Walking the Journey with Connor and Benji

Opening Nights

By Seth Reines, February 2019 Issue.

Connor Wince began his professional theatre career in 2006 as Chip in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, AZ. “At the time, I was truly on top of the world thinking about being paid each week to be in a show!”

Now, he is touring the country with Betty Buckley in Hello, Dolly! Visiting his parents over the Christmas holiday with his partner, Broadway dancer Benjamin Rivera, Connor opened up to Echo about his life in the theatre and his relationship with his family and “Benji.”

 

Wince: I graduated from Arizona State University with my degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. After that I moved to New York City to attend Pace University and study musical theatre. I only stayed at Pace for one school year before I felt my calling in the professional world and left to start working.

Echo: What are the highlights of your professional career?

Wince: My first job after leaving Pace was at Sacramento Music Circus. This past summer, I was able to be a part of the pre-Broadway run of Moulin Rouge the Musical. Hello, Dolly! has to be the biggest pride of my career. I love sharing this story with people across the country. It often feels like such a gift to be paid to see incredible cities. On top of that, the show is such a story of joy. My favorite line in the show is, “Isn’t the world full of wonderful things?”

Echo: Speaking of wonderful things, tell us about your partner Benji.

[Benji appeared in National Tours of Anything Goes, Elf the Musical, Dirty Dancing, and The Bodyguard before making his Broadway debut in Aladdin. He appeared in the world premiere and pre-Broadway run of Moulin Rouge the Musical! and was recently featured in Rent Live on Fox TV. This June, he will open on Broadway in Moulin Rouge!]

Wince: Benji and I have been together for eight months and met at our audition for Moulin Rouge. We were in auditions for that show what seemed like every other day and were also rehearsing for the Broadway Cares Easter Bonnet fundraiser that happens in New York every spring. We ended up spending so much time together over those few weeks we decided to go on a date afterward and then just never stopped spending our time together. Since then, we have gotten to travel to Boston together for Moulin Rouge and he comes to see me as much as he can on the road.

Echo: Benji, how has being in a relationship changed your life?

Rivera: I am 26 years old and I think I have a spent a lot of my time after college only focusing on my career. Always focusing on the next job and what it takes to get there, So, meeting Connor and being in a relationship has totally switched my dreams and goals for my life. I see a future with him and I see both of us chasing our dreams together and building each other up the entire way. Basically, I have found my life teammate and my priorities are now him first, and that feels like I spend more time slowing down and being a human first and a performer second. I absolutely love how that feels!

Echo: Connor, how supportive have your parents been of your career and your relationship with Benji?

Wince: My parents have always been extremely supportive of my career. My Mom [Stacy] listens to my phone calls after just about every audition and never gets tired of hearing how it went. And trust me, there have been a lot of auditions.

My parents have always strived to be understanding of my personal life. I think our relationship has come leaps and bounds since I was 18 and came out to the world. That isn’t to say we have not had our disagreements and times of strife because of my personal life. I try to never judge anyone and expect the same thing from my parents.

Today, my Mom is my therapist when it comes to relationships. And she was the first one to tell me to pursue Benji, so I think I will forever be thankful of that advice. I also can’t thank them enough for how they love Benji. He has really become one of the family, and that is the greatest gift to me. After all, all I want is for him and I to be part of the family, just the same as my brother and sister-in-law.

Echo: Stacy, what advice would you give parents of LGBTQ children?

Stacy: Oh gosh, this is a hard one to answer but I do hope that our story and our life journey provides insight into a road less traveled. Connor and I have talked about writing a book together about our journey. Understand that your LGBTQ child, like any child, is growing up and processing a lot of thoughts and feelings and trying to figure out who they are and the person they were made to be.

So, listen with open arms and a heart; tell them that you love them and are proud of who they are even though you yourself are processing a lot of data. I encourage parents to just have open transparent conversation about how they are feeling and that even though you don’t necessary understand how their child is feeling, you are willing and want to walk the journey with them.

Would that all LGBTQ men and women had the charmed journey of Connor Wince and Benjamin Rivera!