On Stage

Standing on Ceremony

Saying ‘I do’ to gay marriage

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In the summer of 2010, I flew to Idaho to attend a close friend’s wedding.

It was a lovely affair. The sun was shining, the flower girl was as cute as a kitten meme and scores of friends and family were on hand to help usher the couple into the next phase of their lives. The only problem with the ceremony was that, since the duo getting married were both women, it wasn’t a legal, binding commitment.

“I never thought I’d actually see the day when gay marriage would be legalized in Idaho,” the same friend told me on my most recent visit to Boise a couple of weeks ago. “I thought it might happen here eventually, but probably not in my lifetime.”

To say she was surprised when the Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage was a go in all 50 of the United States—including conservative ones like Mississippi, Arkansas, and Idaho—is putting it mildly.

Similarly, when Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays debuted in 2011 in New York City, it was meant to draw attention to recent advances concerning marital rights for gay and lesbian couples. Supporters who looked at the struggle as a civil rights issue didn’t know how long it would take to gain equality throughout the country, but hoped it would be sooner rather than later.

In the eight short plays that are part of Standing on Ceremony—which kicks off Western Washington University’s latest theater season with performances starting Oct. 22 at the DUG Theater—contemporary playwrights took a look at the laws that were currently in effect concerning same-sex marriage and tailored their text to reflect them.

For example, in Jordan Harrison’s The Revision, two men on the eve of their big event struggle to define their vows. They’re not going to be legally married, so the words “wedding” and “wedded” are out. Then again, “lawfully civil-unioned” or “domestic partnered” don’t exactly roll off the tongue. What’s a fella to do?

Audiences will discover the answer to that question, and more. For example, Wendy MacLeod’s The Flight Tonight asks if there’s any hope for happiness when a lesbian marriage begins in Iowa (not to be confused with Idaho).

There’s more. Neil La Bute’s story of two men in love who plan to get married the “old-fashioned way” are stymied when reality sets in in Strange Fruit. In White Marriage, Jeffrey Hatcher chronicles a wife and husband discussing his “gay” sense of humor. Jose Rivera’s Pablo and Andrew at the Altar of Words features two men using their vows to say the things that are not often said.

Paul Rudnick’s The Gay Agenda takes a look at the subject matter from the opposing side, focusing on a “sadly hilarious” plea for understanding from a conservative Ohio homemaker who also happens to be member of a variety of organizations against same-sex marriage—such as the Traditional Family Delta Force and the Aryan Family Freedom Fighters.

The character, Mary Abigail Carstairs-Sweetbuckle, recounts how her seemingly friendly gay neighbors have infiltrated her psyche. She’s hearing their voices in her head, in fact, telling her to lose weight (among other things). She’s peeved, and she wants it to stop. “They’re taking jobs away from black women!” she rails at one point in the play.

While audiences will see both comedic and poignant elements in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, they’ll also see activism in action. When the plays debuted four years ago, it was with an agenda that wasn’t fully realized. Now, it is.

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