For the close-knit theater community, there’s about to be a royal wedding.
That’s how I think of the coming nuptials on Oct. 1 of Taylor Abels and Daniel Rodriguez, who grew up before our eyes on local stages. They’ve been friends from their first show together in the 2004 Children’s Musical Theaterworks production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” A dozen years later, they’re tying the knot – just two weeks after the closing of StageWorks Fresno’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” in which they both have starring roles.
What makes it a royal wedding? Taylor is the daughter of Joel Abels, artistic director of StageWorks Fresno, and Kelley Auston, and has starred in many of her father’s shows, which makes her sort of a local theater “princess.” Paparazzi, please show some respect on the day of the ceremony. (Another royal wedding took place a couple of years ago between Emily Pessano, daughter of Good Company’s Dan and Laurie Pessano), and Teddy Maldonado, all familiar faces on the stage.)
I caught up with Taylor and Daniel by phone and email to talk about the big event.
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Q: So, you crazy kids are getting married. Taylor, tell us how Daniel popped the question. Or was it the other way around?
Taylor: It was the night before Daniel and I were heading out to Florida for a week. We had spent the past year and a half planning and saving for a trip to Disney World (we are big Disney nerds) to celebrate finally getting to live in the same city after three years of long distance. I had plans with Kristin Goehring (that he set up…sneaky, sneaky!) and while I was away he cleaned the apartment and was waiting for me when I got home. He gave me a little red bag and told me that he got me a gift for Disney World. I opened it and it was a button with bride and groom Mickey and Minnie ears that said “Just Engaged”. I turned around and he was on one knee.
Daniel: I would like to add that when I proposed, Taylor was so excited that she took the ring out of the box and put it on her own hand. I guess she was ready to get engaged.
Q: You’ve played boyfriend and girlfriend in “Urinetown,” brother and sister in “Next to Normal,” even mother and son in “Zombie Prom.” Have you ever played husband and wife?
Daniel: We have not played husband and wife yet, but we will have plenty of rehearsal starting in a few weeks!
Q: In your current show, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” your two characters pretty much ignore each other, which is kind of funny when you think about it. Taylor, reveal what goes through the mind of an actor during a performance. Are you totally in character, or is a teensy part of you thinking as you watch Daniel in one of his big moments: “Hey, that’s my fiance?”
Taylor: We are pretty good about staying in character! Sometimes I can’t look right at him when I know he is going to do something funny. No matter how hard I try to focus, he always makes me laugh. Daniel also has the great fortune of singing some of the harder, higher stuff in the show. I’m always impressed he pulls it off so effortlessly. I’m just trying to soak up all of this time we have together in this show. Getting to perform in a show with your partner is a rare gift, especially two weeks before you get married!!
Q: You’ve no doubt watched a lot of showmances come and go. After being friends for so long, was there a particular show of the nine (!) you’ve been in together in which you sensed a romantic spark?
Daniel: Taylor and I have been friends for so long that it took her moving all the way across the country for the light bulb to go off. After years of doing shows with her, it never dawned on me until she had left. Then I came to my senses.
Q: Give us a rundown on the day itself, both ceremony and reception. Is Neil Patrick Harris going to be able to make it?
Taylor: We decided we wanted the day to feel like us. So, it’s very informal and fun. It’s going to be a simple ceremony, cocktail hour with popcorn and popsicles, and food trucks for dinner. Bright colors, beautiful lights, and our friends and family. I can’t wait! (And Neil, feel free to stop by!)
Daniel: We like the “short and sweet” aspect of the ceremony. We want to get married and then spend that time with our family and friends. Plenty of food, drinks and dancing. It’s going to be one heck of a party!
Q: I sort of pictured you having a “Glee”-style wedding, complete with Lea Michele popping in for a cameo of “I Wanna Marry You” and the wedding party doing a flash-mob procession down the aisle. Yet you’re not going for a theater theme. Thoughts?
Taylor: We talked a lot about this, and at the end of the day we decided we wanted the wedding to feel like a wedding and not a production. That’s not to say there won’t be subtle tributes to theatre here and there, there just won’t be a performance…that I’m aware of.
