Chris Henry Coffey remembers the first time he saw Jennifer Mudge and the first time he met Jennifer Mudge. "I was a reader at an audition," he says wistfully, "and she came in for Rosalind in As You Like It at the Old Globe. I spotted her there for the first time. Later, we got cast in an independent movie that never really saw the light of day. It was a sweet little romantic comedy and we played opposite each other. I was the boy, she was the girl. That's where we officially met."
At the time of filming, they were in different relationships. "We were friends before we were officially dating," Mudge says, an event which transpired, as Coffey notes, because they needed to reshoot a scene. "[We] reconnected and slowly but surely, we connected even more."
In the ensuing decade, Coffey and Mudge have made names for themselves as a pair of hardworking actors on the nonprofit theater circuit, starring in productions like The Big Meal (Mudge) and Water By the Spoonful (Coffey) at top New York companies including Playwrights Horizons and Second Stage. Imagine a montage of walking down foggy streets into stage doors that dissolves into February 2014, when they started working across the street from each other on Broadway.
Coffey is currently making his long-awaited Broadway debut as joltin' Joe DiMaggio in Eric Simonson's New York Yankees-themed Bronx Bombers, a role he originated last fall off-Broadway at Primary Stages. Mudge, meanwhile, is making her Broadway musical debut (she already made her dramatic debut in The Philanthropist in 2009) as Gloria, the love interest for Paulie Pennino, in Rocky. As luck would have it, their new homes (his the Circle in the Square Theatre, hers the Winter Garden) are less than a block away from each other.
"We've been in shows at the same time in New York before…but the idea of Chris' debut and my musical debut together, within the same season and as neighbors, is like pressing the happiness button," beams Mudge. "As actors," Coffey continues, "We all know how difficult it is to get work in the first place. The idea of us getting to commute together, meet each other on dinner breaks, and know that we have [theaters] to go to together that are right around the corner? All of that is just incredible."
Making the experience even sweeter is the fact that Coffey and Mudge recently got an engaged, an event that took place this past Christmas while on vacation in Puerto Rico. The big moment transpired "off a little island in snorkeling gear," Mudge notes of Coffey's unorthodox and romantic proposal. "I had the ring on me in my bathing suit," Coffey says proudly. "[I] found a shell and put the ring in the shell…I was like, "Jen, come here you have to see this thing over here. She was like, 'No, I'm over here looking at fish!'" Eventually she swam over and snorkeled down to retrieve it.
But before wedding planning happens, they have to pick out opening-night attire. "We've both been around long enough to know how you can never plan this," Mudge relates, "and how actually absurd it is that it worked out. We are so thankful!"