A real show stopper

Photo contributed by Rich Cowden

Jake Colby and Meghan Hakey get engaged on stage after Castleton's
production of August: Osage County on Sept. 26.

Taped to the face of Meghan Hakey’s desktop computer is a small, handwritten note that reads “60%”. The note, written by her fiancé, Jake Colby, signifies the probability of an engagement, from an earlier conversation between the two.

While the 60 percent promise would presumably hold off Hakey’s wedding itch, on Sept. 26th at the conclusion of Castleton’s production of “August: Osage County,” Colby dropped to one knee and announced that his love was 100 percent.

“I kinda just blacked out, and Kit looked at me and said ‘that’s you, Meghan!’” Hakey said.

Both Hakey and Colby are no strangers to the theater, and sharing this life event on the very stage that brought them together was only the tip of the iceberg. Colby, the assistant stage director of the production, spent most of his time opposite of Hakey, who had a lead role in the show. According to Colby, keeping the secret contributed to the excitement of his on-stage moment.

“I was a little nervous, not of the result, but from the build up. In the middle of calling cues I would think to myself, ‘I’m one cue closer,’” he said.

To his advantage, the few people in on his secret were also consumed with the production of the show itself. Rich Cowden, the director and producer of the show, said because so few people knew, it wasn’t hard to keep the secret.

“I was completely obsessing over the show … so it was kind of easy to put in my pocket and compartmentalize, but I was totally stoked about this – I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen,” he said.

Cowden, the ringleader of “August,” said the engagement was a capper of the show and the significant, unique bond the cast shared.

“It made total sense,” he announced with distinct satisfaction.

The feedback from Castleton community goes far beyond the theater department and cast that was able to share it. Castleton University’s Facebook page shared the video of the engagement, which went viral, with over 2,000 views. The publicity and response was no match to the impact of sharing this moment with the cast – or more accurately, the family.

“The relationship that the entire cast had built is what really put it over the edge, because it was just a big giant family up there. Everyone was just so excited,” she said.

According to Hakey, remembering the moment wouldn’t be possible without the videos that captured it, and each time she watches it, she notices individual reactions.

Those reactions could not have been more organic, as everyone remembers their first thoughts when Colby stole the stage.

Cam Scully, senior cast member, admitted his confusion.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I thought something happened – like a fire!” he said.

Another cast member, Lexi Fryover, said she knew something was up as soon as she saw Colby on stage.

“As soon as I heard his voice, I turned to Jordan and said, ‘he’s going to propose!’ We ran back out on stage and were probably just standing there holding hands, being typical girls, watching it all happen,” she remembered fondly.

The excitement turned to swooning, and only heightened when everyone reached the dressing room, she said.

Dalton Jesse-Cummings built on Fryover’s ‘typical girl’ reaction, stating that he will have to keep this memory in the back of his head.

“I’m going to have to one up that, someday!” he said.

Presumably, the only people more startled than the cast, was the audience. Cowden remembered his favorite part of the night was the Soundings student sitting behind him, who insisted to her friend that it was all part of the show.

“She refused to believe it was a set up! I turned around and was like, ‘no, it’s not part of the show, he’s actually proposing,’” he said.

On the contrary, Nicole Irwin, Castleton graduate and long-time friend of the couple, debunked the mysterious aspect fairly quickly.

“Looking back, I should have seen it coming, but hindsight is 20/20,” she said.

“The audience reaction was great, everyone was cheering. I was crying. It was so amazing to be a part of such a special moment between two of my friends.”  

Rob Valenti, who was also in the audience to see the proposal between two of his best friends, claims that just by seeing Colby with the mic in his hand, he knew something was going on.

“The show just crushed us in the dark side of empathetic emotion … this moment brought us to the complete opposite spectrum for people we know very well and care about, so it was a huge roller coaster of emotions and very good experience,” he said.

Wedding plans have already been put into effect and these days Hakey is always equipped with her wedding bible, covering every last detail of their anticipated July 2017 wedding.

“Get your tickets today!” Hakey giggled in an interview.

Hakey and Colby will have yet another chance to steal the show at Casella Theater, as they have already booked the stage as the venue to deliver their vows on the very stage that brought them together.


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