Stephen Gregory Smith met his partner in college in the bathroom.
No, it wasn’t that kind of encounter. They were both students at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va., and crossed paths there on their way to a “Pippin” audition.
“He was there shirtless in a pair of tights and an overcoat trying to look sexy for the role of Louis and I swear to God, I almost fell over,” Smith recalls with a laugh.
They didn’t start dating immediately — his partner Matt Conner was in another relationship at the time — but they became friends and eventually became more than that. They’ve been together 13 years and are both active at Signature Theatre where they’re appearing in its current “Hairspray” production. Smith plays Corny Collins in the show, a Broadway hit (and later a film adaptation) based on the original film by John Waters.
“It’s really amazing,” Smith says. “I’ve always loved ‘Hairspray’ though it was never my favorite John Waters film because it was so mainstream. I tended to like his naughtier ones better but what I love and notice about the book is so much of it keeps elements from the original film. … There’s a lot of alliteration and it almost sounds like this demented sort of Shakespeare prose for Baltimore and it’s just wonderful.”
Smith, a 33-year-old Connellsville, Pa., native, splits his time acting, writing, teaching and bartending. He and Conner are regulars in the unofficial Signature players fold. Smith was just in “The Boy Detective Fails” and will be in the upcoming “Brother Russia” next. He teaches drama and dance to students in Fairfax County in an after-school program.
So what’s it like being in an all-consuming production during the holidays? Any time left to bake and send cards?
“I really wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I weren’t in a show around the holidays,” he says. “I just schedule around it. Yes, it’s the main thing in my life right now, and it really is an ass kicker of a show … but we still get our shopping done.”
Smith and Conner live together in Arlington’s Shirlington area with their 9-year-old dog, Buddha. He enjoys reading, writing, meteorology, storm chasing and collecting cheesy horror films on VHS in his free time.
For more information and show times on “Hairspray,” which runs through Jan. 29, visit signature-theatre.org. (Photos by Christopher Mueller; courtesy Signature)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since my freshman year of college, and probably my Mother was hardest.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I really do miss Tracks, but always love a Monday at JR.’s. Also, Club Blue at Signature Theatre on Friday nights. Great music, and the entire cast usually stays and dances. So much fun!
Describe your dream wedding.
My dream wedding would have me and Matt surrounded by family and friends in a nation where it was totally accepted. With lots of monetary gifts, of course.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Animal welfare. And as a weather geek, I get really mad when people don’t know the difference between “watch” and “warning.” So, I guess also weather preparedness.
What historical outcome would you change?
I just wish “It Gets Better” was around before all of those recent LGBT suicides.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Meeting most of the original cast of 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.”
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Can’t remember ever being in previews that were so well attended and so responsive! Hairspray is killin it!”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Following My Compass in the Dark”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing. I love who I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Life never dies; because life is energy … it just transfers.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Speak out louder … the movement is way too quiet.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Matt, Buddha, my family or friends.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
All of them.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
“Checking In” everywhere you go on FB or Twitter. I don’t need to know when you are picking up your dry cleaning, thanks.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Nobel Peace Prize
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Nothing more than I did then. The journey is life.
Because I love it here. The city is gorgeous, yet not too tall and overwhelming. I tend to feel like an ant in cities where you are surrounded by skyscrapers. Here, I feel more grounded. And also, the theatre in this town is incredible. The quality and talent level is incredible, and the community is like a giant family.