The theater brought them together, but a dead rat sealed the deal
David Brendan Ruttura and Katherine Julia Travis met in New York in October 2014 while working on the nationwide tour of The Phantom of the Opera. Ms. Travis, who goes by the name of Katie, played the role of Christine Daaé and Mr. Ruttura was the resident director.
They were friends for more than a year before they started dating, but each had a hunch something was brewing. For example, Mr. Ruttura worked on the adaptation of School of Rock the Musical and gave her last name to a character named Katie. “Kids all over the world are playing Katie Travis,” he said of the show, which opened on Broadway in 2015.
Their first date was when they were no longer touring together and Mr. Ruttura, 40, found out that Ms. Travis, 36, was newly single. He invited her to a now-closed restaurant called BarBacon in Hell’s Kitchen in September 2017.
After bacon-flavored food and drink, Mr. Ruttura invited Ms. Travis to his apartment to try his Ouija board. They “conjured spirits,” said Mr. Ruttura, laughing.
“Our pinky fingers touched in a certain way and that feeling flooded my body,” Ms. Travis said.
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The timing of this appointment was a bit of a now-or-never thing as both parties were leaving the next day – Mr. Ruttura to Rochester, NY for the School of Rock tour and Ms. Travis to climb Kilimanjaro Tanzania. She wanted to do it ahead of an operation she was due to have the following month: a preventive double mastectomy after learning she had the BRCA2 gene mutation that puts her at higher risk of breast cancer.
She made the climb and then traveled to Chicago for the procedure. The couple were distant and visited frequently while Mr. Ruttura worked and Ms. Travis rested.
After the pandemic began in March 2020, Ms. Travis moved into Mr. Ruttura’s apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, where they still live today. While theaters were closed, Ms. Travis taught voice and singing online and Mr. Ruttura worked as a real estate agent.
Mr. Ruttura grew up in Setauket, NY and holds a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fordham University and a master’s degree in arts administration from Baruch College. He is currently Associate Director of “Moulin Rouge” on Broadway and national tour. A native of Bay City, Michigan, Ms. Travis holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Central Michigan University and a master’s degree in theater from Pennsylvania State University. She is an actress and Associate Professor of Voice at Penn State University.
Ms. Travis foresaw their destiny as a couple in a moment in the summer of 2021 when they were in Michigan to help sell her grandparents’ home. Searching through a box in a storage unit, Mr. Ruttura found a surprise. “He pulled out a dead rat,” Ms. Travis said. “He freaked out for a second and then he laughed about it, cleaned up the mess and moved on,” Ms. Travis said. She was impressed by his imperturbability. “It was so surprising that it blew me away, but when I saw him with the dead rat I was like, ‘I want to marry him.'”
In the summer of 2022, Mr. Ruttura bought a diamond ring from Nak Armstrong that Mrs. Travis had chosen. He proposed on her couch on August 14 of this year and the couple decided to take the next steps. “We have some illnesses in our family, that was the impetus to say why wait a year, let’s do it now and try to start our family as soon as possible,” Ms. Travis said.
The wedding took place on March 5 for about 150 people at 501 Union, a car dealership-turned-venue in Brooklyn. Isaac Oliver, a friend of Mr. Ruttura who was ordained by Universal Life Church, officiated at the ceremony.
Ouija boards were set up so guests could whip up their own spirits during dessert. One card read the question that seduced Mrs. Travis on their first date: “I’m really good at the Ouija board. Do you want to come to my apartment and try it?”