wildest dreams.”
Fin Leary Lavoie
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