In this new feature called Pride Series, RyeTheNewsGuy.com talks with some powerful LGBT couples in the Broadway community. From how they met, to how they are using their powerful dynamics to make a difference in the world, each couple shares their stories of how they got to where they are today. These #PrideSeries interviews are in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, and to celebrate WorldPride in New York City. This series will run throughout the month of June and each week features a new couple and their stories.
Justin Mortelliti and Mark Evans are the first couples in RyeTheNewsGuy.com's new #PrideSeries interviews. Justin and Mark have a long list of performing credits which include Broadway, the West End, National Tours, and Recording Artist.
I talked with Justin about how he and Mark met, their romantic engagement, the stresses of wedding planning with people in two different countries, and what Pride means to him. Their story and message is an important one that needs to be told, and I’m beyond thrilled to share them with you. Be sure to keep up with Justin and Mark and follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @markevansactor and @justmort.
Update: As of May 2022, Mark and Justin welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their ever-growing family. Congratulations Mark and Justin!
Can you tell us about how the two of you first met?
Mark and I were introduced on Facebook Messenger by his best friend, Rebecca Faulkenberry. I had recently done a reading of a new musical with her where she played my wife. I guess she thought I was a good fit for Mark and she was very right about that. I was in Vegas at the time playing Drew in' Rock of Ages’ so Mark and I were messaging, then texting, then facetiming. Once we really started falling for each other we decided we couldn’t wait any longer so Mark flew to Vegas to meet me. Our connection over FaceTime definitely translated in person and we were already in deep. Mark’s appendix began to burst the day before he was scheduled to fly out and meet me and he made sure that he was rushed into surgery and got on that plane immediately after just to get to me. It was crazy and romantic as hell.
Within the last year, you’ve gotten engaged and will soon be walking down the aisle. What was the proposal like?
We have had ‘date days’ for each other in the past where one of us plans a whole day with a theme and everything. So I had been on tour for a few months for Escape to Margaritaville and told Mark I was planning a date day once I arrived home. It took a couple of months of planning but I got a bunch of important people in his life involved and planned a day around the city, sent him off with cards in sealed envelopes full of directions on where to go and what times to be there and at each location a friend of his was waiting for him. His birthday was the week before and he was sick so I used this as an excuse to say it was a birthday make-up and throw him off. After his last date, seeing Once on this Island with his friend Chris, I had Becca waiting outside of the theater to pick him up and take him to the spot where we had our first NYC date where I was waiting, nervous as nervous can be, with candles and a ring and my knee that I would be getting down on. When I asked him and he said yes the whole restaurant cheered.
I know you've both been busy wedding planning, what’s been the hardest part of that?
Honestly our groomsmaid’s dresses! We have girls from all around the world, LA, New Jersey, London, Wales… so we had to find the color that we liked and then a shop that exists in all of these places so that they can all get their dresses. I feel like we discussed the dresses way more than our own suits.
A very exciting thing for the both of you is you've just bought a house in New Jersey and have left the hustle and bustle of NYC. Are you enjoying living in suburbia compared to city living? And do you find it’s made you feel more“settled down?”
WE LOVE IT!! It was definitely time to escape the big city. It can be a lot and with our future plans for our family, we know we wanted the escape. We looked at towns that were close to the city and quick and easy to get to from Manhattan and found that we loved the area of West Orange and found a wonderful house with a big green yard that we fell in love with. It’s definitely made us feel ’settled down. I’ve discovered a love for yard work and got a wicked case of poison ivy but other than that it’s been bliss. I grew up in New Jersey and if you ever told me I’d wind up back here in the burbs I’d call you crazy but here I am and it feels like home.
What’s your advice for couples who are in the same industry, or a different one and have crazy schedules and trying to maintain a relationship?
To accept that this is what it is and learn to work with it. We spend time apart here and there when one of us has to leave town and do a show and we accept that and let the distance make our hearts grow fonder when it happens. It’s something you have to accept b/c in our industry it’s going to happen again and again. Trust and communication are so important. Make sure you have that and the rest is cake.
You both have a heavy social media presence across all platforms. How have you used your social media presence to connect with the LGBT community while helping them as well?
I love our community! And it’s grown stronger than ever. I try to be careful on social media and make sure things I’m posting are a record of my life, like a photo album for everyone to see. I try to walk the fine line and not post anything too private or revealing while at the same time also be open and available with what I’m doing. In our industry a piece of your private life is going to be open to the public no matter what. And that can be important, especially being a gay man and one half of a couple that is in the public eye. Visibility is key in our community and showing who we are, our love and who we are as artists together and separately is important. I always want to be someone that an LGBTQ person can look up to. We didn’t have many people in the public eye to look up to when I was younger. I want to take the lessons I’ve learned in life and help others in our community. Part of wanting success in this industry, for me, is in order to have a larger voice and do some good for our LGBTQ people.
What is one trait that each of you has that you love about that person?
ONE!? Okay, that’s tough, Mark has so many wonderful traits. I’d say the one I talk about the least but get the most of is his ability to just be silly with me. We act crazy at home sometimes, dancing around, speaking in dumb voices. There is no self-consciousness between us and we can be total goofballs with one another. I love that.
What is your advice for other gay men on finding love and the right one?
It’s a jungle out there. But just know that exactly what you’re looking for is out there. People have many different views on what they want and expect from a relationship and partner so make sure you are always honest about your own and communicate when you’re getting to know someone. You’ll find the right fit. I’ve learned a lot about the challenges of shame and trauma that we go through as gay people. Make sure you are doing the work on yourself to work this stuff out. Most of the time it’s unavoidable and most of the time people out there aren’t doing the work themselves. So be careful of other people’s demons when you are seeking out love. Have respect for yourself and for them. And be kind and compassionate, we all need to look out for one another.
You both have done a lot of work with Broadway Cares Equity Fight Aids through the shows you’ve performed in. What are some other causes that are near to your heart?
The cause most near to my heart is LGBTQ youth. We need them to be taken care of, to know their worth, and save them from harmful environments. That goes without saying I guess. But another cause important to me is Arts Education. The art programs in the public school system where I grew up in Washington Township, New Jersey were awesome. They saved me and I found my home and my voice as an artist in my early years there. The importance of these programs for our future as a nation and as human beings is massive. And they’re sadly always the first to go when there is no funding. I’ll always speak on the importance of arts education.
Finally, what does PRIDE mean to you?
I’ve come to find that Pride means being myself. And being proud of who I am. The man that I’ve grown to be and am still growing to be. Living my life out loud with a smile. Being LGBTQ there will always be people telling you that who you are is wrong, weird, evil or needs fixing. Pride for me means to have compassion for those people who are missing out on all that our community has to offer. And also let my love shine brighter and more strongly despite those views and beliefs existing. Pride is to stand up for myself and my sisters and brothers in our community when I need to. But mostly Pride is Love. Let yourself love pure and love strong and you’ll find happiness.