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Online dates are working to keep the relationship alive for 2 artists with disabilities

For Sam Videen and Jule Moench, their romance hit a bit of a snag, thanks to the pandemic. But a theater company for artists with disabilities in St. Paul, Minneapolis is helping to keep their two and a half year relationship alive.

Videen, of Roseville, has high functioning autism and Moencb, of Minneapolis, has Down Syndrome. They have not been able to see each other for nearly 11 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sam is very accepting of me and who I am,” Moench said. “He’s very understanding. He makes me feel inspired.”

“It’s been really hard,” she added, speaking of their separation.

Both Videen and Moench are performers — they act, sing and dance for St. Paul’s Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts — the place where the two met.  “That was a match made in heaven,” Moench said. The couple have been able to stay connected through video dates and virtual rehearsals at the Center.

Jeanne Calvit, director and founder of Interact Center, says the touring, professional theater emphasizes “radical inclusion.”

For almost a year, the pandemic caused the theater to stop touring and convert to virtual performances.

“It’s nice to see everyone’s faces and still see your friends,” Videen said.

He and Moench are eagerly awaiting the time that they can see each other in person again. They’ve already made plans for that big day.

Videen said, “We’d like to see each other at the Rose Garden and maybe have some ice cream at Lake Harriet.”

In June, Interact’s new, original show will debut on Zoom. It’s a love story specifically written to star the two real-life lovebirds.

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