Opening night of Greensboro Day School's "Return to the Forbidden Planet" production wrapped up with an unscripted surprise.

After cast and crew had recognized those who worked on the musical comedy, they called technical director Dana Lowell back on stage for a special gift - a copy of the just released "Halflife 2," which the video-game-loving Lowell had really wanted.Then J.B. Scoggins, a senior and crew member, grabbed the mike.

"This is not the last gift we have for you, Dana," he said conspiratorially.

Cast member John Boney pulled a bag out of his costume and handed it to Scoggins, who passed it on to Lowell.

"This is for you," Scoggins said.

As Lowell wrestled a small box out of the bag, Scoggins directed 35 students in the cast and crew in a very public proposal for him.

"Will you marry me, Samantha?" they bellowed in unison to a startled house.

Samantha DeVore, among the 450 onlookers in the Sloan Theater audience, covered her face and gasped in disbelief. As she made her way to the stage, the place exploded.

Rick Steedle was in the audience. His son, K.C., was part of the production

"It was quite a shock. My wife was crying," Steedle said. "It was exciting to share it with them."

Said Claire Massagee, a freshman crew member who was among those helping Lowell with his proposal: "It felt special to be involved in something so romantic. They both seemed so in love and so happy, it made me happy."

But something was missing, a cat caller from the audience realized.

"What'd she say?" he hollered.

Lowell thought: Oh yeah, I knew we forgot something. So he held the mike in front of DeVore.

She told him what he wanted to hear: "Yes."

Not wanting to seem coercive, Lowell asked her again later in private to make it official. Her answer was the same.

"It was a wonderful surprise," DeVore said.

Lowell, 43, and DeVore, 34, who met through the Internet dating service kiss.com, have been dating 21/2 years.

It wasn't long before Lowell knew she was the woman for him.

"I knew on the second date," he said.

But Lowell, a self-described "life-long procrastinator," never seemed to get around to popping the question.

So Scoggins and the rest of the crew, who had watched the Lowell/DeVore romance blossom, took matters into their own hands.

Lowell was happy for the help. "In some ways you could say I was a chicken letting 35 kids do it for me," he quipped.

Scoggins and the other students figured they'd do it during the play's four-day run in November. But they weren't sure which night. After all, DeVore, an accounts receivable analyst with Volvo Trucks North America, had to be there.

She was taking a class at GTCC on opening night, so Lowell and the students figured that night was out. But her class let out early and she was there by intermission. Opening night is usually special and she didn't want to miss it.

With DeVore there, things behind the scenes moved quickly. Lowell slipped out to his minivan to fetch the bag with the ring. He'd hidden it there so she wouldn't find it. He handed it off back stage to sophomore crew member Ashley Romine, and the deed was on.

Scoggins began passing the word. As actors came off stage, he filled them in.

"It was kind of neat enjoying the second half knowing what was coming," Lowell said. "I wasn't nervous at all. I knew it was out of my hands."

His parents and one of his four brothers were there for opening night, too. That made it all the more special.

"They were just floored," Lowell said of his parents.

After the proposal, he made the most of their moment in the limelight. He hammed it up, pretending to put the ring on the wrong finger.

"I didn't care that 450 people were out there," Lowell said. "Didn't faze me a bit. I thought this will be fun.

"I didn't even have to ask her," he said. "They did it for me."

And DeVore's reaction was precious, Lowell said.

"She was just beaming," he said. "I'd never seen her smile that big. There was such a glow on her face."

So when will the couple be getting married? They haven't set a date yet.

"We're both pretty busy," DeVore said. "But we won't wait too long."

Whenever it is, it's hard to imagine it'll be more memorable than that Thursday night in November.

"It's nice to get a standing ovation for your proposal," Lowell said.

\ Contact Meredith Barkley at 373-7091 or mbarkley@news-record.com

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