Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna
In this new feature called Pride Series, RyeTheNewsGuy.com talks with some powerful LGBT couples in the Broadway community. From how they met, to how they are using their powerful dynamics to make a difference in the world, each couple share their stories of how they got to where they are today. These Pride Series interviews are in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, and to celebrate WorldPride in New York City. This series will run throughout the month of June and each week features a new couple and their stories.
Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna are the next couple in the #PrideSeries interview with RyeTheNewsGuy.com and have a long list of credits to their name. From Broadway, National Tours, and Regional Theatre Bret and Stephen have stayed very busy in their careers! Both men share their personal story of how they met, why they decided to pack up and move to South Carolina, the idea behind Broadway Husbands and their own personal ventures, what Pride means to them, and and so MORE!
Keep up with all that Bret and Stephen are doing by following them on social media @bretshuford, @stephenrhanna and @broadwayhusbands.
Can you tell me a little bit more about how the two of you first met and what your first date was like?
Stephen: Well, we met at a Christmas party Bret was throwing when he lived in Astoria NY.
Bret: At the time, Stephen was dancing at the NYC Ballet and I was on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast. We became flirtatious friends for about 3 months until things changed.
Bret: I still laugh because I invited Stephen over to my place one night, and when we got to the house (yes, I lived in a house at the time) I went upstairs to my bedroom. When I turned around, I realized Stephen didn't follow me upstairs. So I came downstairs and Stephen was on the couch and I was like "what are you doing?"
Stephen: I didn't want to assume you wanted me to come upstairs.
Bret: I laughed and said "NO, you're coming upstairs." The rest is history.
In 2011 you both tied the knot- what was your Wedding Day like and what was the proposal like?
Bret: We made a couple of VLOG posts for our YouTube channel and our blog, Broadway Husbands, about our wedding and proposal. Let's just say, that our faces hurt from smiling so much on both occasions.
I understand you’ve recently packed up and moved down to South Carolina to get away from the city. What has that experience been like?
Stephen: We spent the last year in Charleston and it was wonderful. It's a beautiful town with some wonderful people, food, and weather. The south is interesting, Bret grew up in the south, so it wasn't a shock to him, but I took some adjusting. The largest theatre there has had the same artistic director for 40 years, and the city has had the same Mayor for 40 years if that tells you anything.
There's a beautiful but small arts community there that is yearning for more support. We felt so welcomed and so glad to get to contribute to that community.
Bret: I really wanted to create exposure to the LGBT community there because there really isn't enough support. We worked with a great charity there called “We Are Family” and found a wonderful open and affirming church at Circular Congregation. It was a wonderful town.
Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna
What are some things you’ve learned while living in the south?
Bret: We learned several lessons while we were there, the first is get it in writing before you pack up your life and move, and secondly, follow people's advice about going into business with friends — just don't do it.
Personally, it was so good for us to step away from NYC and get perspective. We both had only spent our adult lives in NYC and never experienced life outside of it.
We listened to a lot of people's advice — including our parents — that we can't raise a child in NYC, and that we would thrive in a place with a lower cost of living. Ultimately we realized that the opportunities we have to thrive in NYC are greater than what we could find there, including a chance to start our own school this fall called Broadway Performing Arts Academy, as a way of giving back to the community and sharing our love of the performing arts with young people.
You both have been incredibly brave by being so open and honest about your past struggles with addiction and your life now in sobriety. How has overcoming your addictions made you both a stronger couple and better people?
Bret: Well we love being sober so much, waking up every day feeling good that we got through another day striving to be clear and present in every moment. We also are very much involved in the program and found that it gives us vocabulary and tools to help us communicate and a wonderful community of like-minded people.
On that same note— how can one get help, and what is your advice for people struggling with addiction in the theater and Broadway community but may not have the resources to get help?
Bret: The biggest advice is if you think you have a problem, ask for help, you aren't alone and you don't have to get sober alone. The Actors Fund is an amazing resource and they love to help people in the business thrive.
Bret, you are certified as a Life Coach and Stephen, you are a certified Fitness Instructor. What made you get certified in these fields and what have you learned about yourselves that you didn’t know?
Bret: We both love being of service and helping others and these were things people were naturally coming to us for. I got certified first and started The Broadway Life Coach to help others find guidance in this crazy world. I didn't know it would awaken the entrepreneurial bug in me and has since grown a great social media following and t-shirt company with Broadway Life Apparel.
Stephen: I'm crazy about pushing my body and challenging it to its limits. It's important to looking good and feeling good. The biggest piece of advice is to always be willing to push past your comfort zone. If you're not uncomfortable you aren't growing. It's getting through challenging times that we come out stronger at the end.
I know you both teach classes for the youth which has been an exciting new venture for you. How are you inspiring the next wave of actors/performers through your work and what has been the most fulfilling part of all of that?
Bret: First, it's preparing us for fatherhood, we love kids. We love helping people focus on the WORK and not the glamour/fame that people think comes with being a performer. Children love to learn, and we want them to learn the technique and history of what we love to do. Even if they don't pursue it as a career, we are building future audiences that appreciate the work that is needed to perform at the top of their game. Plus, we love to give back!
Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna
How is the process coming along on becoming fathers? I know that has been a huge passion and desire for you both. Are there any updates you can share?
Bret: The process is moving slowly, but it's moving. We matched with a surrogate, but we hit a snag as we were hoping to have sold our apartment by this point and we lost the buyer. So, we are in a holding pattern until it sells, which we hope will be soon. We knew this could have been the challenge of trying biological process and doing what we do for a living, so we aren't surprised but the anticipation is frustrating. We just take it a day at a time and know the timing will be right when it's supposed to happen.
Where did the idea come from to start Broadway Husbands? And how has Broadway Husbands helped you both to grow and connect with your followers and the LGBTQ community?
Stephen: Bret is really the Social media nerd in the family. He's always just naturally been engaged with folks online and started using the hashtag #BroadwayHusbands. We were noticing more engagement on those posts, so we started a separate account and boom it was born. Initially it was to create visibility for the same sex couples in the Broadway Community thriving in their lives and living the artistic lifestyle. It's grown into creating visibility for the arts community and the LGBT community. We want people to see that you can thrive and have a family while pursuing your dreams. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.
What is coming up next for the both of you?
Bret: I'm directing The Little Mermaid at Westport Country Playhouse in August! It's my first Equity theatre to direct in, and of course I was in the Broadway company so it'll be a fun reunion.
Stephen: I will be dancing at the Lake Tahoe Dance Festival next month as well as teaching for Joffrey, and the Vail Valley Dance Intensive. We start the school in September and then we are back to auditioning!
What is your advice for other gay men on finding love and the right one?
Bret: Find yourself at your maximum potential before you try to find someone else. It's much easier to come into a relationship knowing how to take care of yourself and communicate the best you can then to try to do it after you've committed. The right one is not always going to be the person you imagine being with, but they CAN even be beyond what you imagine.
Finally, what does PRIDE mean to you?
Bret: Pride really is about breaking down the walls that others put around us. We notice how easy nowadays it is for people to live in a bubble and we hope that Pride helps people see that, a) they aren't alone, and b) other people aren't as fortunate as some so maybe we can help those less fortunate to find equality at least in this country.
I know some people are trashing companies for selling PRIDE merchandise and in NYC it's so easy to think that it is over saturated. However, after living in the South, it isn't! It's beautiful to see all these corporations speak up in support of the LGBTQ community. They DON'T have to do that. Even if I don't buy their pride stuff, I now know who I want to do business with in the future. Thank you to all who speak up on behalf of the LGBTQ community.