When University of Florida theatre professor and actor Charlie Mitchell proposed to Hippodrome State Theatre current artistic director Stephanie Lynge, he had a View-Master toy custom-made for her, like the ones they had when they were kids.
The film reel displayed pictures of her when she looked inside, a gift meant to show her how great she was. On the last slide, the text read, “And I have a question for you.”
Mitchell then proposed, hoping she would say yes.
“Is this for real?” Lynge responded instead. (Then she said yes.)
The pair met when Lynge moved to Gainesville to obtain her master’s degree in acting from UF in 2011. Mitchell, though he doesn’t teach in the master’s program, met Lynge through the School of Theatre and Dance, where the two hit it off right off the bat.
The two, who were both in their 40s at the time, were friends for about a year before they started dating. While some couples might find the transition jolting, the two said it was easy for them.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna ask you out. Cool?’ He said yes.” Lynge said. “When you get to be this age, you just kind of put your cards on the table.”
Prior to getting engaged, the two dated for about seven years, seeing shows and working on them together.
Memorably, one of their first dates consisted of seeing a show that Mitchell said he knew would be terrible prior to asking Lynge to tag along.
“I think I spent the rest of our relationship apologizing,” Mitchell said.
“Yeah, he has.” Lynge said.
Sharing the same passion, theatre is essential to the couple’s relationship and their lives. Lynge reads Mitchell’s scripts as he writes them, and he gives her input for her shows at the Hippodrome.
“We have a policy of brutal honesty with each other when it comes to art,” Mitchell said.
Outside of seeing plays, the couple loves to travel and often gets the opportunity to go to different places thanks to their work. They enjoy going hiking in the places they travel; one particular favorite was visiting the Dolomites mountain range in Northern Italy.
The couple married in March 2019 at the Haile Village Center Plantation Hall in Gainesville, surrounded by their friends and family. Since then, Mitchell doesn’t find that their relationship has needed to change in any way.
“I think (our relationship) has always been strong,” Mitchell said. “I know some couples talk about how it deepens and develops. I think it’s been strong since the beginning.”
In fact, while Mitchell introduced the View-Master seven years into their relationship, he’d set his sights on proposing a couple years earlier in 2015 when he cast Lynge in a play he directed called “The Snow Queen,” which ends with a proposal.
“‘The Snow Queen’ was really sort of my way of proposing, but I didn’t have the nerve to do it,” said Mitchell. Lynge didn’t catch on until after their engagement.
Now almost a month after their one-year anniversary, Lynge and Mitchell said they get along well with each other, even in quarantine. The couple rarely argues, settling their disagreements with the philosophy “whoever cares most wins,” citing only one exception to their rule.
Should the toilet paper roll hang over or under?
“Obviously it’s under,” Mitchell said.
“It’s clearly over, and he’s wrong,” Lynge said.
For a couple whose joint passion revolves entirely around the theatrics, the pair’s relationship is best characterized by featuring little to no spectacle at all.
“We keep our drama on the stage,” Mitchell said.
Contact Marlena Carrillo at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @marcar313.