Passion and the arts have always gone hand in hand, leading many couples to do the same at The Smith Center. This Valentine’s Day, we are happy to share real-life romances that have budded here in our performing arts complex.
Love Behind the Scenes
Smith Center employees Debby and Joe Urbauer have been key to our facility’s success, but many are unaware of this couple’s heartwarming history.
Debby, associate director of theater services, and Joe, head rigger/carpenter, had never met before they joined The Smith Center team during the facility’s early construction years.
Both passionate about opening the world-class venue, they expected that to consume their attention.
“We had both been divorced for more than 20 years. Neither of us were looking for a relationship,” says Debby.
Yet they took strong notice of each other working in the tight quarters of the early operations office.
“We hadn’t even talked, but there were sparks there,” Debby says.
It took local photographer Geri Kodey to play cupid during a casual chat with Joe.
“She said, ‘Somebody in this building thinks you’re dreamy,’” remembers Joe. “I was thinking, ‘Please let it be, let it be…’ She said ‘Debby,’ and I said, ‘Yes!’ And so the game was on.”
Both working around the clock to help launch The Smith Center’s initial shows, their feelings and The Smith Center blossomed together.
They stole time together whenever they could, from an intimate chat in Joe’s truck, to a gifted rose, to strolls around Symphony Park.
“Those first years (opening The Smith Center) were crazy. We didn’t have any time,” Debby says.
It was enough for both to be swept off their feet – Joe by Debby’s quick mind and warmth, and Debby by Joe’s thoughtful and resourceful nature.
On March 2, 2013 – a year after their first kiss – Joe proposed in Box J of Reynolds Hall prior to a production of “West Side Story,” with his fellow stagehands shining the spotlight on their life-changing moment.
“The only thing missing was a microphone,” Debby notes.
“I could’ve arranged that, had I thought about it,” Joe insists.
They married that summer at The Smith Center loading dock in between shows of “Les Misérables.”
“We were so busy, we didn’t have time to do it anywhere else,” Joe says.
With the whole staff pitching in, all details were considered, down to the cake toppers of a ghost light and computer.
With the pair closer than ever after five years, working together has allowed them to combine their love for both each other and The Smith Center.
“Early on we learned the importance of life and enjoying every moment of it,” Debby says.
A Premiere with a Proposal
Benson Riseman and Lee Medick knew soon after meeting on a blind date they had a strong future together.
In the same stage of life with grown children and giddy grandchildren, the Las Vegas residents shared a deep commitment to philanthropy and love for the performing arts.
“We’re a great fit,” Medick says. “We’re very in tune to the needs of our community, and that was a big point for me in my selection of a life partner.”
Even before they met, both had been drawn to supporting Smith Center shows and programs as donors, with Riseman even joining The Smith Center’s Board of Directors.
As they spent more time together — whether enjoying each other’s families or taking in shows — Riseman says The Smith Center continually drew them together.
“The (Smith Center) Chairman’s Celebration a year ago was the first time I told Lee that I loved her,” he says. “The Smith Center, for whatever reason, came to be the place that had special meaning to us.”
What better place, he decided, to ask for her hand?
He chose his timing carefully, at the premiere of The Smith Center’s first original musical “Idaho! The Comedy Musical” in July 2016.
“I wanted to do something that would be big and meaningful to her and to us,” Riseman says.
CEO Myron Martin heard about Riseman’s proposal plans and arranged to introduce the evening’s performance from the couple’s box. He handed the mic to Riseman, who got down on one knee and asked Medick to marry him.
Naturally, Medick was surprised.
“I couldn’t even function,” she says. “Good thing it was videotaped, so I can remember what I said.”
Soon to be married in an intimate family ceremony, they both agree the proposal occurred at the perfect place and time.
“Where better to announce our life together than The Smith Center, for a theater premiere, with many of our friends in the audience?” Riseman says. “It was a meaningful and memorable moment we will cherish forever.”
Dancing Into His Heart
Rachel Murray and Sean Young’s story began early, the pair first meeting when she was 12 and he was 18.
When the Las Vegas natives bumped into each other a decade later, Young discovered Murray had become a professional dancer, appearing regularly on The Smith Center stage with the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater (LVCDT).
“I fell in love with her immediately by seeing what a success she became,” says Young, self-employed.
Their relationship developed quickly over the next few years, with Murray drawn to Young’s constant support and kindness.
“He was always so nice, even when I was young,” she says.
When LVCDT scheduled its 10-year anniversary concert at The Smith Center in November 2016, Young saw his opportunity for a proposal.
“The way I saw it, she and I have been together for the same time period,” he says. “To top it off, when you go to The Smith Center, whether it’s (LVCDT) shows or any other show, you’re in the state of mind that we’re all here together to experience something.”
Following the show’s finale, Young stepped on stage for the first time in his life to present the ring.
Both were in tears as he proposed, with the crowd bursting into applause.
“It was an out-of-body experience,” Young says with a laugh. “After I proposed I was like, ‘Did I say anything?”
With the couple now diving into wedding planning, Murray says the proposal was a defining moment.
Being at The Smith Center made it complete, Young adds.
“I think it’s a beautiful opportunity I got to propose on stage at Las Vegas’ theater,” he says.
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