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My big fat GW wedding: Shakespeare master’s student elopes on campus

Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
Master’s student Andrew Mitakides says “I do” to Riki Wells during the wedding ceremony outside the Academy for Classical Acting.

Every Shakespearean comedy ends in a wedding — and the past year has been as chaotic as any comedy for Andrew Mitakides.

Mitakides, a master’s student in GW’s Shakespeare Theater Company Academy, lived out his star-crossed lovers dreams Thursday night when he tied the knot on campus with fellow “book nerd” and genealogical researcher, Riki Wells. The Leap Day wedding, held in a small courtyard just outside the Academy for Classical Acting on G Street, culminated an emotional year for Mitakides.

“I lost my father, had a daughter, got married, got my master’s and turned 40 within 365 days,” he said.

Like Romeo and Juliet, Mitakides and Wells met by chance, and only after some persistent determination on Wells’ part did the couple end up together. Mitakides said they first connected at a booze-filled event called Bourbon and Bubbles in Dayton, Ohio, where they both lived at the time. Mitakides said Wells was working the event as an advertising researcher for the Dayton Art Institute and caught his eye as she handed out free blue champagne.

“I saw a beautiful woman with champagne, so I figured I’d take a chance and walk up and talk to her,” he said.

Mitakides said while the couple hit it off, they parted with sweet sorrow at the end of the night. But he said Wells wasn’t satisfied with that being their last act. Mitakides said he was working as the host of a late-night talk show called Gem City Tonight, and Wells used it to reconnect with the Antony to her Cleopatra, becoming a producer on the show.

“It just turned out that we worked well together and still were flirting with each other, and just we made each other happy,” he said.

He said the show wasn’t his only venture at the time — Mitakides went to college on a golf scholarship and played and taught golf during the day for years while he acted at night.

“I’d say me on paper looks kind of insane,” Mitakides said.

Mitakides said his newest career pivot began in 2020 after COVID-19 shut down golf courses and his talk show wasn’t renewed. He said he had wanted to teach acting since he was in college and chose to apply to GW since it’s one of only two programs in the country that focuses on classical texts and Shakespeare.

He said he started in the program last fall, just one part of his climatic year. Mitakides said through all the ups and downs of his year members of the program were very supportive of him, checking in on him after his father’s passing and his and Wells’ daughter’s birth. He said he wanted to share the wedding with the Revolutionary community he’d formed.

Wells said though her initial plan with Mitakides was to get married this upcoming December, she suggested they get married in the District, not wanting to wait a whole year. She said she was already planning to make the trek from Ohio to see Mitakides’ performance in the Shakespeare program’s adaptation of “The Odyssey,” which played March 1 and 2.

“‘Why don’t we just get married on Leap Day?’” Wells said she asked him. “‘Let’s just elope and get it over with.’”

The leap date wasn’t a coincidence — Wells said she initially proposed to Mitakides in 2020 because it was a leap year and “that’s when the girl is supposed to propose.” She said she was confident that she wanted to be with Mitakides, and since he is fluent in American Sign Language, she decided while bored at work one day to learn the basics of the language to personalize the proposal.

“I was like, you know, ‘I should just propose to him, see what he says,’” she said. “So I learned the song ‘Walking in Memphis,’ because for whatever reason, that’s like our song. I learned the whole thing in sign language. And at the very end of it, I learned how to say, ‘Will you marry me?’ in sign language. And I did it in a B-Dubs.”

Thursday, years after that fateful wing date, guests strolled down a cobblestone path lit by electric candles to an empty courtyard decorated with string fairy lights. The groom and the wedding party were still in rehearsals for their upcoming performance and would not arrive for over half an hour after the ceremony was set to begin.

The small scale of the wedding wasn’t a mistake — Mitakides said it was both his and Wells’ third marriage, so they didn’t feel the need to do anything dramatic.

“We didn’t want a lot of pomp and circumstance,” Mitakides said. “So we wanted something personal, something cute. We both love the District of Columbia, we’re both book nerds, it just seemed to fit our niche of who we are.”

But the setting of the brick patio had its fair share of romantic charm. Emily Whittaker, who served as the program administrator for the Academy of Classical Acting and met Mitakides during his auditions, said the courtyard is frequently used by students as a backdrop for Shakespeare’s works.

“One of the windows out here, the one right behind us, is often used by students for the Romeo and Juliet scene,” Whittaker said. “They work on it as a class every year.”

Once the curtain called, the wedding party rushed over, donning dresses and suits in the first floor of the classical acting building, whisking their outfits out of their assigned lockers. Thankfully, no one mixed up their wedding outfit with a Shakespearean set of doublets.

Dody DiSanto, a faculty member at the Shakespeare Theater Company Academy, officiated the ceremony. Mitakides said he asked DiSanto to officiate the wedding because of how supportive she had been — plus, he said she loved his newborn daughter, Alice.

DiSanto said having the wedding the day before opening night of the play was “very Andrew.” She said she’s also a wedding-officiating pro, having officiated one wedding in the past, so she was happy to help.

“It’s interesting because that was a wedding of two people who met in a clown class of mine,” she said.

Surrounded by a troupe of friends and found family, Wells and Mitakides professed their undying love for one another in a short but sweet ceremony. Wells proclaimed their winding and unlikely romance a “Cinderella story” in her vows. 

“Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma, I believe everything happens for a reason,” Wells said. “I believe we were destined to be.”

After Mitakides vowed to share their life as a family, the couple’s son Sebastian handed Mitakides the wedding rings out of a hollowed-out copy of “As You Like It.”

“With this ring, I promise to be yours forever,” Mitakides said. “Know that it encircles my love forever and ever until you say goodnight, sweet prince.”

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About the Contributor
Jenna Baer, Contributing Culture Editor
Jenna, a senior majoring in creative writing, is the 2023-24 contributing culture editor. She previously worked as a staff writer and cartoonist. She is a Houston, Texas girl through and through.
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