Everyday, people are packing their bags and moving to the south. Broadway actors Bret Shuford and Stephen Hanna made the decision to leave New York City life after over 20 years each to try a life in Charleston, SC.
Their journey started when they packing up their Washington Heights apartment and loaded their life into their vehicle. “The bittersweet emotions filled us as the truck was headed to Charleston, SC carrying 20 plus years of our lives and careers. We were married in Greenwich, CT [a train ride away from Grand Central] in 2011. We met in 2006 when I was fulfilling my dream of working on Broadway in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and Stephen was fulfilling his dream as a Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet.” Bret says to BEAU.
“We’re not sure if we ever would have met if both of us hadn’t decided to get sober from our addictions to drugs and alcohol. We met in the rooms and are so proud to be apart of the sober community. The spiritual nature of the program gave us amazing tools for coping and for growing together in love.” “
Bret, being from Texas, had navigated a lonely path as the only artist in his family and the only child of four to leave the radius of his parents. Stephen, left Pittsburgh at 12 to begin his ballet training at Lincoln Center. “Finding a new family in each other was a dream come true, and we thought we’d live forever in New York City,” says Bret.
Continuing to pursue their career paths was all that they wanted until they slowly started to discover that there’s a life outside of NYC. “We passionately knew that one day we wanted to be Dads. It’s expensive for two men to become Dads, and the cost of NYC, plus the ups and downs of steady income were stressing us out too much. We weren’t sure how we could make it happen. Our options were to follow our slew of friends who moved to Los Angeles, or we could return to Texas or Pittsburgh to be closer to family, but we weren’t sure what we would do there for a living.”
Then, out of the blue, Stephen’s best friend Lindy opened a ballet school in Charleston which has grown in size after just one year. She asked Stephen to come down and help, but they weren’t sure what Bret would do. After coming down for a visit and teaching a couple of masterclasses, Bret was offered two jobs. Subsequently, a series of other things fell into place: a suite above Lindy’s garage, Stephen’s parents had a 2006 HHR they no longer needed, and voila! Their next path was set for the Broadway husbands. “With no work lined up in New York City we told our agents we were gonna head south!”
Being from the South, Bret’s family was thrilled to get him below the mason-dixon line. Stephen wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but with the their baby process in motion, It was worth a new adventure.
“If you talked to our northern friends they’d tell you to be careful. They imagine the south filled with red-hat ‘Make America Great Again’ rednecks waiting to damn us to hell. Perhaps, the vision of us walking down the street and getting called horrible names [like Bret experienced in high school]. But, it’s been three weeks, and the reality is far different. Coincidently, the first weekend here Bret’s cousin was getting married. It’s a very Baptist wedding which didn’t help our situation, but the whole Shuford clan was here and we took them on a food journey unlike any place we’ve been. Everyday that we drive in our little car, we are so glad it isn’t the MTA Transit system. The views from the bridges of the gorgeous green and blue scenery takes our breath away. Twice a week we drive down our street to Folly Beach and take in a sunrise and the ocean. The people here are so polite it blows our minds: Starbucks employees actually make eye contact with you and smile. We are not sure we will ever get used that!” Bret says.
“We have found an awesome open and accepting community at Rhapsody Crossfit every Saturday, at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday, the 12 step meeting community, and even in the small-but-mighty theatre scene here!”
However, switching from the professional world to the educational world is not an easy one for. The jury is out on whether or not they are any good at teaching kids. “Let’s face it, the bar has been set very high for us professionally, but we are hoping, through teaching, that we can help raise the bar in Charleston.” As adjunct professors at the College of Charleston, Stephen will be choreographing for the college dance concert this fall. Bret is the College of Charleston’s Quantellbaum Fellowship recipient and will be directing URINETOWN, plus presenting his one-man show CHARMING: A Tale of An American Prince in January.(Make sure to get your tickets now.)
“The rich history of Charleston is something that lights us up! We bought an annual pass to Charles Towne Landing just so we can soak it all in. The vision for conservation and urban planning added to the increasing diversity and population gives this town an energy that is as exciting as when we first arrived to the Big Apple. It’s the beautiful Holy City that we see so much potential for in its citizens and for ourselves.”
Bret and Stephen say they would love to finish our parenting journey here in the south, but they would also want to be able to continue to grow themselves artistically as well. Saying, “moving through this year one day at a time will prove whether or not we have found our forever home. We pray that it’s so.”
Follow the Broadway husbands on their journey at https://www.broadwayhusbands.com/
Or Bret’s youtube page