Same-Sex Parents in the Broadway Community Take Pride in Being a Family

As part of Playbill.com's 30 Days of Pride, we interview three sets of same-sex parents within the Broadway community. The three couples talk child-rearing, long-distance parenting, Ricky Martin and how they take pride in being families in our community.

Leslie Stifelman and Melissa Rae Mahon with son Jack
Leslie Stifelman and Melissa Rae Mahon with son Jack

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"Putting your kids to bed has nothing to do with being gay or straight," explained Nick Scandalios, the executive vice president of Broadway's Nederlander Organization and the chair on the board of directors at the Family Equality Council. "Putting your kids to bed matters to them."

Although Broadway curtains come down between 10 and 11 PM, Scandalios, along with his partner of nearly 13 years (and soon-to-be husband) Ric Swezey, make sure to tuck in their six-year-old twins, Kate and Luke.

"Our daughter literally will count how many nights we didn't put her to bed and put her foot down," he continued, "so we manage…and say, 'How are we going to do this?'"

Parenting in the Broadway community can prove to be quite the challenge, yet Scandalios and Swezey, wives Leslie Stifelman and Melissa Rae Mahon (the music director-conductor and a performer for Chicago, respectively), and husbands Daniel Torres (an understudy in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and recent Evita revival) and Matthew Tweardy take the tests in stride.

"You don't know tired until you've had a baby," admitted Mahon, who met her wife in August 2006 while auditioning for the long-running Broadway staple. "You actually don't realize that you don't need sleep. You can still work, you can still sing and dance, and do all the other things you have to do as a human being."

Daniel Torres and Matthew Tweardy with Teigen

Stifelman added, "In terms of being a family — or a gay family — it couldn't possibly be any more the same than anybody else… Our family is our complete priority, and it's just a juggle... and remembering that we're super happy."

Mahon gave birth to Jack Raymond Stifelman over a year ago, in March 2013. Since then he's been embraced by his second family at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre, both traveling backstage and attending a Chicago rehearsal.

"He has a whole Broadway family," said Stifelman. "[There's] been some really poignant and incredible moments, just having him here with the company."

Torres has also enjoyed backstage bonding with his son Teigen, who will turn four this summer. " Ricky Martin and I really bonded over [parenting] because he has twins, and they were four at the time… we were doing Evita," he explained. "When I was in Puerto Rico, introducing [Teigen] to my grandparents, we called up Ricky — it was Easter, actually, last year — and Ricky said, 'I'm having an Easter egg scavenger hunt at my house if you want to bring Teigen over,' so we spent the whole afternoon at Ricky Martin's house, looking for Easter eggs in his backyard with his twin kids. That's just one example of people opening the doors and being so welcoming to us."

Torres and husband Tweardy — college sweethearts and partners of almost 15 years — enjoy a uncommon family experience. The two were introduced to Kerry Mahoney and Mary Belton, and after forming a friendship, were asked by the future wives to begin a family. Years after they first met, Mary Belton "wrote me a letter on Facebook, and she said, 'Listen, I know we've talked about gay families, and my wife and I would like to start a family. We'd really love you to help us and for you and Daniel to be involved.' None of us knew what that would look like," explained Tweardy, "but as it turns out, we're his dads."

Teigen and family

The group of four — although miles apart, with Teigen and his mothers based in Austin, TX, and his fathers making their home in New York City — discuss their son's upbringing as a group, spend holidays together, and brag about his eight grandparents and extended family.

"It really is the best of both worlds," said Tweardy.

Scandalios feels the same. "They get to meet spectacular people," he said. "They're given extraordinary privileges, but more than anything, [Broadway is] a community that is a family within itself, so it's very organic for same-sex couples to have kids inside this community."

All three couples explained that they've witnessed an outpouring of love and support and, in turn, they provide insight, encouragement, and advice for industry folk — gay or straight — looking to start a family of their own.

"We want to make sure that Jack grows up just feeling proud of himself," Stifelman said. "Us being very straightforward about who we are and, on top of that, having the legal rights... I think there are going to be more gay families coming up."

"To Jack," Mahon added, "we'll be the leaders in his life, and we're perfectly comfortable being that."

Torres also wants Teigen – who loves cars, trucks, science and the outdoors – to own his individuality. "I'm not putting a sexuality on my child - I don't know what his sexuality will be," said Torres," but he is so inclined to things that Matthew and I were never inclined to enjoy or love at that age that I just can't help thinking [that] somehow four gay parents [could be] raising the straightest boy. That's just who he is, and you are who you are no matter what."

(This feature appears in the June 2014 Pride issue of Playbill. Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)

Nick Scandalios and Ric Swezey with Kate and Luke
Nick Scandalios and Ric Swezey with Kate and Luke