By Duane Wells
Originally published on Advocate.com September 10 2009 2:00 PM ET
In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 last November, many of Hollywood's most recognizable names stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the streets with LGBT people to protest the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in the Golden State. Now, many of those same Hollywood A-listers are joining forces with some equally A-list playwrights to once again stand up and show their support for equal marriage rights vis-à-vis Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, a staged reading that will benefit the Human Rights Campaign.
Standing on Ceremony, to be performed September 12 at North Hollywood's El Portal Theatre, is the brainchild of the Attic Theatre's artistic director Brian Shnipper, who conceptualized the event in response to the California supreme court’s ruling upholding Prop. 8. Spurred to action by the court’s decision, Shnipper contacted prominent American playwrights and asked them to create short plays addressing the issue of gay marriage in America and soon found himself with not only 12 superlative plays but a red carpet’s worth of talent lined up to participate as well.
Among those scheduled to appear in the one-night-only production are Jason Alexander, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Amy Brenneman, Darryl Stephens, Wilson Cruz, Zachary Quinto, Timothy Olyphant, Dan Futterman, and Alfre Woodard. This stellar roster of talent will bring to life a diverse collection of works from a list of award-winning playwrights that includes Terrence McNally, Susan Miller, and José Rivera.
Designed to leave no emotional angle untouched, the combination of plays slated to be performed at this weekend's star-studded fund-raiser will include a wide range of styles and approaches -- from tender stories to hilarious, campy romps. In fact, Queer as Folk's Peter Paige, who will appear in a play called The Revision alongside Heroes star Adrian Pasdar, promises that Standing on Ceremony will offer a little something for every taste.
"There will be some very, very funny stuff, some very moving stuff, some wry, interesting, thought-provoking stuff...and the good news is if you don't like one of the plays, it's only five minutes long," Paige jokes.
One thing Paige is not laughing about, however, is the subject matter behind the gay marriage plays or his response to Prop. 8. The actor says he hopes the event will say to anti–marriage equality activists, "You will be embarrassed by your position on this issue. You will one day look at yourself like George Wallace standing on the steps screaming 'segregation forever.' You will be ashamed of your stance on this in the very near future."
Popular drag performer Coco Peru, who has been tapped to serve as mistress of ceremonies for Standing on Ceremony, concurs with Paige, though she says she has a slightly different message for anti–gay marriage activists.
"I think if those people who don’t think [gay people] should be married, if they just came and lived with my partner and I for a week, they would see just how normal our day-to-day lives are and that we’re not at all different than straight couples," Peru says with a laugh. "Having said that, they might be a little put off by my drag. But I don’t wear it every day. I would just tell them not to look in my drag closet!"
Peru, who says she accepted immediately when asked to participate in Standing on Ceremony, also has a very personal reason for getting involved with the event. Peru and her partner, Rafael, were legally married in Spain three years ago, and as a result her marriage became legal in California when the state supreme court initially ruled in favor of marriage equality. But the couple's legal standing was called into question when the court later upheld Proposition 8.
"When they [upheld] Proposition 8 our marriage fell into this limbo because when they allowed those 18,000 [California] marriages to remain legal, ours fell into this legal quagmire because no one really knew where we stood," Peru says. "So I just felt like this really does affect my life here and I absolutely wanted to be involved [with Standing on Ceremony]."
A wedding reception including cocktails, photographer, and cake will follow.