Love takes center stage for Transcendence performers

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Singing a love song on stage with the person you’re in love with is a very special experience for professional actors. Stephan Stubbins and Libby Servais know the joy of sharing a romantic duet in the spotlight, just as they know that their love will last a lifetime.

They met at Transcendence Theatre, where Stubbins is a co-founder and co-executive director, and where Servais took a hiatus from her Broadway career in New York to perform with Transcendence at Jack London State Historic Park for the first time in 2013. When Servais returned to her Upper West Side apartment that September they started texting everyday and looking forward to Face Time in the evening.

Servais just finished a run playing Glenda the Good Witch in “Wicked” on Broadway, having started her career there 10 years ago as Elle in “Legally Blonde.” Stubbins, having performed on Broadway in “Mary Poppins,” has spent the last seven years in Sonoma building Transcendence Theatre along with co-founders -- and another Transcendence couple -- artistic director Amy Miller and her husband and co-executive director Brad Surosky.

They don’t just sing love songs and show tunes at Transcendence, they promote an uplifting mood, encouraging their performers and volunteers to live their best, transcendent lives and welcoming their audiences with their catch phrase, “Are you ready to have the best night ever?”

This weekend is the company’s gala season finale, and another couple will be joining the cast for the first time. Brittney Morello and Will Ray were married earlier this summer in Italy, and will bring their love to the Transcendence stage Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

“We are building a legacy here with Transcendence,” Stubbins said, “I know it will be a piece of our future forever.” The word “our” has a large definition for Stubbins, meaning Transcendence will remain as a cultural experience and in the Valley of the Moon and as part of the life he will share with Servais.

Back to 2013, when Stubbins was invited to the host family home where Servais was staying, “I knew I would be a fool not to go.” It was that evening, in a long conversation, they learned that Stubbins is from Cincinnati and Servais is from Toledo and that they both grew up playing family board games, which they still enjoy.

The next day Stubbins invited Servais to lunch at Sunflower and then the next day she was gone, having flown back to Manhattan, and the texting began. A month later Stubbins flew to New York and they had what he refers to as their “epic first date.” It started with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they wrote a song together while walking through the exhibits. Then it was off to a vegan restaurant, a friend’s birthday party and shopping in Times Square.

“I was thinking, ‘This is silly. We live on opposite coasts,’ but I really did like him,” Servais said, joining the conversation on FaceTime. Soon after the New York rendezvous Servais flew into San Francisco, and when Stubbins picked her up he surprised her, heading to the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay for lunch.

When Stubbin’s briefly excused himself from the table, “The waiter called me Mrs. Stubbins, and I liked it,” Servais said for the clairvoyant moment. On the way back to Sonoma they stopped at the Marin Headlands and, while enjoying the view of the bridge, wrote their second song together. “This is what happens when you get to musical theater majors together,” Stubbins said.

Servais spent the entire 2014 season in Sonoma performing with Transcendence, and when she again returned to New York for her career their long distance romance continued. They Face Time every night and never let more than five weeks go by without seeing each other, either in Sonoma or New York, or visiting family in Ohio.

Last May 6, after almost five years together, Stubbins planned a special surprise for his 40th birthday. Having already made a secret trip to Ohio to ask Servais’ parents for permission to marry her, he then rented a house in Indian Lake, Ohio and invited both their parents and siblings to join them at the lake for his birthday.

At his birthday brunch Stubbins gathered everyone together, saying he wanted a group photo, and while his brother took a video, Stubbins took out a ring and proposed to Servais. Totally surprised and teary-eyed with emotion, she said yes.

They are looking at wedding venues now, and the wedding will be in the near future. “I just can’t wait to get married,” Servais, 32, said. Stubbins just beams, looking like a man whose dream has come true.

They have lots of plans – doing a show together, an album with all their favorite duets, and a family.

A happy and transcendent life.

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