Q: OK, so you won’t be singing a duet together while taking vows. But in the musical version of your life, what song would you put at that spot in the show?
Daniel: Taylor and I have been going over the music for our wedding for a little while now. One song that we can always relate to, and is also just a great love song, is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. The song that talks about how distance doesn’t matter when you are in love fits us perfectly. It’s a classic.
Q: Spill the beans, Taylor: Your dad is a director. Was he itching to get his directorial fingers on your big day? Did you have to let him down gently?
Taylor: My dad and I have pretty much been on the same page through this whole process. We are very similar, so it’s been fairly smooth. He knows how to throw a party like no one else, so I’m very lucky in that respect. He also has fantastic taste, so that’s a plus! It’s been fun. (Hi, dad!)
Q: Tell us about your wedding party, which includes some familiar Fresno theater names.
Taylor: My maids of honor are my best friend Kristin Goehring (coming from New York!) and my cousin Malarie Silos. The bridemaids are: Adrie Carroll, Kalis Kim (coming from Portland!), Martha Tsutsui (coming from England!), Ashley Taylor (coming from New York!), Laura Rodriguez (coming from England!) and Beth Rodriguez. Anthony Taylor is officiating. It’s a big group and I am SO EXCITED!
Daniel: My guys are coming from all over. My Best man is Adam Schroeder, best known for his role as my understudy for our first show together in junior high. Then I have a good friend from my time at Actors Theatre in Louisville and Chicago, Jason Huff. Ben McNamara, Bryce Moser and Aaron Bollinger, some Fresno actor-types. My dear family friend Austin Johnson whom I have known since he was around one-year old. Miguel Gastelum, who I have the privilege of sharing the stage with right now in “Spelling Bee.” And a rather unknown, Terry Lewis, rounding out my groomsmen.
Q: Do you think there will be extra challenges for you as a theater couple? In this crazy business, there’s a pretty good chance that at various times one of you will be more successful as an actor than the other. Are you prepared for that?
Taylor: We have actually talked about this a lot! We are both very supportive of one another and both believe that one person’s success isn’t another person’s failure. We are dedicated to trying to make the acting thing work, and we both understand that sometimes one of us will work more than the other. It’s the way this job goes.
Daniel: I think we are both in agreement that our career choice is never a steady and stable one. I know there will be ups and downs, but I know that we will get through it together. I know in the near future I want to get my teaching credential. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I love acting, but to be able to put that theatre spark in a young person’s mind, like my soon-to- be father-in- law did to me when I met him 12 years ago, has been a dream of mine.
Q: What are your plans after the wedding?
Taylor: At the end of October I go back to Louisville to play Mrs. Fezziwig in their annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” I was lucky enough to get to do the show last year, and I can’t wait to go back! Come the beginning of the year, we’re going to drive across the country with all our stuff and live in New York.
Q: If you could do any show together professionally, what would it be?
Taylor: If I had to pick a classic musical I would say “The Music Man.” I think Daniel would be a great Harold Hill. In a perfect world we would get to do “The Light in the Piazza.” It is my favorite show of all time, and I would love to sing that music together. But, there is always The Baker and The Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods”! Ahhhh…too many to choose! I know what Daniel is going to say!
Daniel: I think the one show that I would love to do with Taylor is “Sunday in the Park with George.” It is one of my favorite shows and I would love to sing the amazing score with her. Honestly, anything with her would be an amazing experience.
Taylor: I KNEW he’d pick “Sunday in the Park with George”! He’s the sweetest.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
Taylor: I am just so excited. Getting to come home for any amount of time is a gift, but getting to work with my dad and my future husband has been incredible. And getting to do all of this just weeks before the wedding has been insane and wonderful! I also have to add that we have the best friends and family! Everyone has been so wonderful. Thank you!
Daniel: I’m just so thankful for our families throughout this whole crazy time. They have been so supportive and loving. I’m so excited to be a part of Taylor’s family, and I am ecstatic for Taylor to be a part of mine. Thank you to everyone for all of the love and support.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
- Through Sept. 18.
- Fresno Art Museum Bonner Auditorium, 2233 N. First St.
- www.stageworksfresno.com, 559-289-6622
- $25, $22 students and seniors