There are a few things that Madeline Gale and Reubena Spence love more than service: their nephews, Noah and Jake Gale; the town of Montclair; and the arts. 

However, the overarching theme that the married couple has
dedicated themselves throughout their lives is serving underrepresented communities in any way they can. 

That is why the Vanguard  Theater Company is honoring Gale and Spence at its gala on May 6. The event will be held at The Woman’s Club of Upper Montclair from 7 to 10 p.m. and will have a special video introduction by actor, songwriter and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. In addition, Emmy, Tony and SAG nominee Norm Lewis will be performing. 

Performer and playwright Douglas Lyons and Lynne Toye, executive director of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund, will also be honored.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” Gale said about the honor. “I know Reubena says that I play it down because so many people do incredible work in Montclair and I was like, ‘Why us?’” 

By trade, Gale is an education and literacy specialist, and Spence owns a custom scroll design business called InkCurves. 

When they are not working, they use their time to uplift the community. They are co-founders of the LGBTQ+ community group Out Montclair and program coordinators of its 50-plus section. They are board members of the Montclair NAACP, the Montclair Civil Rights Commission and the NJPAC Advisory Council. They are also active members of Montclair Mutual Aid. 

For the couple, service is not only a core value, it was also a non-
negotiable for each other when they started dating. They met in 2005 on a dating website, and Gale was very specific about what she was looking for in a future partner. 

“I was very clear,” she said. “I was not going to tolerate anybody who did not make fighting racism, classism, sexism and homotransphobia a commitment that was part of their lives.” 

When she and Spence, originally from South Jersey, came across each other, it was the perfect match. 

Even as a young child, Spence was outspoken about transgressions against people. She remembers when she staged a walkout in fifth grade over inequality. 

“When I was in fifth grade… it wasn't taught about the positive things that Black people brought to the United States and the inventors and the heart surgeons, so I didn't know about that at all, but I knew something was wrong,” she said 

What Spence was taught was that the only history attached to Black people was about slavery. Knowing this wasn’t true, at age 10 she organized and led a demonstration to call for change in her school. 

Like Spence, Gale was raised to stand up for what she believed in. A New York native, she grew up in a family of socialist civil-rights activists. Her grandfather was a Russian revolutionary who believed in equal housing, health care and economic opportunities for everyone. She even remembers seeing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in Washington, D.C., when she was 2. 

“So it really is in my blood, to do the work,” Gale said. 

When the couple got together, Spence said, being with Gale reinvigorated her to become active again. 

Gale and Spence are often seen around town, as they make it a point to submerge themselves in the community, whether it’s visiting the Montclair Art Museum (where Gale is currently training to become a docent) or catching a show at the Vanguard Theater (where Spence insists that they’ve never missed a show). 

The couple moved to Montclair in 2015 but have been active in the community since 2005.

“I loved Montclair because it was what we were looking for as a place that was accepting of LGBTQ people and biracial families,” Gale said. 

Montclair is a place where people of color are fully included in the community, Gale and Spence said, and that was something they had been seeking when they were settling down.

Though living in East Orange at the time, the couple got married in 2011 in New York when gay marriage became legal there and again in 2013 when it became legal in New Jersey. They were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license in East Orange.

As they gear up to celebrate, Spence wants people to know that when all the glitz of the gala goes away, they will still make it their life mission to create a more inclusive Montclair. 

“We want people to feel like they can come and be part of an organization without feeling like they have to be in a special closed circle,” Spence said. “Come have fun with us, enjoy each other.” 

To purchase tickets for the gala visit