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Simultaneous national theater event explores gay relationships

Gay marriage became legal in the state of New York July 24, 2011, and celebration erupted in LGBTQ communities across the country. But what about the places where gay marriage is not yet legal? What about couples that choose not to marry? How do violence and resistance continue to affect gays across the country? "Standing on Ceremony," a series of 11 mini-plays co-produced by the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and the Trinity Repertory Company, attempts to answer these questions.

"Standing on Ceremony" took place in over 50 theaters and universities simultaneously. There was a live-streaming introduction before the play and a question and answer session with the directors afterward. The audience could submit questions via Twitter, but Stuart Theatre experienced technical difficulties and turned the live stream off early so the play could begin.

For Kristy Choi '15, a supporter of gay marriage, the shared experience of "Standing on Ceremony" is what made the event memorable. "This moment is special to us," she said, "but we're all united by the same message."

"The Revision" — written by Jordan Harrison MFA'03 and directed by Associate Artistic Director of Trinity Repertory Company Tyler Dobrowsky — featured a couple revising the traditional vows to highlight the way domestic partnerships and civil unions are treated differently under the law. To reflect these discrepancies, the couple change "husband" to "partner," change "lawfully wedded" to "lawfully civil-unioned domestic partner-ed" and "in sickness or in health" to "with best wishes for your continuing existence." Though humorous, the play reminded the audience that separate is not the same as equal.

Wendy MacLeod's "This Flight Tonight" reflected on how the majority of states still do not allow gay couples to marry. While waiting to board a flight to Iowa, Allie complains to her fiance that she wanted their friends to be at the wedding and that she had pictured the ceremony on the beach where the couple lived in California. "We can't get married in California," her partner reminded her. The play, also directed by Dobrowsky, successfully shows that while gay couples are not so different from their straight counterparts — one of the women expresses the universal fear of monogamy and the commitment that comes with marriage — they have unique obstacles placed in their way.

"On Facebook," produced by the TAPS department, presented a dramatization of an actual Facebook thread, capturing the way in which politics is currently debated on the social media website. A status lamenting the repeal of same sex-marriage in Maine causes a fiery debate, mostly between Bev, who says of gay marriage, "(The government) cannot and will not legislate biology," and Shane, who asks in response, "Why should your thoughts … govern my choices?" Doug Wright wrote the play, and Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Eng-Beng Lim directed. Alp Ozcelik '13 also assistant directed. It effectively portrayed both the cliches and the individual emotional reactions that characterize these conversations.

Not all of the plays used humor to make their point — "London Mosquitoes," also produced by the TAPS department, did quite the opposite. The play — written by Moises Kaufman and directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Kym Moore — is about the eulogy a man gives at the funeral of his deceased partner, Paul. Ned Riseley '12 was an assistant director.

The two men met in college, where they would double-date with girls and then go back to Paul's room and "mess around." One night, before leaving the room, Paul gave his future partner a kiss. The next day, when the man asked Paul what the kiss meant, Paul responded, "I guess it means we should stop dating girls." They remained together for the next 46 years. When gay marriage was legalized in New York, the main character asked his partner if they should get married.

"What does that say about the last 45 years?" Paul asked. "That we were just messing around? I stopped messing around the day I kissed you." The intense romance of their story, coupled with the tragedy of Paul's death, made "London Mosquitoes" the most poignant piece of the evening.

"London Mosquitoes" had a powerful effect on several audience members. "It gives me hope that true love exists for gay people, too," said Leandro Zaneti '12, the production manager of sound.

"It felt real," said Irene Rojas-Carroll '15, who identifies as queer. "I could imagine it happening to me. I could imagine myself up there."

"I loved the range," said Zach Etheart, a student at Columbia University. "There was the hilarious and absurd and the heartbreaking, but it was still cohesive."

Members of the Trinity Repertory Company, Brown undergraduate and graduate students, Rhode Island College students and actors from the 2nd Story Theatre in Warren and the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket participated in the plays.

Rebecca Schneider, the chair of TAPS, wrote in an email to The Herald that the department was grateful for the opportunity. "Marriage equality is a human rights issue, and we in the Brown community should do everything we can to raise awareness, foster open debate and explore the questions involved," she wrote.

"I am excited and relieved that many of these plays aren't explicitly political but rather focus on the lived experiences of the ordinary people affected by discriminatory laws and social exclusion," wrote Gabe Schwartz '13, advocacy chair of the Queer Alliance in an email to The Herald.

Despite some technical difficulties with the live stream at the beginning and end of the plays, the event turned out "better than hoped," said Emily Bruce, TAPS department manager. She said she was pleasantly surprised by "the response that actors got from the crowd" and the turnout, which exceeded expectations.

In New York, an off-Broadway run of the production kicked off the same night, but the Providence production was one night only.

Though other productions charged, the TAPS production was free. "We didn't want a money barrier," Bruce said. "And the point is to raise awareness, not money."



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