Love Notes: Theater couple

Stephen Schellhardt (left) and Devin DeSantis at the Drury Lane Theater in Oak Brook, Ill. (Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

Stephen Schellhardt remembers the first time he saw Devin DeSantis on the Northwestern University campus in the summer of 2004.

Stephen, a theater major from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was an instructor in the Cherub summer theater program at NU, where DeSantis was a voice major.

"I walked past (him) and I thought, 'He is really cute!'" recalled Stephen, now 30.

But that was the extent of it for a while. Though both pursued acting careers in the Chicago area after graduating in 2005, their paths didn't cross until mutual friends set them up on a date.

"He came to see me in 'The Three Musketeers' at Chicago Shakespeare," said Devin, also 30. "I was in the ensemble and I was wearing this really long red wig and black leather doublets and was sword fighting. And I went to see him in 'Grease' at the Marriott Theatre where he was playing Doody. Then we had our first date after that show."

That was in March 2007, and they went to dinner in Wrigleyville.

"It was a very formal date," Stephen said. "I remember I was so nervous because I really liked him and had heard so much about him, and I had come out of a serious relationship. I called my best friend because I felt like I was going to throw up, and she came over and picked out my outfit for me, and it ended up being the best date ever. It was four hours of just sitting and talking. It was so refreshing to meet someone who had the same interests, who loves music and has a love for family, love for Chicago."

"But it took him three dates before he finally kissed me," Devin said.

"That's what my sisters told me," Stephen said. "You have to wait three dates."

"Ah, so I have your sisters to blame!," Devin countered.

The connection was immediate, and they dated seriously for a few months — until they both decided to break up.

"Things were getting a little intense, and we didn't know if we were quite ready for this," Devin said.

"I also knew Devin is the kind of person you want to marry, and I was not ready for that," Stephen said. "And I didn't think that was an option, really. We were great friends, and when we broke up, that's when our friendship solidified. It's so important to like the person you're with."

The pair spent several months in the "friends zone." By November, Stephen realized Devin was "the one" and decided to call him.

"I remember being out with a bunch of my friends from college, and Stephen called me," Devin said. "And I went back into the room with my friends and said, 'Guys, Stephen and I are getting back together!' It was so amazing. I will never forget it. From that moment on, we've been inseparable."

The real test of their relationship, Stephen thinks, was when he moved in to Devin's studio apartment in 2008.

"It was the size of this table," he recalled with a laugh.

Devin elaborated: "The bathroom door didn't close all the way, and we had this tiny couch."

"I'd never really had a roommate, and it worked beautifully," Stephen said

Being together also bolstered their professional courage: A few months later, Devin said, "we shoved all our stuff in a van and moved to New York on a whim. No jobs lined up. Just an apartment in Brooklyn."