After 16 years together — 15 married — Ned and Jo Averill-Snell still act like they're newlyweds. Not in that gross shmoopy way; in a way that tells you they're serious about remembering why they're together.
Ned, a well-known local actor (if you've attended local theater over the past decade, no doubt you've seen him perform) still treats Jo like he's trying to win her heart. For her part, she gets a soft look in her eyes when she looks at him. She refers to Ned as "an incredibly handsome man."
Take this lunchtime conversation, each building part of the story and taking turns being silly.
They're talking about what they'll do when they die.
"Put me in a Japanese Zen garden," he tells her. He says she can rake his ashes.
"That goes against all our cultural traditions," she says.
Ned pauses, but only briefly.
"We could build low-income housing where all the cemeteries are," he says, and for some reason this makes Jo laugh, her fair Irish skin turning bright pink. When she laughs, he laughs, as if that's the only reason he speaks, to make her smile and laugh.
They met at the now-dissolved Gorilla Theater, in 1999. Ned had a role with the company; Jo worked as the stage manager. They became friendly, but platonically. When their paths crossed a few years later, Ned found himself on a date. A date, he says, he didn't know he was on until Jo kissed him.
That date...well, in the name of modesty, they ask that we only tell you it went quite well. They married eight months later.
"He always tells people we got married twice because he converted to Catholicism," Jo says, shaking her head slightly as if to say, "Can you believe this gorgeous nut case?"
"I didn't want to wait to become a Catholic to get married," Ned explains. The RCIA classes to convert take a year. They had a civil ceremony and, a year later, the Catholic church blessed their marriage.
"I got baptized, confirmed and married in the same day," he adds.
Oh, and that last name? They both took each other's names when they wed.
"She was the Averill and I was the Snell," Ned says. He looks at her and smiles, not a stage smile, but a real one. "I have a maiden name."
This spring, you can see Jo's lighting design in The Aliens at Stageworks and The Other Place at Tampa Rep. Ned's scaled back his acting to give Jo a chance to do more work; they have a grade-school daughter and full-time jobs outside the theater.
You see, in their stage life, just as in their conversations, they take turns.