Theater Brought Them Together, But a Dead Rat Sealed the Deal

David Brendan Ruttura and Katherine Julia Travis met in October 2014 in New York while working on the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Ms. Travis, who goes by Katie, was playing the role of Christine Daaé and Mr. Ruttura was the resident director.

They were friends for more than a year before they began dating, but each had an inkling there was something more brewing. For example, Mr. Ruttura was workshopping the adaptation of the “School of Rock the Musical,” and gave a character named Katie her last name. “Children across the world play Katie Travis,” he said of the show, which opened on Broadway in 2015.

Their first date happened when they were no longer touring together and Mr. Ruttura, 40, learned that Ms. Travis, 36, was newly single. He asked her out to a now-closed restaurant called BarBacon in Hell’s Kitchen in September 2017.

After bacon-flavored food and drinks, Mr. Ruttura invited Ms. Travis to his apartment to try his Ouija board. They “conjured spirits,” Mr. Ruttura said with a laugh.

“Our pinkies touched in a certain way and this feeling flooded through my body,” Ms. Travis said.

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The timing of this date was a bit of a now-or-never situation as both parties were leaving the next day — Mr. Ruttura for Rochester, N.Y., for the “School of Rock” tour and Ms. Travis to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She wanted to do it before a surgery she was to have the following month: a preventive double mastectomy after learning she had the BRCA2 gene mutation, which puts her at a higher risk for breast cancer.

She did the climb and then traveled to Chicago for the procedure. The couple was long distance, visiting each other frequently while Mr. Ruttura worked and Ms. Travis recovered.

After the pandemic began in March 2020, Ms. Travis moved into Mr. Ruttura’s apartment in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, where they still live today. While theaters were shuttered, Ms. Travis taught voice and singing online and Mr. Ruttura worked as a real estate agent.

Mr. Ruttura was raised in Setauket, N.Y. and has a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fordham University and a master’s degree in arts administration from Baruch College. He is currently an associate director of “Moulin Rouge” on Broadway and the national tour. Ms. Travis is from Bay City, Mich., and has 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 actor and adjunct professor of voice at Penn State.

Ms. Travis foresaw their fate as a couple during a moment in the summer of 2021 while they were in Michigan to help sell her grandparents’ house. While sorting through a box in a storage unit, Mr. Ruttura found a surprise. “He pulled out a dead rat,” Ms. Travis said. “He freaked for a second and then he laughed about it, cleaned up the mess and moved on,” Ms. Travis said. His unflappability impressed her. “It was so surprising that this was what was blowing me away, but watching him with the dead rat, I was like, ‘I want to marry him.’”

In the summer of 2022, Mr. Ruttura bought a Nak Armstrong diamond ring that Ms. Travis chose. He proposed on their couch on Aug. 14 of that year and the couple decided to get a jump on the next steps. “We have some illness in our family so that was the impetus to say why wait a year, let’s do it now and try to start our family as soon as we can,” Ms. Travis said.

The wedding was held at 501 Union, an auto shop turned event space in Brooklyn, on March 5 for about 150 people. Isaac Oliver, a friend of Mr. Ruttura who was ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiated the ceremony.

Ouija boards were positioned so guests could conjure their own spirits during dessert. Printed on a card was the question that had seduced Ms. Travis on their first date: “I’m really good at the Ouija board. Wanna come to my apartment and try it?”