Ross Benson left quite a first impression.
When his wife-to-be noticed him, he was bobbing about onstage to Ennio Morricone's theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." He cut a striking figure that day: He was shirtless and his chest was covered in grease paint, with a huge cowboy hat pulled low over his face to complete the effect.
Briana Benson (nee Lovering) was impressed, but then again she was clad in babushka garb, waiting in the wings for her turn in the limelight. Both can still vividly recall their first real meeting during Class Acts—an annual comedy variety show put on by the teachers of Burnsville's Independent School District 191 to raise scholarship money for graduating seniors.
"I thought he was pretty cute," Briana recalled. "I was on the market and I was ready to find someone nice."
Until that fateful day in 2006, the Lakeville couple had been living parallel lives. Ross is a local—a 1998 graduate of Burnsville High. He chose a career in education early on.
"I always wanted to be a science teacher but in college I turned to math. I always thought it would be a good fit for me," Ross said.
He went to college at St. John's University in Collegeville on a Class Acts scholarship. He started with District 191 straight out of school, right after graduation in 2002. He teaches junior high algebra at Metcalf Junior High, his alma mater.
Like Ross, Briana was drawn to teaching while still a child growing up in the Minnetonka area. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire she took a job as an english as a second language teacher at M.W. Savage Elementary.
The two joined District 191 at roughly the same time, but didn't cross paths until Class Acts. Intrigued, Briana plucked up her courage and approached Ross near the coffee cart. The first encounter didn't go as well as planned, however.
"I'm not smooth. And I don't drink coffee so I was just going up to the coffee station to maybe spark conversation..." Briana said.
"... So she grabbed this tiny cup of coffee and I made some remark," Ross said, finishing her thought. "And she just..."
"...Giggled and ran away," Briana finished. "I thought of like three witty comebacks later that I could have said."
Briana described the rest of the evening as "uncomfortable," especially after a friend approached Ross and dropped a hint. Nevertheless, Ross was interested. They went on their first date a few weeks later, during spring break of 2006, and the rest is history.
"It was just really easy. Our relationship has always been really easy—until we had kids," Briana said. "There was just no drama, no games."
"We were comfortable right from the get-go and we still are. We're best friends," Ross agreed.
Ten months later they were engaged. The two were married in Aug. 1, 2008 at River Hills United Methodist in Burnsville. Their son Korbin was born in 2010. The couple has stayed with Class Acts through it all, often using their life together as comic inspiration: After they got engaged, the two took to the stage at Mraz and sang "Going to the Chapel." Even Korbin has made a cameo or two.
"Now we're forever in debt to the program because it brought us where we are now. Aside from that we love it because it's so much fun," Briana said. "We've never taken a break, even through Master's programs and babies we've always tried to contribute. Given how significant it's been in our lives I hope it goes on for a long time."