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In the Loop
Alumni News : Feb 12, 2015

The Art of Love: Helen Ammon and Derek Butts

Derek Butts and Helen Ammon's relationship began while attending the University of Florida through the student-run group Florida Players. Derek was directing the musical Floyd Collins and Helen was the scenic designer. By the end of the project a relationship had sparked.

After about a month of dating, Derek graduated and moved to New York City to pursue a career in Theatrical Performance and Direction while Helen had a year remaining at UF. That didn't stop her from joining him for the summer in NYC and designing a few shows in the process. Afterwards, she returned to UF to complete her senior year. This would begin what felt like an eternity of sporadic separation.

Once Helen graduated, they both received contract-based work, frequently taking each other to other states: New York, Florida and New Jersey just to name a few. After two years of what seemed like an endless amount of pixelated Skype dates and weekend flights to the other side of the country, it was clear to both of them that this was a relationship worth fighting for.

“On our two-year anniversary, he brought to me to my favorite, yet horribly nerdy escape, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” recalls Helen.

“He took the wedding ring and placed it on his pinky finger with the plan on waiting until I noticed it.”

They walked around the park, went on rides, ate dinner and even took pictures. “All while the ring was snugly placed on Derek's pinky,” Helen says. “I was oblivious the entire time.”

Finally, Derek took Helen aside to a quiet place in the park, in the rain, and proposed.

Shortly after, Helen's career began to soar in theme park design, a field she had always loved and appreciated. It started with an internship with Walt Disney Imagineering and then designing for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando. She has now been hired on full time at Universal Orlando as a show/set designer. Derek is switching his focus from directing theatre to directing and designing interactive media/video games, and he plans on attending graduate school in the fall. Helen and Derek's wedding is scheduled for April, marking their four-year anniversary.

After years of a long distance relationship, they have finally settled into a Florida bungalow in Downtown Orlando and plan on adopting a dog in the near future.